Orlando City have fired Head Coach Jason Kreis. It was not an especially surprising decision. Unfortunately, for Kries, it was the hope that killed him.
They say that it is the hope that kills. They’re probably right. After all, if you never hope for anything, then failure is simply par for the course. You can’t really be disappointed. And Orlando City SC have offered the perfect illustration.
Head Coach Jason Kreis was relieved of his duties on Friday afternoon after a run of six-straight losses that saw his side tumble down the Western Conference standings and almost out of the playoff places — they currently sit in sixth place on goal difference and are only four points clear of Toronto FC, all the way down in 10th.
It is not a shock decision. Kreis’ tactics had been called into question during this losing streak and, coming off a pair of three-goal losses in Canada, there was growing pressure on the former New York City Head Coach’s shoulder to turn things around. He couldn’t.
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Or at least, that was the viewpoint of Orlando City. They felt, rightly or wrongly, that Kreis would not be able to maintain their competitiveness throughout the season, fearing slipping out of the playoff race and seeing their hopes for the season falter.
In the announcement, Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao gave the customary comments. ‘It was a difficult decision to make, we thanks Kreis for his hard work, we hope the best for his future.’ All the usual cliches were out in full force. But there was one particular sentence of his statement that I found particularly interesting:
"“Now is the time to look forward, keep our heads high and continue pushing toward the many goals we set this season.”"
This — ‘the many goals that we [sic] set this season’ — was the hope that killed Kreis.
Orlando ploughed their money into this season. They spent all of their 2018 Target Allocation Money, acquiring the likes of Justin Meram and Sacha Kljestan in the offseason, outbidding a myriad of different teams to add both to the squad, indicative of the money that they were willing to part with.
They also signed Dom Dwyer in July for $1.6 million in allocation money, an MLS record at the time, and then secured his future by agreeing on a three-year contract extension in the winter. Dwyer is an especially interesting case. It is no surprise that Orlando’s form has been heavily tied to the availability of the former Sporting Kansas City striker.
His absence has been hard felt in recent weeks, with Orlando increasingly struggling to engineer space and openings in the final third without the all-around movement and hold-up play of Dwyer. And he was a key figure on which their hopes for the season were pinned.
That has been the problem for Kreis. The hope. The hope that came with the splashing of the cash. The hope that came with a six-game winning streak. The hope that came with Dwyer and Meram and Kljestan. That is what killed Kreis.