When Orlando City officially opens Orlando City Stadium, it will mark the club’s seventh year in competitive soccer and third year in Major League Soccer.
The Orlando Soccer Journal was granted an exclusive interview with Orlando City coach Jason Kreis on Thursday. Topics discussed were the upcoming season, preseason plans and goals set for the 2017 campaign.
Orlando City will open its downtown soccer stadium on March 5 in the season opener against New York City FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Question: What are your thoughts on the upcoming 2017 season?
Answer: I’m excited. I’m feeling really good about the group that we have. We have an addition or two that might be coming, but we feel good about the club already. Looking forward to kicking off 2017.
Q: With preseason around the corner, what are some plans heading into January, February? Any potential opponents?
A: We have a couple of matches already scheduled… the first trip we’ll spend in Jacksonville for 10 days, we’ll do an inter-squad scrimmage first and the next match we’ll play against Jacksonville University, so we’ll use that as to gear up, and then they’ll probably be three or four matches past that aren’t officially scheduled yet, but are getting very close to being planned. Those matches should be against probably all MLS opponents
Q: The club is opening its downtown stadium this year, what are your thoughts about opening the stadium and what are some expectations about the team’s new home?
A: We are really excited… that’s a big portion of our excitement level is to be playing at a soccer specific stadium, to be going into our home. The Citrus Bowl has been a nice place to be for the team I think for a couple of years, certainly the fans have come out supported us well there.
But this is going to be something entirely different. This is going to be a real soccer atmosphere. A real soccer stadium on a real soccer field being that is grass. And this will present us with the opportunity to say to the players that this is our home and this is something that we defend with our hearts and souls.
Q: You arrived toward the second half the season, is there more flexibility in the management aspect given this season will be your first full season in charge?
A: We came into the team in an awkward situation, an awkward time of the year because there was at least 10 days in the transfer window in the summer, so there really wasn’t enough time to get things done.
And I’m not so sure we would of done a whole lot more than we did. I think it was important for us to evaluate everybody that was there and to get our impressions of what those players were like in the group and how they measured up to what we want to be.
Now we have this offseason to really digest what we learned from the players in 2016 and try to address areas we need to strengthen and then feel good about some other areas. So we head into 2017, and we actually can say this is now our team.
For me, the most important thing is to have an entire preseason with the entire group there.
Q: The team had a league-high of 60 goals conceded in 2016, you’ve added some changes to the back line, is that one area that you’re focused on improving?
A: Of course, I’m not a big statistics guy, but I think it’s hard to shy away from and ignore that number. But there’s two ways to address that: be tactically a little better, can we all be on the same page a little bit more on how and when we defend. And the second piece is do we need to get better players; stronger and defensive minded players.
We think the answer is somewhere in between. Everybody knows we added two left backs, we’re in the process of trying to address a center back, we think that’s very close to being done. And we feel with those additions as well with more time with the group, we plan to be on a much better defensive situation heading into 2017.
Q: There have been reports linking Orlando City to centerback Gregory Sertic of French side Bordeaux, is there any interest and talks?
A: I would tell you that those sorts of rumors were not started by the club, and we won’t comment on those types of rumors
Q: Kevin Molino had a breakout season in 2016, what can fans expect from him entering 2017?
A: We really hope for big things from Kevin. I’m a really big fan of Kevin, I think he’s an extremely important piece. I think that he’s somebody that has Orlando City in his heart and soul. And we’re hoping that we can put together and work with Kevin to have a really strong in 2017.
Q: What is something you enjoy about living in Orlando?
A: I think for me is not about the sights. It’s not about a particular one thing, it’s a collection of everything. It’s a collective good feeling that I get about the club, a collective good feeling about the community. A collective good feeling I get with my family, and how welcomed and settled they feel here. We all just couldn’t be happier to be living in Orlando and to be part of what we think is a fantastic city and fantastic community.
(Photo Courtesy of Orlando City Communications)