If Saturday night's nonexistent effort against Montreal taught us anything about Orlando City SC's MLS side, it was proof that the team needs so much more than a coach. Coach Bobby Murphy at least had the integrity to apologize to fans after the 0-2 loss at home--the second scoreless loss to Montreal in as many games.
Orlando City held the ball for much of the first half, but couldn't mount a single shot on goal until nearly the 70th minute of the match. Some fans had said they thought that Orlando City's players had given up on former coach Jason Kreis, but it's obvious from the way they played last night that the players have given up on themselves, on each other, on the crest, and on the fans. They can say all they want on social media after the match, but their actions speak louder than their words. From the way they played last night, there's not a single player on the roster that deserved to wear the crest.
Changes Needed in Management, Coaching, and Roster
I won't be the one to say, "I told you so," but I agreed with the chorus of knowledgeable fans in December of 2015 who raised a great cry of alarm and dismay when Orlando City decided to fire Paul McDonough. Paul was part of the original brain trust of Adrian Heath, Phil Rawlins, and McDonough. Together they had formulated a plan on how to build a roster for long-term success in MLS. They started with several veterans and a mix of young talent from Europe, South America, and North America. Their idea seemed to be as the old guard aged out of the player ranks, the younger players would develop and grow into leadership roles.
Unfortunately, this plan did not seem to appeal to majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva, who has proven to be the Brazilian version of Daniel Snyder. Former Ballon d'Or winner Kaka was part of the original plan for building the club. But da Silva demoted McDonough and brought in someone from Portuguese side Benfica to be in charge of player personnel. That proved an unmitigated disaster--the new idiot lasted just long enough to realize he was totally unprepared to navigate the complexities of MLS salary cap and roster rules. That gave McDonough time to realize he didn't want to play second fiddle to an incompetent buffoon and quit his job with Orlando City to take the GM job with Atlanta United--and you see how that has worked out for him.
When McDonough quit, the Benfica buffoon also left the club and returned to Europe and the club hired Niki Budalic as GM, who seems either completely out of his depth or merely a pawn of the ownership's whims, constructing a Frankenstein roster made up of South American prospects and known MLS veterans who have enjoyed success in previous clubs regardless of how their talents mesh with each other on the pitch. From experimental misadventures with washed-up European players like Antonio Nocerino to formerly outstanding offensive stars like Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram have all collided in a trainwreck of futility on the Orlando City roster.
The Problems Start at the Top
I have never seen an organization achieve long-term success by trying to take shortcuts. Unfortunately, Orlando City SC is proving this true in MLS. In an effort to jump-start a top-level soccer team in The City Beautiful, Phil Rawlins and the rest of the original owners of the Orlando City USL side brought in a billionaire investor to provide the money to help them make the move to MLS. I am not sure that Flavio needs to step aside and sell his stake in the team to someone more knowledgeable about the business side of the game, but he definitely needs to learn that he's not capable of making any decisions about players and stay out of the way of the soccer people that are trying to build the team. From the outside, I have no way of knowing if Flavio is trying to influence who the soccer people are trying to add to the roster through the draft and free agency. If he is, he needs to stop immediately. If he's not, he needs to recognize that the people he has in place are incompetent and replace them with one or more people who can make better decisions.
Coach and GM Synergy Required
Given the problems with Orlando City's roster construction, it's hard to lay all the blame for the team's recent poor performance on Jason Kreis. But by all accounts, he seemed to be involved in the selection of the players for the roster, so it was correct to that he bears culpability for the mismanaged acquisition of incompatible talents on the team. What needs to happen with the next coach (and perhaps a new GM) is that they need to have a plan the way that Phil, Paul, and Coach Heath developed one to guide them into the MLS era. There are many different types of plans that can succeed--recent MLS expansion sides NYCFC and Atlanta United have both succeeded with different philosophies. But the key is that the front office and the coaching staff are working together to build a roster that has an identity or theme that is consistent, with players that have complementary and synergistic skills on the pitch.
Player Changes Necessary in Summer Transfer Window
The players up and down today's Orlando City roster truly seem shell-shocked and dismayed. The way they are playing it seems like a well-drilled high-school team could beat them despite their collective experience and the individual and team accolades they have achieved over their careers. The MLS Summer Transfer Window will open on July 10 and remain open until August 8. I am very disgusted with many of the players on the team, and I'm of a mind to make drastic changes. I am tempted to say that there are fewer player who deserve to remain on the roster than players who deserve to be cut or traded away. If I were to go with an extremely short list, I would advocate keeping only the following players and eliminate everyone else:
- Dom Dwyer
- Chris Mueller
- Yoshimar Yotun
- Mohammed El-Munir
- Amro Tarek
My reason for keeping those players is that they are the ones who demonstrate effort and heart every time they step on the pitch. The rest of the team just look completely lost or totally incompetent.
I'm sure that everyone who reads this post will have a different opinion on the good and bad players on the roster: some may think I'm keeping the right number but wrong mix of players. Some may think I'm keeping too many players, and some may think I'm dismissing the contributions of way too many players and that the roster doesn't need such drastic changes.
But I do know one thing for certain: the problems with Orlando City go much deeper than a change in the head coach. A lot more needs to change about this organization before the team is going to turn around and enjoy success. What are your thoughts? What is the most important thing the team needs to change? Will a change in coaches be able to turn this roster of misfit toys into a well-oiled machine, or do you think a lot more needs to change than just the coach? Let me know in the comments below!