Crisis club Orlando City faces fans mutiny

Filed under: Orlando City Soccer |

Mutiny… it’s been bubbling under the surface for a while but now it seems that Orlando City Soccer fans have finally had enough of the goings on at their club and they are now starting to make their feelings known to the club’s hierarchy.

As if losing seven MLS games on the bounce wasn’t bad enough, the club has managed to compound things with a series of decisions that have left a huge void in relationships between supporters and the front office.

The club was built in the early years by developing close ties to fans and very often, club leadership could be seen out before games enjoying an adult beverage in the tailgates surrounding the stadium they used to play in – Orlando’s Citrus Bowl… now Camping World Stadium. Not any longer.

An acrimonious divorce between the clubs founders, Phil and Kay Rawlins, on the verge of the opening of the new Orlando City Stadium, created a wedge that the club has never really recovered from. From seeing people they liked and trusted and having fun with together, the fans now have no real contact from the club anymore, unless are they being asked to lay out more money on whatever latest enterprise the club can dream up.

Flávio Augusto da Silva (pictured above), the Brazilian owner who purchased the majority ownership and then installed his own Brazilian management team, has never been fully trusted and now the failings of his appointees are becoming plain for all to see.

Before the 2018 season even began, the club unbelievably culled OCB, its development team playing in the United Soccer League. Then the supporters group for its women’s team, Orlando Pride, was disbanded by club staff and finally, to make matters even worse, on the playing side, the club decided to trade players, in some instances not even letting them know beforehand, that then caused huge unrest for those left behind.

In the middle of their losing streak, the club then handed out 12 to 24 month bans to 38 fans who reacted to a refereeing decision after being incited by one of their own players in a game against rivals Atlanta Utd on May 13.

Not content with all of this carnage, the club has now managed to create yet another crisis, namely the firing of Jason Kreis and the task of replacing him. In an extraordinary statement, given at essentially a private press conference before yesterday’s game with Montreal Impact, where only the chosen few were allowed to attend (we asked and were denied), club CEO Alex Leitão (pictured at top of article) said of the recruiting process:

“Of course we have our profile and we know the way we want to play and it’s the most important thing. I’m not going into the detail, but the most important thing is that don’t think you are coming here that you are going to change the group or you’re going to have the opportunity to bring… (Leitão hesitates and stops short of saying “new players” at this point before continuing) and of course, one piece here and there maybe we will be able to do it, but this is the group of players that we believe, that we built, its not really Jason’s team, this is the Niki Budalic (General Manager) (Leitão then says something that is hard to understand and continues) and I was involved and we believe in those guys and they can succeed and the coach should come here with the mentality and work with those guys and the good news is that we’ve heard from a lot of coaches who have said this group should be in a better position.”

It’s a statement that is arrogant, delusional, conceited, patronizing, supercilious, bewildering and frankly, really concerning.

It’s a statement that says to all the coaches in the footballing world that Orlando City front office staff know more about the game than you do.

The message seems very clear to any new head coach that they simply aren’t going to get to work with who they want to work with or have a style of play they think will work, rather the players will be selected by the General Manager and the CEO, and the coach must play the system those individuals believe in and oh, by the way,  you are not expected to fail because we know best!

With this shocking revelation, it’s hard not to feel somewhat sorry for Jason Kreis. If those were indeed the parameters he worked under then you might say “more fool him” but quite honestly, it’s impossible to believe he didn’t have a big say in who came into the club and who went out in the last six months. However, that said, it does now raise the question of how much interference did he have to deal with in trying to do his job?

Earlier in the week Lion’s fans had visions of former Brazilian national team Head Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari or former Portland Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter taking the reigns but clearly, if these are to be the expectations, they’d be very unwise to take on the role in such circumstances.

It wouldn’t be the first time that real football men have been asked to cede to the wishes of the top brass wanting to control a team but Leitão then felt the need to compound things by stating the following when asked about discussions with potential new coaches:

“Yes, we told them very straightforward, we want to be in the play offs, and they know that. This club is about, you know sometimes coaches thinks that he can… (again, at this point Leitão checks himself before continuing)…  it’s a different philosophy let me say that. I’m not judging who’s wrong or right but here we have this pressure, I feel the pressure, the fans want it and we build this club around this desire to succeed and then whoever comes here needs to know that.”

The manner in which this was put over and the point about what a coach thinks he can do made it crystal clear that the new Head Coach would have to do what his paymasters wanted and that success was expected regardless.

Another loss to Montreal Impact on the field last night saw fans leaving the stadium early in their droves. Protests were seen in the stadium and the Ruckus supporters group even abandoned their ritual march in to the match. On social media there is a huge outcry by fans wanting to be heard and the backlash is sure to be felt should the club continue on the current path.

Overall, Orlando City is now a club that seems to lurch from one crisis to another with no public relations strategy to handle the constant chaos it is creating. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to have people who understand the culture that was built and how that contributed to the early success of the club with the general feeling within Central Florida that everyone was pulling in the same direction.

How it develops from here is anyone’s guess but it’s not a false statement to say it might get considerably worse before it gets better. The club is heading in the wrong direction and at present, creating more enemies than they are friends. When that starts happening in your own supporter base, it only leads one way and lower crowds at games can certainly be expected if fans continue to feel the way they currently do.

It’s a great shame and is it really didn’t need to be this way.







8 Responses to Crisis club Orlando City faces fans mutiny

  1. Our seats are right beside the supporter section. We could see a definitive line where the left half were almost very still while half of the right side were trying to “support”. The left side didn’t have capos leading the chants. Do you know if that was their “protest”. We were wondering that all night.

    June 24, 2018 at 11:12 am

  2. Yes. One of the supporters groups is extremely unhappy with the club at present.

    Admin - Nigel
    June 24, 2018 at 1:12 pm

  3. I really wish you had mentioned how OC shit all over the youth academy program by sending it to Montverde !!!!!!

    Former OC Youth Supporter
    June 24, 2018 at 1:22 pm

  4. Yes, probably could have expanded further on that point. I mentioned OCB but the consequences for the youth academy were far reaching. Thanks for the feedback.

    Admin - Nigel
    June 24, 2018 at 1:42 pm

  5. Well done Nigel. OCSC is shit now. Along with everyone who thinks that they really cared about them. This doesn’t happen in clubs in the UK. Orlando should have been so fortunate to have a person like you there. Let them keep going to shit. They love digging their own grave along with all the SG drama as well. You hit the nail on the head sir on this one!

    June 24, 2018 at 6:29 pm

  6. Nigel

    You know where I stand on these guys and the BS they have pulled for years – OCYS, OCB and the Pro side.


    scott miller
    June 25, 2018 at 6:55 am

  7. Aw, this was a really nice post. Taking the tije and actual effort
    to create a really good article… but what caan I say… I procrastinate a lot aand don’t mnage tto get nearly anything done.—enterprise-zone-rules/10.29.15-fee-increase-emergency-rule

    Lpe88 Agent
    June 25, 2018 at 9:39 am

  8. Sorry to say a lot of turmoil on the mens side And its sad But there a lot of positives on the women side They need a lot more support that they deserve Maybe split 20,000 city fans to 10,000 and come out to a PRIDE GAME What do you say

    June 26, 2018 at 7:59 pm

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