In the midst of a two-game skid, Jason Kreis sees progress.
“As a coaching staff, when we look out and see the product, the performance on the field, we’ve seen that our ideas are getting across,” an up-beat Kreis said after training Tuesday. “A lot of positive things. The game feels more stable, we’re giving up less chances - less chances against very dangerous teams in Atlanta and Toronto.”
Now, the focus shifts to the moments.
Because those are what’re costing City.
“These are one-goal games where for whatever reason we’re just losing track of moments in games,” Will Johnson said. “There’s two ways to go about that. You can be negative and beat yourself up, or you can say, ‘Hey, look, for the majority of that game we did well, we executed our game plan, we out-possessed them on the road. Let’s clean up these little mistakes in the box and we’ll be a next-level team.’
“Right now, we’re middle-of-the-pack, winning some games, losing some games. To get to that next level, we gotta earn that respect and that comes through executing defensive plays and getting more shutouts.”
Considering how easily the Lions slid down the slippery slope in years past, the confidence in the air at training resonates.
Kreis, Johnson and Joe Bendik all spoke about how different this feels from this time last year, when two losses to begin May derailed a promising start.
“We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not,” Johnson said. “We’re sticking to who we are, we’re looking at the tape, we’re being hard on ourselves. Accountability is different. Competition for spots is different across the board. We’ve gotta continue to stay calm. We’re not going to panic. We’re going to prove we learned those lessons from last year.”
That commitment to their identity is the next step in Kreis’ project to change the culture of the Club. The recent six-game winning streak - and the two losses since - are proof that it’s working.
“It’s odd, because we’ve lost two games in a row, which makes us all very sick to the stomach,” Kreis said, “but I do feel like we’re heading in a very positive direction. If we can marry a performance with the result, I think we can go on another tear like we did a few weeks back.”
Standing in the way of a bounce-back are the Chicago Fire, themselves on a two-game skid. Both teams will look to get off the schneid when the Fire visit Orlando City Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (TV27).
Chicago comes armed with reigning MLS Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic, who had a goal and an assist in Chicago’s 3-2 loss to Houston on Sunday.
But the Lions, as always, are focused on themselves.
“We’re a little bit more balanced and a little bit more consistent,” Bendik said. “These times where we’ve lost two games doesn’t quite feel like the same. We’re still working towards something and that gives us a lot of motivation going towards this game.
“I don’t think we’re short of confidence. We’re not going to let two games decide our season. We’re going for three points, and we’re going for them at home.”