Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis began Wednesday’s media availability with an announcement.
“Let me start before we ask any questions,” Kreis said to a crowd of reporters. “We’ve made the decision as of yesterday afternoon that the Captain for Orlando City Soccer Club will be Jonathan Spector.”
In hindsight, the decision was an easy one. Spector, who ironically enough was named captain on his 32nd birthday, is among the most experienced players on the team, and as a center back, he’s in a position that demands leadership, communication and accountability. He is humble and gracious off the pitch, and he’s composed and ultra-competitive on it.
“He’s suited to organize the players in front of him, to coach on the field, as well as to lead by example and show the younger players what it takes to be a top, top professional,” Kreis said.
The decision is also in line with what has been City’s mantra since the end of last season - to change the culture within the Club. Kreis and Spector led the charge to create a set of rules and expectations that everyone associated with Orlando City SC would be held accountable for.
That, in turn, led to more focus placed on building camaraderie at the team’s training center at Sylvan Lake Park. Even the meal room, which in the past consisted of seven or eight round tables, has been changed to have two elongated tables with a rule that the next person to sit and eat - player, coach or staff member - will sit in the next available seat.
It’s helped strengthen the family atmosphere that Kreis - and a host of others - have been building since the start of preseason.
Back in Jacksonville, where the team spent 11 days of preseason, Spector had the idea to go with the other five of the team’s designated leadership corps - Will Johnson, Yoshimar Yotún, Joe Bendik, Dom Dwyer and Sacha Kljestan - to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where they spoke to servicemen and women about leadership and core values.
“The big thing that he said was about building a family and making sure that each one of the members of his squadron knows that he genuinely cares for each and every one of them,” Spector said of their visit.
The lesson was well received and implemented. Player after player, especially the new guys, has talked about the strong sense of family in the team. And that can only lead to good things moving forward.
“It’s been pretty impressive to see how quickly we’ve all come together as a group to form a team,” Spector said. “A team doesn’t form overnight. It takes time. We’ve managed that pretty quickly, which is pretty special.”
As far as what he wants from his team, Spector was blunt.
“Work ethic. Togetherness. Any team that has that as a foundation, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. I know we have the quality in the players that will be able to get results. If we can have that foundation where we have a good work ethic and we’re together as a group, the rest of our qualities will shine through.”
It speaks to the quality of person Spector is that even newcomer Justin Meram, who’s been with the team just a month, has known for a while now who’d wear the armband.
“I made a joke to him earlier. I called him captain a couple times before he was even named,” Meram said. “Just a natural leader. We all knew it going in. Quality guy in the locker room, in between the lines.
“For us, it was a no-brainer.”