ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City Soccer Club head coach Jason Kreis on Wednesday responded to trash talk ahead of Friday's home match against Atlanta United Football Club.
The president of Ruckus, an independent Orlando City Soccer supporters club, tweeted on Wednesday what appears to be a screenshot of an Atlanta United fan’s comment on a Facebook post about the upcoming match.
“Think of it as PULSE part 2,” the comment read.
Kreis said he hadn’t seen the comment, but he did weigh in on badmouthing.
"There's a line; there should always be a line," Kreis told Channel 9 sports anchor Christian Bruey. "At the end of the day, this is a sport. This is not life or death. This is not war. So we need to treat it that way."
Orlando City fans were disappointed and shocked about the comment.
“You can’t compare the two. It’s just insensitive to do that,” fan AJ Lash said.
Channel 9 contacted the person who wrote the post, but it hasn't heard back.
Fans sent Channel 9 screenshots of memes posted in a closed Facebook group called MLS Trash Talk. The posts include other references to Orlando City and the Pulse attack.
“Bringing stuff like that onto social media or into the public in any form is not right,” fan Bethany Nold said.
In addition to the comment, a billboard appeared in downtown Orlando bearing the Atlanta United FC logo, team players and the message, "Orlando, we're coming to conquer.”
Kreis said that chatter of a rivalry brewing between the Orlando and Atlanta teams is premature.
“I'm one (who) believes that rivalries are intrinsic, meaning that they happen through experiences,” he said. “It would be premature to be talking about whether or not they’re our rival. We shall see, starting with the first 15 minutes of the match on Friday night.”
Kreis said he sensed a diminished crowd and atmosphere during the team’s most recent home match.
“We hope that our fans come early, we hope that our fans are loud and we hope that our fans are very supportive of us,” he said. “I would repeat an urgent request to the fans that we need you. You're part of our family, and we need you there Friday night.”
Orlando City defender Jonathan Spector said Wednesday that a rivalry could be good for the sport.
“The healthy rivalry is good for the game here,” he said.
A spokesperson for Atlanta United released a statement that said, “Regarding the billboard - Orlando is our closest opponent, so we thought we’d have a little fun and engage with them ahead of the first of our two back-to-back matches. We hope this develops into a great, fun and respectful rivalry.
With that in mind, the club expects our fans to be respectful in expressing their excitement/passion for the game and to demonstrate appropriate and considerate language and actions. The following statement reaffirms our standing policy on fan behavior:
As has always been our policy, Atlanta United strongly condemns the use of offensive or derogatory language under any circumstances. Our club is committed to providing a positive and inclusive environment for all fans.
Insensitive or disrespectful comments are well outside the bounds of friendly competition, are harmful to the spirit of the game and have no place in our sport or our communities.”
Friday’s match at Orlando City Stadium is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The teams will meet again a week later on July 29 at Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.