Orlando City Soccer Club opened their inaugural Major League Soccer campaign yesterday in epic fashion. I was there with 62,510 of my closest friends to witness this historic event!
As I am sure most of you know by now, our boys played to a 1-1 draw with the Manchester City B (New York City Football Club) side. The entire day was filled with many first for not only myself, but many of the SC (Seminole County) Ruckus supporters.
The Sunrail Experience
We started arriving at the Lake Mary SunRail station around noon. One of our fellow supporters, Dan was the first one to get on the train in DeBary. He sent us a text letting us know the train was pretty full. By the time it got to Lake Mary, it was busy but we all managed to get on. The same could not be said for the folks waiting at the Longwood station, many of them were turned away. People were also told not to board at the Altamonte Springs and Maitland stations. At each of these stations, there was easily 50-60 people left behind. The demand for SunRail service was there, unfortunately the supply did not meet the demand.
The Tailgate & March In Experience
We arrived at Orlando Citrus Bowl just before 2 pm. The place was already a buzz with excitement. Shortly after arriving, I ran into the one and only Jen Vargas! We talked for a bit as I took her around the supporter’s tailgate in Lot 11. Let’s just say her and Bun could hardly contain themselves in this sea of purple bliss.
The overall tailgate experience was amazing. The Wall came through with food, drinks, and a very welcoming experience for all. I even saw a NYCFC supporter getting a hotdog at the Ruckus food tent. If that doesn’t say friendly, I don’t know what does!
After a couple of hours of drinking, eating and mingling about with everyone, we started our march into the stadium. The drums and chants started as the purple smoke bombs were being handed out to anyone with a free hand. This was it, we had arrived in the top flight of US Soccer and this march was one for the history books.
Not to sound cheesy, but this is the type of day you tell your kids about. The type of day that no supporter would have missed for anything in the world. This was the day the world took notice of Orlando City Soccer Club and The Wall. We have officially arrived!
The Match Experience
The atmosphere inside the Orlando Citrus Bowl was ELECTRIC! There was not an empty seat in the house (except for ours but only because we refuse to sit). Immediately after the National Anthem, our Tifo was unveiled to the world. Now since I was underneath this beautiful piece of art (designed by Earl Funk), I was not able to see how amazing it was until I got home and watched the replay. Once the match kicked off, it gave us everything we had hoped for. Plenty of opportunities on goal for our boys, horrible officials for us to yell at, and a 0-0 score line going into halftime.
The second half kicked off and NYCFC was more active on the ball than in the previous half. Then in the 76th minute, Mix Diskerud (NYCFC) opened up his account with a (it pains me to say this) beautiful strike just out of the reach of Donovan Ricketts. Orlando City was down 0-1 with just under a quarter of an hour to go. There was an empty feeling in all of our stomachs. A groan of nervousness rolled it’s way around the stadium, but we had to go on.
The drums pounded harder and our chants got louder. We needed to let our boys know that we were behind them no matter what. The clock ticked closer to full-time, and a sense of anxiety started to set in. Was it really possible for us to lose our inaugural MLS match? Were we really going to lose to this inferior club from New York by way of Manchester? We needed something, and we needed it fast!
Just then, that something happened… A free kick was awarded to Orlando City just outside the penalty arch. Kaka and Brek Shea both stood over the ball. The whistle blew and Kaka took a shot that bounced off a NYCFC defender, and into the back of the net!
The place went mental and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. It wasn’t the win we hoped for, but fortunately in soccer, a draw is the next best thing and it is WAY better than a loss. We announced to the world that, Our Reign Begins Now!
The next match is away this Friday, March 13th at 7 pm, against the Houston Dynamo. There will be watch parties at all City Pub locations. I will be at Liam Fitzpatrick’s in Lake Mary along with many of the other Seminole County Ruckus members.
To find your nearest City Pub location, please check out: http://www.orlandocitysc.com/gameday/citypubs