Author Archives: David Blair

Central Florida Top 5’s 2017 Soccer Preview

We are just days away from 2017 and The City Beautiful is already filling the calendar with the Beautiful Game! If you are a fan of soccer and you live in the Central Florida area, you will not be disappointed with this line up.

Florida Cup 2017

There will be two separate competitions in the Florida Cup this year.  The Florida Cup Challenge, will feature six international club sides from four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and USA).  The competition will take place from January 8-15, with each club playing two matches.  The club with the most points at the end of the competition, wins!

The Florida Cup Playoff, is a single elimination tournament where only one club is left standing. There are six clubs from four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador) all fighting to lift the cup at the end of the tournament.  This leg of the competition runs from January 15-21.  For more information on both Florida Cup competitions including clubs, venues, and fixtures, visit http://www.floridacup.com.

 

Orlando City SC

It has been two years in the making but the wait is almost over! We recently found out when Orlando City Soccer Club will finally play in the new Soccer Specific Stadium (SSS) located in Downtown Orlando.  The date for the first ever match in what will be Orlando City’s forever home, is March 5, 2017.  The Lions will face New York City FC in the opening match of the season for the second time in three years. If you enter LionNation’s 12 Days of Christmas you can win tickets to this opener! [Linkhttp://orlan.do/LN12days] The match is scheduled to kick-off at 5 pm and will be televised on ESPN.  For tickets and more information, visit http://www.orlandocitysc.com.

ProTip: Sign up for LionNation and get single game ticket priority! Info here: http://orlan.do/2hg9wfA

 

Orlando Pride

News broke earlier this week that Alex Morgan would be temporarily leaving the Orlando Pride to play in France. Morgan has agreed to a six month deal to play with Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon in the Division 1 Feminine. Not to worry too much Pride fans, Alex is scheduled to be back stateside in May 2017.  The Orlando Pride kick off their season in April in the new SSS downtown. The schedule has not been released yet, but updated information (and some great gift ideas!) can be found at http://www.orlandocitysc.com/pride.

 

Orlando City B

Orlando City B (OCB) will be making the move to Orlando after only one season in Melbourne. With the new SSS opening, OCB will be one of three clubs playing their home matches in Downtown Orlando in 2017.  OCB will also attempt to resurrect the I-4 Derby with cross state rivals the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Rowdies made the move from the North American Soccer League (NASL) to United Soccer League (USL) at the end of the 2016 season.  If you have never attended one of the original derby matches, this is a can’t miss.  More information regarding Orlando City B’s  upcoming schedule can be found at http://www.orlandocitysc.com/ocb.

 

International Champions Cup and Visit Orlando

The International Champions Cup (ICC) is the premier preseason competition for European football clubs. The friendly competition will take place in July, just one month before most of the domestic leagues across Europe begin play. The ICC brings some of the biggest clubs and stars in the world of football together for a tour of the United States, Australia and China. Past clubs in the tournament have included, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan, and Bayern Munich to name a few.

 

Welcome to Orlando @IntChampionsCup! ⚽️💜 #ICC2017 #VisitOrlando

A photo posted by Jen (@jenvargas) on

The ICC and Visit Orlando have partnered up to bring this competition to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in the summers of 2017 and 2018.  Imagine the possibility of stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi playing right here in our backyard! More schedule and ticket information will come in the new year, and this is sure to be the hottest ticket in town this coming summer.  Stay tuned for updates as they become available. For more info regarding the ICC, go to http://www.internationalchampionscup.com.

David in Peru Orlando City

Me sharing love of Orlando City in Peru!

Next year is shaping up to be the best year for world class soccer The City Beautiful has ever seen. I look forward to being there with Central Florida Top 5 every step of the way!

Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City Soccer Club: The End of an Era

With the close of the season just a few days away, the Lions are looking to finish strong in their final match at Camping World Stadium (CWS). Over the past six seasons, Orlando City has played 93 matches at CWS, and there have been a lot of memories made here.

Orlando City Supporters

A view from the supporter section!

From the first ever preseason match against the Philadelphia Union… to the championship matches in 2011 and 2013… To the first ever MLS match in 2015. From playing in front of a few thousand people every week, to playing in a packed house of 65,000 fans…This is where the dream was realized.

Orlando City Soccer #FillTheBowl

Orlando City Soccer Inaugural effort to #FillTheBowl

The final game has been dubbed a “throwback game” by the club, and will have a “where we came from” theme. A look back at the short, yet rich history and intoxicating embrace this club has put on The City Beautiful.

It will be a chance for all fans to reflect on the past and look forward to the new soccer specific stadium (SSS) on Church St. Out with the old, and in with the new, but maintaining that sense of knowing where it all began. Kick off is set for 4 pm this Sunday.

Join me at the match! I’ll be where I always am… doing my part to “Man the Wall“.  Let’s get the place rockin’ and send the Lions out with a bang one last time at CWS!

Photo by Jen Vargas

Photo by Jen Vargas

There will also be a renewal of the I-4 Derby of sorts this Saturday at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford.  Tickets are just $10 and kick off is set for 7pm.

I highly recommended attending this match if you were not around during the club’s United Soccer League (USL) days. This will be a throwback for the supporters as well as the players. The Orlando City SC alumni players will take on alumni players from the Tampa Bay Rowdies (Tell me how it feels).  Supporters will have full smoke and pyro at this match so bring your bandanna enjoy the show!

If you attend the I-4 Derby, and you run into anyone from Ralph’s Mob (Tampa’s supporter group) make sure you ask them how they feel… you know, about losing 7 times in a row. They love that!

Get your tickets to the I-4 Derby and/or the final home game at CWS by visiting http://www.orlandocity.com/tickets

Vamos Orlando!

 

 

 

 

Orlando City SC: The Thin Red Line and #RethinkHomelessYouth on 8/28

With only five home matches left in the Lion’s season, the push for the playoffs is in full effect!

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The City Lads currently sit just below the “red line” in the log jam that is the Eastern Conference. If the boys plan on making the playoffs this year, they are going to need a serious run of positive form for the remainder of the season.

The Lions return home to Camping World Stadium tonight, Wednesday, August 24th to take on Toronto FC.  The Lions defeated Toronto back in June, but is was no walk in the park.  Tied at 2-2 late in the match, it was Kaka who would step up hit the penalty kick in stoppage time to put the Lions on top for good.

The Lions will also be in action at home on Sunday August 28th, against New York City FC. This will be the third and final meeting of the year between the two clubs.

The Lions took the 1-0 win away at New York in the first meeting back in March.  Then in May, the Lions would come back from two goals down, to earn the point on a 2-2 draw in the Bronx.

This will be the first trip to Orlando for NYCFC this season. [Tickets are still available for this match.  Visit http://www.orlandocitysc.com/tickets to get yours!]

Image by Macbeth Photo

Images by Macbeth Photo

Whether in attendance or not, something special will happen on social media during Sunday’s match and you can be part of it! During the game (on August 28th), post on social media using the hashtag #rethinkhomelessyouth. Every post using this hashtag will be matched by a $1 donation from Orlando Health, up to a total of $20,000!

Supporters at Camping World Stadium can join the fight to end youth homelessness by attending the Rethink Homelessness advocacy campaign kickoff at the Orlando City Soccer match on August 28th (and the tailgate beforehand). 40% of homeless youth age 18-24 identify as LGBT, and with as hard as this community has been hit this year, we encourage anyone and everyone to help in any way they can.

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New Stadium News

The new stadium is coming along nice and according to the club, it is still on track for the beginning of next season.  If you don’t have the chance to drive by, you can follow the link below to the live construction cam.  There is also a very cool time lapse video which was compiled over the last eight months. [Link]

Away Days – City Pubs

Don’t forget that Orlando City SC also has official watch parties at five different City Pub locations.  All City Pub locations guarantee to show all 2016 matches with sound, as well as discounted Heineken on match days. The next big watch party to be hosted by the Orlando City promo team, will be September 24th at Wall St. Plaza.  The match against D.C. United is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 pm.

For your local City Pub, follow this link:  http://www.orlandocitysc.com/gameday/citypubs

Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City Soccer: The End of an Era

It has been a trying few weeks for Orlando City Soccer Club and their supporters. It started with a loss to instate rival, Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the U.S. Open Cup. The Strikers would take the 2-1 victory in the final seconds of the match, knocking the Lions out of the tournament. It was another defensive lapse at home, a theme that has plagued the Lions all season at Camping World Stadium.

On the 4th of July, the City Lads traveled to take on FC Dallas in a prime time holiday match up.  It did not end well. In what was the club’s worst loss of the season, FC Dallas proved why they were one of the best in the league. With a 0-4 loss and arguably one of the worst performances in the clubs six years in Orlando, something had to give. What gave was something that has divided fans all over Orlando, the club sacked head coach Adrian Heath.

OCSC Inchy Mastermind tifo

The Wall: United State of Inchy! Tifo Artwork by Earl Funk

He was one of the founding fathers, the “Mastermind” & “The Crafter” as the song goes, “Bringing trophies here to our town…“.  That is exactly what Adrian Heath did. He brought championships to a starving sports community. A community that has had to settle for mediocrity in the world of sports for so long.

 

In 2011, the Lions first season in USL, Coach Heath lead Orlando City to the best record in the league (Commissioner’s Cup) and the USL Pro Championship. During his four years in USL Pro, Heath would win three Commissioner’s Cups, and two USL Pro Championships.   The club would also post a 66-12-22 (W/L/D) record through their first 100 league games; the best record by any team in their first 100 league games, in U.S. Soccer history.

OCSC In Inchy We Trust

Artwork by Orlando City Soccer Club

Adrian “Inchy” Heath will be missed.  He made it a point to be more than just a coach, he was part of the community. For six years, Inchy was more than a coach, he was an ambassador for the beautiful game here in the City Beautiful. Long before Kaka came to town and became the face of the franchise, Adrian Heath was the franchise.  He is a man that loves the game, the fans, and the City of Orlando.

A passionate, heart on his sleeve, no nonsense coach, and the nicest guy you would ever shake hands with. A man that told it like it was regardless who or what he was talking about. Never above calling out his own players when they were lackluster, and always the first to praise when they were on point. He is a legend, he is Orlando, and this is FOREVER his city!

OCSC David Inchy

David and The Ruckus give Inchy a good handshake. Photo Credit: Orlando City Soccer Club

The Lions are on the road for their next three matches, but will return home on July 31st. Come out and support the club as they take on New England Revolution at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available on the Orlando City SC website.

 

Historic #CopaAmerica Centenario matches play this week in Orlando #Copa100

We’ve been counting down since last year, and the months of anticipation are finally over. Copa America Centenario is finally here! This weekend, the tournament will kick off for the first time in history right here in the United States. This is hands down the biggest international soccer event in the United States since the 1994 World Cup!

Copa America 2016 stats

In the words of Central Florida’s own John Arie Jr. (the Fun Spot America guy), IT’S HUUUUUGE! The City Beautiful will host three matches during the group stage of the tournament. Here’s how the matches will play out:

Copa America Groupings

The Copa America Centenario will run from June 3rd thru June 26th, with the final being played at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. The tournament will consist of four, 4 team groups, with the top 2 teams advancing to the knock out stage of the tournament. The groups are as follows:

Group A – United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay

Group B – Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru

Group C – Jamaica, Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay

Group D – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Panama

 

Copa America Trophy

The Copa America trophy has toured all over the United States in 2016! It was here in Orlando in March during Orlando City Soccer’s opening game!

Copa America matches played in Orlando

Copa America tease

Saturday June 4th, Costa Rica vs Paraguay 

This will be the opening match here in Orlando.  These countries do not have a deep history against each other. In fact, they have only played eight times since 1965.  The only time the two countries faced off in Copa America was back in 2004, where Paraguay defeated Costa Rica 1-0. With the United States playing against Colombia in the opening match on June 3rd, the result of this match could play a huge role in the final group standings. The United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay make up Group A in this tournament.

Monday June 6th, Panama vs Bolivia 

The second match in Orlando will put Panama against Bolivia.  Since 1970, these two countries have also only played each other eight times, and Bolivia holds the advantage with 4 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. This will be their first meeting in Copa America.

Wednesday June 8th, Brazil v Haiti 

Since 1974, these two countries have only played each other twice, both matches won by Brazil. This will be the first time Brazil and Haiti will face off in Copa America.  There was talk of Orlando City’s Kaká playing for Brazil this year in Copa America but, as of the writing of this post, he is out with a muscle injury. However, Orlando City fans may recognize the name Mechack Jerome from their inaugural season back in 2011.  He has been called up to play for Haiti, and should get the start against Brazil.

Orlando City is on break until June 18th but fear not, there will be plenty of soccer to keep you entertained here in The City Beautiful; from Copa America to the Orlando Pride, we are the Soccer Capital of the South!

ProTip(s): The I-4 Ultimate project’s lane and ramp closures will be suspended on June 4, 6 and 8 from Kirkman Road (State Road 435) to Colonial Drive (State Road 50). Closure restrictions are due to anticipated crowds traveling to hotels in the attractions area and to Downtown Orlando. Download the Florida Department of Transportation’s FL511 app before you go, or sign up for route specific updates via texts HERE. Also great news, SunRail WILL BE RUNNING on game nights!

Copa America events in Orlando

Copa America Fan HQ

Register for Copa America’s FanHQ Presented by Sprint events here: 

Friday, June 3: 7-11pm, Wall St. Plaza (Downtown Orlando)

Sunday, June 5: 2-6pm, Wall St. Plaza (Downtown Orlando)

Tuesday, June 7: 6-10pm, Wall St. Plaza (Downtown Orlando)

Florida Mall Celebrates Copa America! 

FloridaMall

Where: The Florida Mall – Macy’s Court, 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809 (Directions)

When: Saturday, June 4, 12-3pm

What: Free family friendly activities, live entertainment, giveaways, interactive games, a photo booth, activations and promotions in Florida Mall participating stores (Macy’s, United World of Soccer, Microsoft, M&M World)

Miller’s Ale House Orlando

Watch all 32 matches on Ale House’s huge flat screen televisions and enjoy all day drink specials!

Copa America Ale House

Church Street Bars

Copa Americana Church Street Bars

Top 5 Must Dos at an Orlando City Soccer Club Match

With the Lions now in their second season in Major League Soccer, I am sure most of you have been to a match. For those of you that haven’t, what are you waiting for? I went to my first match five years ago, and I haven’t looked back.

In fact, I have abandoned all other sports because I don’t have time for them. There is so much soccer all over the world that I am never bored. Trust me when I tell you, it only takes one match to hook you and I hope this is your year if you have never been.  With that said, here are my “Top 5” MUST DOs at an Orlando City Soccer Club match.

OCSC

  1. Tailgate – This is an absolute MUST. It is hands down the most American thing about the beautiful game here in Orlando. Tailgates are a wonderful way to warm up before a match. Great food, great people, and beer! There are a number of lots around the Citrus Bowl where people come together two, three, sometimes six hours before the kick-off for some pre-match shenanigans! However, I have to say (with bias!), no one does it up quite like the supporters in Lot 11. With $5 donation for all you can eat food, and an open cooler policy, there is no place I would rather be!
Photo Credit: Ish Shah

Crawfish… YUM! Photo Credit: Ish Shah

Watch the march in – This has been a tradition since the early days of United Soccer League for the Orlando City supporters. About an hour before kick-off, you can hear the beating of the drums and the chants beginning to rise above Lot 11. After some chants and a toast to get the blood pumping, the march begins to defend our home, and “Man The Wall”.

The procession is a short one from Lot 11 to Gate C of the Citrus Bowl, but that doesn’t stop the supporters from putting on a show. The chants, drums, and purple smoke fill the air as hundreds of fans line the path shooting pictures and taking video.

Photo Credit: Orlando City SC

Photo Credit: Orlando City SC (Can you spot me?)

Visit The Wall – The Supporter Section (aka The Wall) is a general admission area. You do need to have a ticket to get into the section, but you are able to stand on the rail at the top of the section. When I first started going to Orlando City matches back in 2011, I sat at midfield.

After one trip to the supporters section halfway through the 2011 season, I was hooked, and I have been there ever since. The energy and passion in The Wall is unmatched anywhere in the State of Florida. I will even go so far as to say that it is unmatched anywhere in the country outside of Portland or Seattle.

OCSC ​Anthony in The Wall

Take a walk around the Citrus Bowl – The newly renovated Citrus Bowl, you are able to walk around the entire stadium below the plaza level. This is awesome because you can get different views of the action on the pitch throughout the match. It’s nice to see a different perspective from time to time. So get out of your seat for a little while and take in the views.  Who knows, you might just find a new section for your season tickets!

OCSC ​Darwin Ceren with Ruckus at Tailgate

Wait for the players after the match – When the match is over, don’t just make a beeline for your car, especially if you have kids. Wait around a bit for the stadium to clear out, then head down to the south end of the stadium. Once you exit the stadium, hang a right and just passed the press entrance, you will see a small gated lot on your right. Security will be there keeping an eye on the handful of expensive luxury cars, this is the players lot. When it comes to player/fan interactions, the Orlando City players are a class act. On any given night after a match, you can get autographs and selfies with any if not all of the players. Even if you just want a fist bump and to say hi, they are always ready to greet the fans.

 

 

Orlando City SunRail

Like I’ve said, if you haven’t made it to a match yet, what are you waiting for? The Lions will be back home at the Citrus Bowl on May 6th, as they take on the New York Red Bulls. Kick-Off is set for 7:30, and there are still good seats available.  Visit http://orlandocitysc.com/tickets for more info.

Vamos Orlando!

 

Central Florida Top 5’s David Visits Peru: Futbol or Soccer, It’s All Beautiful!

While in Peru, I was able to take in the Copa Libertadores match between Sporting Cristal (Peru) and Huracan (Argentina). The match was great! even though it was not my beloved Lions on the pitch, I still loved taking it all in. As a supporter, your passion for the game runs very deep. It’s this love for the game that allows you appreciate the simple yet complex sport that is world football, regardless of who is on the pitch.

Even when it’s not your team playing, the energy and excitement from the thousands of supporters is unmatched anywhere in the sporting world. It’s an escape from the everyday grind. For 90 plus minutes, you find yourself consumed by the game and part of something bigger than you and you just allow it to take over.

A few days after the Copa Libertadores match, I was able to attend another match for one of the biggest clubs in all of Peru, Universitario de Deportes or “La U” as the locals call it.  I attended with a couple of my wife’s uncles.  They have been La U supporters since they were born, a tradition passed on to them by their father.  I have found that this is common across Europe and South America when it comes to which football club people support.  You don’t just choose a club, you are born into it and you follow it until the day you die.

However, there are a few defectors among the ranks of my wife’s family. A handful of them support Alianza Lima, the other big club in Peru. I am not sure how this happened, but if I had to guess, a couple of the Iberico (my wife’s family surname) ladies married Alianza supporters, and their kids were raised to support Alianza Lima.  These are the two most decorated clubs in all of Peruvian football.  It’s been said that 65% of all Peruvians support one of these two clubs. In a country of over 30 million, and a league with 16 clubs, that is a lot of supporters for just two clubs!

David Peru

This is ‘relaxed’ security in Peru

One thing I noticed when entering the stadium for the match is the relaxed security.  At first I thought, this was going to be a very thorough and intimidating affair, but it wasn’t.  The cops are dressed in riot gear throughout the stadium, and you get the feeling something is about to pop off! But when all was said and done, there was no pat down, and all I had to do was show my passport. It was much different than what goes down at the Citrus Bowl on match day.  At the same time, our security is not walking around with riot shields, helmets, and batons.

There is no alcohol allowed in the stadium. I was a little shocked by this… Maybe this is how it is everywhere else in the world, but I am used to being able to have a few beers in the stadium when I watch a match. The only options I had here were Pepsi, juice, or water.  All three are served with no ice, in tiny cups. So for me, drinking warm Pepsi out of an 8 ounce paper cup was a little strange. I did however have a delicious chorizo on a roll while I was there.

image3

Hablas… ‘Chorizo!’

You get the feeling there is no “official” concession company running the show inside the stadium.  In all honestly it seems like a bunch of random people just selling whatever they were able to get into the stadium.  Which is cool because no two matches are the same and the variety of snacks is all over the place, depending on what made it into the stadium.

The supporters were different at both matches as well. For the Copa Libertadores match, Sporting Cristal had three different supporter sections in the stadium. One behind each goal on the north and south ends of the stadium, and one of the second level right at midfield.  It was a bit strange because all three sections did their own things during the match.  All three sections were loud and non stop for the full 90 minutes, but none of the chants were in sync.  The only thing that was done in unison, was the balloon release at the beginning of the match. A side from that, it was three separate shows from three separate locations in the stands. Before the match started, there were a couple of drummers down near the pitch playing in front of the supporters at the north end. But after the match started, the drums were silent.

David Peru

Tio Manuco, Me, Tio Henry at La U match

The match for Universitario de Deportes (La U) was similar to what I am accustomed too.  There was one section behind goal with about 5,000 supporters called La Norte, or The North.  They did not have drums, but they did chant for the full 90 minutes and it sounded amazing.  It seriously made me miss being in The Wall.  One thing they did that was a bit different was a card display tifo right before the second half.  In all there were about 35,000 in the stadium for the match, and all of them knew the chants whenever La U would score a goal.  The place would erupt into one very loud, very passionate, celebratory chant.  It was awesome! Hopefully we will have that same response when Orlando City scores a goal in the coming seasons.

I have to say my trip to Peru did not disappoint.  The food was great, the people were great, and the futbol was equally great! This past Sunday was my first Orlando City match of the season, and it was amazing!

Orlando is where reigning MLS Cup Champions come to be humbled.  Last year it was LA Galaxy getting beat up on 4-0, and this year Portland Timbers ate a big piece of humble pie, going down 4-1.  I was able to watch the first three matches when I was in Peru, but I have to admit I was a little homesick when I had to watch the lads play on TV from 3,000 miles away.

David in Peru Orlando City

Top 5’s David shows Orlando City love from 2,600 miles away!

I had a taste of what I was missing and now I can’t wait for April 17th, when the Lions take on New England here in the Citrus Bowl. Good seats are still available for this match up.  Visit orlandocitysc.com/tickets for more info!

Vamos Orlando!

 

 

Orlando CityPride: The City’s Beautiful Game

February’s in full swing but January turned out to be a busy month for the Beautiful Game here in The City Beautiful!

  • Orlando City SC has released their schedule and participated in the MLS Super Draft.
  • Orlando Pride also participated in their inaugural draft, and added some new faces to the club.
  • Copa America announced the dates of the three matches that will be held here in Orlando this summer.

All in all, there is a lot going on and I’ll do my best to keep you informed!

OCSC

 

Orlando City SC
With the full schedule being released earlier this month, there were a few dates everyone was waiting for. We found out last month that the opening match would be on March 6th vs. Real Salt Lake here at the Citrus Bowl. But what other home matches had supporters of the club chomping at the bit?

April 3rd vs Portland Timbers FC – With one of the loudest and proudest (I stress “one of”… We all know The Wall is the loudest and the proudest!) Supporter clubs in the country, Timbers Army, this match is a must see! Last year Orlando City SC travelled to Portland to take on the Timbers, and came out with a 2-0 victory over the eventual 2015 MLS Cup Champions. Cyle Larin scored his very first MLS goal in this match. He would eventually go on to score 17 goals on the season and win the 2015 Rookie of the Year award.
August 7th vs Seattle Sounders – The City lads and their supporters will be looking for a little revenge when these two clubs face off. Last year the trip to Century Link Field was not a pleasant one for the Lions. After a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Clint Dempsey and the Sounders, the club was sent packing with one of their worse losses of the season.
August 28th vs New York City FC – This right here… Nothing really needs to be said about this. There is no love lost between the supporters of both of these clubs. This will be the first trip to the Citrus Bowl for NYCFC this season.
September 17th vs Columbus Crew SC – Out of all the matchups last season, Columbus and Orlando are probably the most evenly matched. The clubs finished 1-1-1 in three matches played last season. After year one, this matchup is probably the most organic of rivals the Lions have. All three matches last year were full of energy and animosity from the players on the pitch to the supporter groups for both clubs. This is one I personally cannot wait for!

 

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

SuperDraft 2016
This year, the MLS SuperDraft took place in Baltimore, where Orlando City had the 7th overall pick. The Lions selected Richie Laryea from the University of Akron. Laryea, (originally from Canada) just happens to be best friends with current Orlando City striker and MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the pitch! However, I have a feeling he will probably start the season in Melbourne with Orlando City B in USL (United Soccer League). The club also picked up UCF standout Hadji Barry with the 13th overall pick. Barry led the Knights in points with 25, and found the back of the net 11 times in his senior year.

Orlando PrideOrlando Pride
In their inaugural NWSL College Draft, the Orlando Pride picked up three players for the upcoming season. With the tenth, fifteenth, and thirty-first overall picks, the Pride selected defender, Samantha Witteman from the University of California, Berkley; Midfielder, Christina Burkenroad from California State University; and Midfielder Dani Weatherholt from Santa Clara. The schedule for the Orlando Pride’s inaugural season is expected to be out in the next few weeks. I will be sure to keep everyone posted as more information becomes available.

14_StadiumProgress5

Copa America
In case you haven’t heard by now or just crawled out from under a rock, Copa America is coming to Orlando this summer. The City Beautiful will host three matches at Orlando Citrus Bowl. The dates have been set for June 4th, 6th, and 8th. The final draw will be held on February 21st to fill in all the blanks in the schedule. The only team confirmed for Orlando at this point is Brazil on June 8th. Who will they face at the Citrus Bowl? I’ll let you know as soon as the fixtures are available for all three matches.

Follow me (@davidjxblair) and Central Florida Top 5 (@CentralFLTop5) on Twitter for more updates and maybe some live tweets from The Wall at this Saturday’s match against the Jacksonville Armada!

#VamosOrlando

Copa America Centenario Comes to Orlando in June 2016

For the first time in it’s storied history, Copa America will be played outside of South America next summer. Copa America is coming to Orlando Citrus Bowl! The full schedule was just released – CLICK HERE!

Copa America is the oldest, most prestigious and widely viewed tournaments in the soccer world. Next year’s Copa America Centenario will feature six teams from CONCACAF and all 10 teams from CONMEBOL: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

We learned that Orlando will host three matches here at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on June 4th, 6th and 8th, 2016! Brazil will play on June 8th!

Lucky you, Orlando City, Orlando Pride and Orlando City B season passholders! You get first dibs on pre-sale passes in January! (Regular on sale opportunities to be announced.)

The announcement that Brazil will be an anchor team in Orlando could not be better news for our community,” said Central Florida Sports Commission President and CEO John Bisignano. “Brazilian tourists are a key demographic to our area, but it’s the country’s spirit and passion for the game of soccer that will make Copa matches at the Orlando Citrus Bowl that much more special.

With the tournament being played on North American soil for the first time in it’s history, we know already – it’s going to be an exciting summer! The 2016 Copa America Centenario will feature six teams from CONCACAF and all 10 teams from CONMEBOL: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Orlando can expect to possibly see some of the biggest stars in world soccer grace the pitch at the Citrus Bowl. Some of the big names could include the likes of Lionel Messi (ARG), Neymar (BRA), Luis Suarez (URG), James Rodriguez (COL), and Claudio Pizzaro (PER).

This will also be the first time since 2007 that the U.S. has participated in Copa America.  The U.S. has appeared in the tournament three times (’93, ’95, ’07), recording their best finish in Uruguay ’95, where they finished 4th.

Next year promises to be a very exciting year in Orlando for the soccer. Orlando City SC, will be kicking off their second season in Major League Soccer, and Orlando Pride will begin their inaugural campaign behind superstar, Alex Morgan.  With the announcement of Copa America Centenario, there is no doubt that Orlando is “The Soccer Capital of the South”.

June will be an historic month for world class soccer in Central Florida with the kickoff of Copa America and specifically, the Brazilian National Team here in the City Beautiful,” said City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We invite all soccer and sports fans, whose outpouring of support helped us secure these events, to join us at the Orlando Citrus Bowl for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We will be sure to keep you posted as more information is confirmed. I will also be tweeting information as it becomes available. Follow me @davidjxblair on Twitter.

#CopaAmerica #Centenario #SoccerCapitalOfTheSouth

Vamos Orlando!

 

Orlando City SC: Final Countdown and New Beginnings

As I sit here thinking about the past seven months, I can’t help but think how awesome this ride has been.  It seems like yesterday when Central Florida Top 5’s Managing Editor (Hi Jen!) messaged me to ask if I would be interested in writing an Orlando City SC blog.

At first I was a little hesitant about doing it because I had never written a blog before. Sure, I kept journals growing up that I would write in all the time, but none of that was for public consumption. Jen assured me that I would be fine and I took her at her word. Why she chose me, I am not 100% sure. However, if I had to take a guess, it was probably because of my manic posting of anything Orlando City SC on social media. Whatever the reason is, I just want to say thank you to Jen and the rest of Central Florida Top 5, for allowing me the chance to get up close and personal with Orlando City SC, the club that I love!

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The Final Regular Season Game

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It is crazy to think that this is the end of the road for the City Lads in their inaugural season.  It has been one giant roller coaster ride of emotions.  In the beginning we looked like world beaters, and as a supporter I was on top of the world.  First we took a 1-1 draw in the home opener off Kaka’s deflected free kick.  Then we had the 1-0 win on the road at Houston the following week.

We were two games in with four points and it felt amazing.  Then there was the back to back home losses against Vancouver Whitecaps and DC United, both lost on stoppage time free kicks.  Suddenly there was an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.  The club that dominated in USL the previous four years was no more. We were in a league where we faced real, tough competition. Of course I am talking about the PRO Referees. I kid (kinda), but seriously a 2 game home losing streak was not something I was accustomed to with my Lions.

In any case, there have been plenty of memories for players and fans alike.  One of my favorites was and still is the growth of Cyle Larin through out the season.  From his first ever goal as a Lion against Portland, to his brace last week against New York City FC (goals 16 & 17 on the season), Cyle has become one of the most potent strikers in all of MLS.  I sincerely look forward to watching him do big things for many years to come! This weekend, the Lions travel to Philadelphia to take on the Union this Sunday at 5 pm. Mathematically, the Lads are still able to make the playoffs, but a little luck will need to be in the cards for sure. Currently Orlando City has once chance to get into the post season, and it involves A LOT of goals. Currently the Lions would need to make up an 8 goal difference against the New England Revolution. Which means, for example, Orlando City would need to beat Philly 4-0, and hope NYCFC beats New England 4-0, thus making up the 8 goal difference between the two clubs.  Is it possible? Yes. Keep in mind, Orlando City has scored 5 goals on a few occasions this season.   The big questions are, can NYCFC manage to score 4 goals or more on New England without allowing a goal? Probably not. I for one have absolutely no confidence in the ability of NYCFC to help our cause. I could be wrong though… it has happened before (see Chicharito tweets from July). This is one situation where I would be happy if I am wrong on my face if it meant the Lions get to the playoffs.  

Orlando City B, So Nice We Did It Twice!

OCB_Announcement_FB_NoText(1) It was announced last week that Orlando City would be going back to USL in 2016. If you remember earlier this summer, the club announced it was cutting ties with Louisville City (currently in USL). The partnership was short lived after the USL franchise rights were sold to Louisville City before Orlando City began play in MLS this season. The original plan was to have Louisville City act as “minor league” club for the Lions.  A place where players could be loaned out for playing time if they were not seeing minutes with the first team.  It also gave Orlando City a pool of players they could pull from in the event of an injury “plague.” Now that Orlando City SC will have their “minor league” club about an hour away in Melbourne, player transfers between the clubs should be smooth. Orlando City B will begin play in April 2016 on the campus of Eastern Florida State College.  For those that live in the area, this is an amazing opportunity for them to see quality soccer at an affordable price.  In fact, there is already a supporter group ready to bring an amazing atmosphere to every home match.  Visit the Harbor City Hooligans by liking them on Facebook.  Orlando City B will also bring back a couple of fan favorites.  Rob Valentino and Anthony Pulis will join the coaching ranks with the club. This is very exciting news for the fans, but it is not the only breaking soccer news in The City Beautiful…  

Orlando Pride Have Arrived! 

mpY0S5ED_400x400 Just when you thought Phil and Flavio couldn’t surprise Orlando City fans more than they already have, the Orlando Pride are here! The Pride begin play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) next April.  I have to say, this is probably the worst kept secret since the signing of Kaka, but it is exciting none the less. As the father of a little girl, I am happy that she will have players like Alex Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle to look up too. Oh yeah, If you didn’t know, now you do. Alex and Kaylyn are supposed to be “officially” announced  as members of the Orlando Pride on Monday, October 26th. This is one day after the US Women’s National Team takes on Brazil at the Citrus Bowl.   There has been speculation for a few months now that Alex Morgan would come play in Orlando once the team was announced. How do I know this? Well, she has been at most of the Orlando City home matches since August 1st. Plus, her husband Servando Carrasco is a midfielder for the Lions. It just makes sense for them to want to be in the same city during the season.  Especially since both leagues follow pretty much the same season schedule, currently Alex plays for the Portland Thorns. The recently married Carrasco and Morgan would probably love to see each other as much as possible during the season. Then again, I could be wrong (again see Chicharito tweets from July), but Flavio did drop a “Major Announcement” tease on social media today.  I guess we will just have to wait and see how this all pans out.

From @OCPres: “We have a lot of girls playing the sport, now they have someone to look up to.” #OrlandoPride #NWSL A video posted by Central Florida Top 5 (@centralfltop5) on Oct 20, 2015 at 11:02am PDT

Follow me on Twitter @davidjxblair for Orlando City SC tweets and other random ramblings!

Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City SC: The Final 3

A Good September

After a July and August to forget, September has given the Lions their best start of the season. Capturing nine points in three matches, and collecting their first three game win streak of the season, the Lions are making a post season push.  With just three matches left, the soccer lads are hoping to slide into the 6th and final play-off spot in the east. It won’t be easy, but the current run of form has given everyone involved a lot of hope.

Rookie Scoring Record Shattered

Cyle Larin broke the single season rookie scoring record in a 5-2 win over the east leading New York Red Bulls. Larin has been knocking on the door of breaking the record since tying it back on August 1st, where he scored two goals against the Columbus Crew. With a hat trick against the Red Bulls this past Friday, Cyle Larin was not only able to break the record but completely shatter it.  The rookie record of 11 goals in a single season has been in place since 2003, but it now belongs to Cyle with 14. With three matches to go, only Larin knows what the final number will be.  In any case, this should secure the MLS Rookie of the Year honor for him.Orlando City Larin

Montreal Impact Are Coming to Town.

If you have yet to make it to an Orlando City SC match, this Saturday, October 3rd will be an awesome one.  In a match with HUGE play-off implications, you can be sure the Citrus Bowl will be rocking on Saturday night.  This is the first trip to Orlando for the Impact, and I can assure you it will be one they won’t forget! In the previous two meetings, the Lions traveled north of the border to claim a draw and a loss at the hands of Montreal.  The Lions hope to make history on Saturday as they try to shut down former Chelsea scoring legend, Didier Drogba. With 7 goals in 6 games, the task looms large for the Lions to shut Drogba down. The battle for the 6th and final play-off spot will be decided in this match-up. Make no mistake, the club and the supporters will pull out all the stops to secure the three points in this one.

Tickets Still Available

Tickets are still available for the final two home games of the season.  Visit the Orlando City SC website for more information.

vs Montreal Impact, October 3rd at 7:00 pm

vs New York City FC, October 16th at 7:00 pm

 

Our trip to Florida Kids Family Expo

The Florida Kids & Family Expo did not disappoint. I was fortunate enough to cover this event with my wife and daughter, and they loved it! There was so much to see and do at this event, it was hard to put my finger on just one favorite. Since I couldn’t decide, I put together a Top 5 with help from my daughter, Olivia. So without further adieu, here we go with with our Top 5 in no particular order:

1. Fairytales & Heroes

This was one of the first booths we visited on our journey through the Expo, and Olivia loved it.  There were great photo opportunities for kids and adults alike.  While we were there, my wife and daughter took a pic with Tinkerbell. We also saw Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Cinderella during our visit. I have seen a number of “Superhero” companies pop up over the past few years here in Orlando, but the Fairytales & Heroes costumes and makeup are some of the best I have seen.  The Iron Man costume was on point, and the princesses looked like they were straight out of the storybooks. If you have young kids that are looking for Disney Princesses or Marvel Superheroes at their next birthday, this is the place to go!

2. Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest 

What is there to say about this place, other than it is fun and hands on. Now, my family and I have been out to Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest before, and my daughter loves it.  When she saw their booth at the Expo, she was happy to see all the animals they brought with them.  There were baby chicks, goats, rabbits, ducks, and piglets.  Olivia swears up and down she loves piggies, but when they are as up close and personal as they were here, she was happy watching from a distance.  I can tell you that based on my experience, there is so much more to do at Santa’s than just pet animals.  There is a pumpkin patch in October, hay rides, and so much more! If you have never made the trip to Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest, you are missing out and I would highly recommend it for you and your family.

3. Unlimited Bounce House Fun

There were so many bounce houses for Olivia to play in, we actually lost her at one point.  The wife and I were in full on panic mode, but Olivia didn’t have a care in the world.  She took off her shoes and just like that she was gone… From the giant inflatable slide, to the inflatable obstacle course, $10 got your kid unlimited access to all a dozen or so bounce houses. From the looks of it, this was one of the biggest hits for kids of all ages.  There was always a line to get in and never a sad face… well until the parents had to break the news it was time to go.

4. Orlando Aerial Arts 

With my daughter just starting her second season of ballet and tap, this was one of the exhibits that just pulled her in. Imagine the grace of ballet and the strength of gymnastics where the performer’s feet never touch the ground. We’ve been using gymnastics equipment at home. If you can close your eyes and imagine that, you have Orlando Aerial Arts. Olivia stayed and watch two performances without ever moving from her spot on the velvet rope.  It was a beautiful display elegance, with an unbelievable amount stamina. The artist that performed had an array of moves that brought oohs and aahs  from the crowd. This was a very fun live performance.  I mean, it kept a 3 year old engaged for 20 plus minutes!

5. Michaels Crafts

The Michaels booth was another big hit with not only Olivia, but my wife Maria as well.  Here they were able to create their own little pictures. Michaels provided everything from the construction paper, popsicle sticks, markers, glue, and puff foam shapes.  It was a nice hands on event for everyone to get the creative juices flowing! Olivia actually hit this booth twice during our visit.

So this is my Top 5 based on what my wife, my daughter, and I did. However, there was so much more to do at the Kids & Family Expo. For example, the zip-line, tower climb, and Medieval Times live stage show to name a few. I was able to tweet out some of the images during my visit. Give me a follow @djxb1977 and stay tuned to Central Florida Top 5 for future updates!

 

Orlando City SC: The Home Stretch

Season Tickets Sold Out

It was announced earlier in the week that all 18,000 season tickets for the 2016 campaign, have been sold out. Earlier this summer, the club announced new plans for a larger downtown stadium, and with it an increase in the season ticket allotment from 14,000 to 18,000. For those that missed out this round, the club has a new waiting list. It’s only $75.00 per seat to hold your spot in line. For more information, visit Orlando City SC .

 

World Cup Champs Coming to Orlando

The US Women’s National Team will be in Orlando on October 25th for a match against Brazil. This match will be the final stop of their World Cup Victory Tour. Tickets go on sale September 1st and are available through ussoccer.com. Make sure you act fast because this is sure to be one of the hottest tickets in town!

 

Inaugural Growing Pains

To say the past couple of months have been a disappointment for the Lions, would be the understatement of the year. With just one win in their last 9 matches, hopes of making the playoffs are beginning to fade. In the last four matches, the lions have managed to score just one goal, while giving up thirteen. It also doesn’t help that Orlando City have seen more red cards (9) than any other club in Major League Soccer (MLS) this year. Sometimes the ejections are valid, but many times inconsistent officiating is to blame. This is not just a Orlando City problem, but a league wide problem. Major League Soccer has been plagued by officiating woes all season. My hope is there is a serious review this off-season regarding the quality of referees the league employs. With that said, the boys in purple are not mathematically out of the playoff race just yet. Is it time to start reaching for the panic button? Yes.

 

Upcoming Matches

Orlando City SC returns home Saturday, August 29th to take on the Chicago Fire in the Citrus Bowl.  Match is schedule to kick-off at 7:30 pm. Tickets are still available.  Get yours by visiting orlandocitysc.com/tickets

For those that can’t make it out to the Citrus Bowl, the match will be carried at all City Pub locations throughout the area.  Local broadcast will be carried on My 65 / Sun Sports.

After the match this Saturday the 29th, there are only two regular season home matches left.

Sporting KC – Sunday September 13th at 7:00 pm

New York City FC – Friday August 16th at 7:00 pm

Tickets are still available for both matches.

Vamos Orlando!

 

 

 

 

Florida Kids and Family Expo 2015 coming to OCCC August 29th

If you have not purchased your tickets to the Florida Kids & Family Expo, what are you waiting for?

This two day event runs from 10 am to 5 pm Saturday, August 29th and 11 am to 5 pm Sunday, August 30th at the Orange County Convention Center.

This is the can’t miss family fun event of the year! Over 200 interactive exhibits for parents and children including seminars, character meet & greets, carnival rides, exotic animals, live music, and much more! Also it includes some fun little activities like letting kids drive toy cars, very fun, and if you’re looking for one then check this john deere powered tractor, perfect for teaching your kid how to drive within our park and everywhere else!

Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids (3-17), free for kids (0-2) in advance, $15 for Adults, $10 for kids (3-17) at the door.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit My Central Florida Family by clicking HERE

Follow me, @djxb1977 live on Twitter Sunday, August 30th as I explore over 150,000 square feet of everything family and children Central Florida has to offer!

Orlando City SC: The Downtown Soccer Stadium

July was a month to forget for the Lions. With 5 matches, the club managed just one draw and had to settle for an 0-4-1 record for the month. The one bright spot for Orlando City has continued to be rookie Cyle Larin.

The City lads traveled to Yankee Stadium on July 26th to play fellow newcomers, New York City FC. The Lions lost the match 5-3, however Cyle Larin made history by recording the first hat trick of his young career. Larin is quickly showing all Orlando City fans why he was the first overall pick in the Super Draft. At this stage of the season, I have to believe that Larin is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors.

There was also a little bit of news coming out on the last day of the month about the new stadium. Not sure if you heard about it, so here we go!

New Stadium Design Released

The club’s record in the month of July was not pretty, but the new stadium renderings are. A couple of months ago the club decided to privately fund and increase the capacity for the new downtown soccer stadium.  The stadium will be built in the same location, just two blocks west of the Amway Center, and it will be bigger! The club officially announced the new upgrades this past Friday at The Abby in Downtown Orlando. The capacity will be increased from 19,500 to 25,500.  This is good news for those of you currently on the season ticket waiting list, because season ticket allotment will increase from 14,000 to 18,000.

The stadium will also feature covered seating on all four sides.  The previous renderings that were released for the smaller capacity stadium, only had three covered sides. The covered seating will be a welcome addition to all fans familiar with the summer storms and sun here in Florida. The stadium will also feature a single tier, safe standing supporter section, the first of its kind in Major League Soccer (MLS). There will also be 31 luxury club level suites, half of which are already sold according to the club. The stadium will be the 3rd largest in all of MLS.

In the original renderings there was a rotating lion statue at the Church Street entrance of the stadium.  In the new renderings, it’s gone.  According to President and Founder, Phil Rawlins, the lion statue is still a go, unfortunately it will be at the VIP entrance and not the main Church Street entrance.

The stadium will also include a natural grass playing surface, a 360 degree lower bowl, and a 10,000 square feet fan plaza.  The natural grass playing surface is a huge selling point in my opinion. I believe it will help the club in their efforts to bring in international talent.

It may sound silly, but Major League Soccer is one of only a few leagues in the world that allow for artificial turf. Some international stars refuse to play on it due to a higher risk of injury. For example, last month when Mexico and Costa Rica came to town for their international friendly, the Citrus Bowl had to lay grass over the artificial surface. This was also the case back in 2011 when Orlando City hosted Premier League club Newcastle United. Also, if Orlando is selected as a host city for Copa America Centenario next summer, grass will have to be installed because artificial turf is not permitted.

The new stadium is slated to be complete in 12-14 months.  The hope is that it will be open in time for the final few weeks of the 2016 season.  However I believe the club will hold off until March 2017 so the Lions can open the season in their new digs. For more information and to view the new renderings, follow the link below.

DOWNTOWN SOCCER STADIUM

Season tickets are now available to the public.  With the 14,000 cap met, and 2000 people on the waiting list, there are only about 2000 tickets left with the increased capacity. These will go fast so act now.

SEASON TICKETS 

Vamos Orlando!

 

 

Orlando Magic: Off Season News

Magic Sign Mario Hezonja

On July 10th, the team announced the signing of Mario Hezonja.  Per team policy, the specifics of the deal were not released. Hezonja was taken 5th overall by the Magic in the draft last month.  The 6′-8″ Hezonja, (Super Mario) has played the last two season in the Spanish ACB league with FC Barcelona. Last season he appeared in 31 games and averaged 4.7 points per game while averaging just under 15 minutes per game. A native Croatian, Super Mario is expected to represent his country this year in the European Championship.

Aaron Gordon Has Surgery

Last week Aaron Gordon had surgery to repair his fractured jaw.  The injury was sustained while he was wrestling around with his older brother Drew on a recent family visit. His return to basketball related activities will all depend on his rehabilitation from the surgery.  Gordon is the second youngest player in the NBA at 19, and he is looking to make a strong return in his sophomore campaign. After missing 31 games last year due to a broken bone in his foot, Gordon made the most of his off-season workouts this winter. Averaging just under 22 points per game in the Summer League earlier this month, it would seem Aaron Gordon has something to prove and we are ready to see it!

Magic In London

This season the Orlando Magic will travel to London to take on the Toronto Raptors at the O2 Arena. This regular season match up will be the first in Magic history in London.  The last time the Magic Men made the trip to London was for a couple of preseason games during the 1993 season. For season ticket holders, this game will count as a home game. A refund should be coming your way since there will only be 40 ticketed home games this season instead of the normal 41.  The match up is scheduled for January 14, 2016. More details will be available on the Orlando Magic website once the full schedule is released.

More to come… Stay tuned!

#OrlandoMagic #FCBarcelona #O2Arena #TorontoRaptors #NBA #London

 

 

Orlando City SC: Open Cup & A Little Pea

It’s the first of July and there is so much going on this month, that fans of the “Beautiful Game” are salivating with anticipation. With the U.S. Open Cup, the MLS season in full swing, and the summer transfer window opening soon, July is shaping up to be one fun ride!

U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals

Last night Orlando City faced off against fellow MLS side, Columbus Crew SC.  It was the third meeting between the two Eastern Conference foes this year, and it didn’t disappoint. After a marathon of a match last month in Charleston, the Lions would only need 90 minutes to send the Crew packing and out of the Open Cup. With goals from Kaka and Carlos Rivas in the first half, it was all the lads would need to secure the 2-0 victory, and their place in the next round of the U.S. Open Cup.  The U.S. Open Cup is the longest running domestic tournament in the United States.  The tournament is open to all eligible amateur and professional clubs, with the winner securing a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League later in the year. The Lions need just three more wins to bring home their first piece of silverware as an MLS club. But first the lads will need to get past the Chicago Fire on July 22, to keep the dream alive. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 pm and can be seen at any of the City Pub locations or via the U.S. Soccer channel on YouTube.

Chicharito Watch 2015

Will he or won’t he? That is the question that has fans are chomping at the bit for an answer.  After appearing for his country in front of a crowd of over 53,000, this past Saturday, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is a wanted man! For the past few months, fans have been teased with the idea that the Little Pea (Chicharito) would be coming to Major League Soccer at some point this season. The rumor mill has been churning extra hard this week with Chicharito to Orlando stories. From a local sports reporter that shall remain nameless (He doesn’t work for WESH or WFTV), to mlssoccer.com, everyone seems to think this is a real possibility. For my own selfish reasons, I hope they are right! Javier Hernandez is just the type of young, proven international talent that MLS needs to sign in order to help shake the “Retirement League” label it is often given by fans.  To be fair, the label kind of rings true if you consider the roster of international superstars the league has signed in the past. Sure there are plenty of young American players in MLS, but the ability to attract young international talent has always been a struggle for Major League Soccer.  Chicharito might just be the guy that helps change the perception of MLS around the world. It won’t happen overnight, but if he can come here and flourish, you never know who might come next.

Orlando City Heads West

As if celebrating our independence with BBQ and fireworks wasn’t enough, Orlando City will play a late match this 4th of July against Real Salt Lake (RSL). The match is scheduled to kick-off at 10 pm and will be carried on My 65 here in Orlando.  This match is important for a few reasons… First, it would be nice to extend our winning record against clubs from the Western Conference.  The Lions are 4-1-1 this season against out of conference opponents. Second, a win keeps us above the “red line” and in contention for one of the playoff spots in the east.  Finally, there has been a lot of talk from Real Salt Lake supporters that they are the “original” lions, not Orlando City. It’s been said that Orlando City is unoriginal and just copying RSL’s lion mascot, blah blah blah… To be honest I never knew their mascot was a lion. If you look at their uniform and their team crest, the only thing you will notice is a crown, which make sense because they are Real (Spanish for royal) Salt Lake.  I know it’s just banter, but to call us unoriginal is just silly.  If we really want to get down to it, RSL has been around since 2005, which makes them 10 years old this season.  The original Orlando Lions (The club Orlando City is named after) began play in 1985 and were active until 1996.  So, please forgive me if I don’t see your lions as the “original” RSL supporters, because well, you know our Lions have 25 years of soccer history behind them.

Tickets are still available for the next home match against FC Dallas on July 11th.  Kick-off scheduled for 7:30 pm at the Citrus Bowl.

Vamos Orlando!

Photo Credit: Ismael Shah

The Beautiful Game in the City Beautiful

It is a very busy week for the beautiful game in the City Beautiful. Beginning tonight and running through Saturday, there is plenty of soccer for everyone!

Orlando City vs Colorado Rapids

Tonight the Lions look to extend their unbeaten home streak to five against the Colorado Rapids. Colorado comes into the match with just 12 goals in 15 matches, just good enough for last place in the Western Conference. Orlando City hopes to capitalize on their recent success in front of the Citrus Bowl faithful again tonight. After a disappointing away loss to Montreal this past Saturday night, the Lions hope to right the ship and stay in the playoff hunt. Tickets are still available for this match and you can find them by clicking here: TICKETS

USA vs China in Women’s World Cup

This Friday the U.S. women take on China in their quarterfinal match-up. With some questionable play in this World Cup, the ladies have managed to take care of business on the pitch.  Scoring just four goals in the group stage, the United States defense has been the real hero of the tournament so far. With just one goal allowed in 4 matches, there is no question the U.S. defense, anchored by Hope Solo has dominated play thus far. With a win this Friday against China, The U.S. would secure a semi final match up against the winner of Germany v France. All City Pub locations will be airing the match this Friday beginning at 7:30 pm.  Find your location by clicking here: CITY PUBS

International Friendly: Mexico vs Costa Rica

In a clash of CONCACAF power houses, Mexico and Costa Rica look to put on a show this Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl. This will be Mexico’s first trip to Orlando since the City Beautiful hosted the 1994 World Cup. Mexico has already confirmed that international stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, and Guillermo Ochoa will be making the trip to Orlando. Chicharito has been linked to Orlando City in recent months as a possible signing when the transfer window opens up in July.  The 27-year-old is currently on loan to Real Madrid from Manchester United, however he would look snazzy in Orlando City purple! For more information and tickets to this match, please follow this link: Mexico vs Costa Rica 

Upcoming Matches

U.S Open Cup 5th Round – Orlando City SC vs Columbus Crew SC, June 30th @ 7:30 pm Citrus Bowl

Major League Soccer – Real Salt Lake vs Orlando City SC, July 4th @ 10:00 pm Rio Tinto Stadium

 

Orlando City SC Weekly

Fourteen games into the season and Orlando City SC is looking like the team we hoped they would.  After a rocky start, the Lions have managed to right the ship, collecting 8 points in their last 4 matches. The club is currently on a four match unbeaten streak. But even with the success as of late, there are still some folks that think it’s not enough. To those people I say, consider this… In the first ten matches of the season, the Lions managed to scrape together 9 points out of a possible 30.  When you look at what they have accomplished since their 4-0 thrashing of the LA Galaxy on May 17th, it’s easy to see the pieces are beginning to fall into place. I mean after all, we could be New York City FC cleaning the cellar in last place, but we’re not! #NotARivalry

With the recent return of Pedro Ribeiro and Lewis Neal, the club has added a bit more depth to the roster. While Ribeiro was out nursing a torn hamstring, Cyle Larin stepped in and gave Lion’s fans something to cheer about. The number one overall pick has five goals on the season, and is currently tied with last seasons Golden Boot winner, Bradley Wright-Phillips.  In the eyes of the Lion faithful, Larin does seem to be well on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.

Coming into Saturday’s match-up against the Chicago Fire, the Lions were sitting in 7th place in the east, one spot out of the playoff race. In what was billed as an important conference match up for both clubs, Orlando City came out sluggish.  The first half saw the good guys go down early with a beautifully placed goal by Chicago’s Kennedy Igboananike.  Chicago managed to score twice in the half, with one of those benefiting the Lions. Pressure from Pedro Ribeiro, forced Chicago’s Adailton to put the ball in the back of his own net to draw the Lions level at 1-1 going into the break.

In the second half however, we saw a much more aggressive attack from the City lads. Cyle Larin would come on to replace Ribeiro, and it wouldn’t be long before he made his presence felt.  Fighting through a couple of defenders, Larin would rip a shot from outside the box that you just had to see to believe! (Highlights can be found by clicking HERE.) Add another own goal by Adailton late in the match, and the Lions would pull out the 3-2 win. This was the clubs first ever win against an Eastern Conference opponent. The win also moved Orlando City up to the 4th place in the conference.  With matches coming up against two more Eastern Conference opponents (DC United & Montreal) the Lions are now hopefully hitting their stride. It’s not crunch time just yet, but if they want to stay in the playoff hunt, they cannot afford to keep giving up points against clubs in the east.

US Open Cup play is set to start next week, and Orlando City will log plenty of miles in a short amount of time. After the home match against DC United on June 14th, the Lions travel to Charleston to face the Battery in the 4th round of the US Open Cup on June 17th. However, there will be no rest for the weary! The lads will then head north of the border to face Montreal on June 20th. Three matches in six days will really test the depth of the bench for Adrian Heath and his club!

But first up is league leading DC United.  The match is scheduled for Sunday, June 14th, with kick off set for 7:00 pm. This will be the third and final meeting between the two clubs for the regular season.  The first two meetings both went the way of United.  A 0-1 heartbreaking defeat at home for the Lions in April and a 2-1 road defeat in May. Tickets are still available for this match-up, so be sure to follow the links below for more information.

If you are not able to make it to the match, City Pubs around town will be broadcasting the match complete with drink specials.  Check out the link below to find you nearest City Pub location.  The game will be carried nationally on Fox Sports 1.

Vamos Orlando!

Tickets

City Pubs

The Ruckus Cares

The Ruckus is an independent supporters group of Orlando City SC. If you have ever been to a match at the Citrus Bowl, you probably know them as the “crazies” in the south end of the stadium. But did you know The Ruckus is hard at work even on non-match days?

The Ruckus Cares is charitable organization within the main supporter group.  The goal of Ruckus Cares is to make Orlando a better place for everyone in the community.  For example, this past Sunday at the tailgate, The Ruckus collected donations for New Image Youth Center in Parramore. The mission of New Image Youth Center is to help inner city youth obtain a “New Image” through positive and motivating learning experiences. This is not the first time The Ruckus has collected donations at a tailgate for New Image Youth Center, and it won’t be the last! In fact, The Ruckus will be at Shine in downtown Orlando this Sunday (5/24/15) for the official Ruckus watch party collecting donations for New Image Youth Center.  The Center is in need of hot dogs, buns, juice packs, cases of water, and jeans. Cash donations of any amount are also welcome. Every little bit can help advance this amazing cause!

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PC: BB

This past Sunday, The Ruckus also began “The Ruckus Remembers” campaign.  The idea here is to raise awareness about the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the suicide rate among veterans returning from the battlefield.  Did you know that an average of 22 veterans take their lives due to the effects of PTSD everyday? To help raise awareness, The Ruckus created a t-shirt that will be sold for the rest of the season.  The shirts are $20 and are available on The Ruckus website or at any tailgate throughout the season. A $10 donation for every shirt sold will be made to support our troops! The proceeds will benefit Tally Hall’s charity Banded Brigade Outdoors and Dogs 4 Warriors. Because 22 is too many!

PC: Ben David

The Ruckus will also be hosting a “Raise Your Glass, Raise Awareness” event at Orlando Brewing this Memorial Day (5/25/15).  The event is set to kick off at 4 pm and will run until 9 pm.  A $5 donation to The Ruckus Remembers fundraiser will earn you $1 off all draft beers all night long! There will also be a 50/50 raffle drawing, so be sure to buy a ticket or three! All proceeds from the wristbands and 50/50 raffle will benefit Banded Brigade Outdoors and Dogs 4 Warriors.

Tally Hall PC: Ben David

For more information about The Ruckus Cares, or any of the charities mentioned above, please check out the links below.

The Ruckus Cares

New Image Youth Center

Banded Brigade Outdoors

Dogs 4 Warriors

#RuckusTilWeDie #RuckusRemembers #RuckusCares #VamosOrlando