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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. Our site is 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” the team can’t take any more injuries, the have been working non stop with cases coming from them. 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: Match Day Experience

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!

A photo posted by Top5 (@CentralFLTop5) on

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.

Orlando City SunRail

Photo Credit: Max Levine

  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!

Orlando City Supporters

Photo Credit: Max Levine

  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!

  A photo posted by Top5 (@CentralFLTop5) on

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!

 Next up…

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

¡Vamos Orlando!

On The Road with Orlando City Soccer: Carolina Challenge Cup

There was an electricity in the air when we arrived at The Plaza Live in Orlando’s Milk District. When Matt and I pulled up at 7:30 am there was already a party in the parking lot. The flags were waving high, the drums were lined up on the pavement, and adult beverages were already being consumed. It was a beautiful purple clad army ready to hit the road in support of our club.

Univision Orlando showed up to interview us and shoot some video before we rolled out at 8:30. The chants and drums filled the air. It was a little taste of what was to come at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston. You just knew this was going to be an unbelievable day.

OCSC Carolina Challenge dudes

Me, Matt Armijo, Pablo Sierra & Kevin Gurnett getting ready to Ruckus!

 

The ride was… well let’s just say it was a blast! It would be hard for me to paint a picture because so much happened on the six-hour trip. It is one of those, “you had to be there” deals. What I can tell you is we used this dress rehearsal to perfect our new chants and formulate our plan of attack for our opening match.  Trust me when I tell you, the Ruckus will be brought on March 8th!

Once we got to Blackbaud, I could see the different supporter groups had sections of the parking lot set up for their tailgate. It was hard not to notice that our reserved area was 3 times larger than any of the others, later I would find out why.

OCSC Carolina Challenge field

Photo credit: David Blair

Right before the first match between Charleston and Houston kicked off at 5 pm, the ratio of Orlando City Supporters to all other supporter groups combined (Atlanta, NYC, Charleston, and American Outlaws) was at least 5:1. Needless to say we traveled very well. In total there were two 60 passenger buses between the Ruckus and ILF (Iron Lion Firm). Plus there were an additional 50-60 supporters who drove up for the weekend. All in all it was an awesome turnout from both groups.

At around 7 pm we marched into the stadium, Charleston wasn’t ready for this. Once the drums started up and our voices filled the crisp evening air, phones came out of pockets. People took pictures and videos of us from any where they could. They were on top of the stands, hanging off the rails, and walking along side us. We were center stage, and Charleston was not disappointed. We even closed the show with some pyro for good measure.

Photo Credit: Orlando City SC

Photo Credit: Orlando City SC

When Kaka scored in the 31st minute, we went bananas! It was a nice little sequence between him and Kevin Molino that created the opportunity to bury it in the back of the net. I feel like these two are going to give everyone a lot to feel good about this season. In the end we drew 1-1 with NYCFC. There are still some kinks to work out but I am confident Inchy will have the boys ready to dominate on March 8th. (You can watch the whole match on Charleston’s YouTube Channel!)

If you still do not have tickets for the home opener, please visit http://orlandocitysc.com/FillTheBowl!

The club will be hosting a number of events the week leading up to opening match. Many of these events include a ticket voucher for the match on March 8th.

For more details, visit http://www.orlandocitysc.com/ockickoff or follow them on social media via FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Forever Our City!