2 Days to Orlando City! (Updated after the game)

Soccer's starting

Why do I jump for joy now?  Because of two things.  First, I’m on my way to Florida to catch a spring training game for my Detroit Tigers next week.  That will be a good thing, even though I have to go to the Phillies’ stadium in Clearwater to see the game, instead of Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.  C’est la guerre….  The second takes precedence this year, though, and is why I’m in my soccer kit instead of my Tigers jacket.  I’m also on my way to Orlando, where I lived for 14 years, to catch the first game for Orlando City SC in Major League Soccer, against fellow expansion team New York City FC, on Sunday.

That was the more tightrope thing, for several reasons.  First, the difficulty in getting a single-day ticket — tickets were shooting out of the computer when I logged in on the first day of availability, and I nearly had to settle for a seat in the nosebleed zone.  (As it is, I lucked out and got a seat not over far away from the terraces with the supporters’ club, The Ruckus.  (Sorry, my RL legs don’t have it in ’em to stand on terraces for 105 minutes like that.)  Now if they — and the Iron Lion Firm — only decide to hold back on the smoke bomb tifo….)  Second, there was every chance of a strike by the players over free-agency disputes with the management, something that’s been threatening to topple the opening of the season.  That would have been disastrous for MLS in general, but especially for a brand-new franchise which hadn’t had a chance to get its sea legs under it yet.  With that problem solved, for the nonce at least, we can get down to the serious work of cleaning house on NYCFC.

And in front of a sold-out house, too — the Lions’ management plied their team so well to the people of the City Beautiful that they sold 60,000 tickets in the Citrus Bowl for this inaugural game.  How many will show up is anyone’s guess, but it should still be a rockin’ house, even with only half that.  It looks like Orlando City is well on its way to seize the palm of Soccer Team of the South, far before Atlanta comes on line in 2017.  Also, with a preseason that saw only one loss, against a veteran Houston Dynamo, the Lions show great promise.  Beginning in 2010 with a team in the USL (the third level of the American soccer pyramid), OCSL took 3 cup victories and two regular-season wins, repaying the faith and support Orlandoans have given the Lions over those years.  There’s lots of promise for this team in MSL.  Let’s see now how we’ll do in the big time!

There may be some reblogs coming from Orlando while I’m out of town; watch these pages.  (And can I hire someone to do a proper set of purple home kit for Orlando City?  I’d like to have that as well as St. Pauli!  Contact me with rates, and I’ll send you the place to find the graphics.)  In the meantime, “Aux armes!  Forza Orlando City!!”


UPDATE:  Orlando, March 9 —

The day after the game is here, and I’ve had a chance to rest up.  But the enthusiasm hasn’t died yet, even after long waits for trains to the parking slot on the other side of town.

The game itself was a draw at 1-1.  BUT WHAT A DRAW!  Both teams do have a ways to go, to be truthful, but the 60,000 people in the stands didn’t care.  It was a sea of purple and gold, with one little drop of sky blue in the southeast corner for a few NYCFC fans, and we were all hyped just to have this day here.  Much transfer of wealth into the hands of the concession vendors and hucksters (I bought three scarves myself, including a commemorative one), much enjoyment at the tailgates in the south parking lots, and moments in the game that both elated and wrung us dry.  There were lots of shouts that the referee was blind at times, which I’d tend to agree with.  (I didn’t join in the vocal cursing, though, such as “Bull****!”  That’s not only unsportsmanlike, but not the kind of thing that helps us keep television contracts, which are vital to MLS’ survival.  Moan in private afterward, people.)  One fantastic moment early in the first half got yanked away from us when the goalkeeper was fouled just before Orlando tapped in the first point, and so the goal was disallowed, but the first half was all Orlando City, even without a score.  NYCFC woke up in the second, and scored late on.  Then, literally in the 90th minute, our Brazilian import Kaká (hey, I can’t help his nickname) bounced a free kick off an NYC player into the net to tie the game — and the Citrus Bowl went insane.  We couldn’t pull off a miracle second goal in the four minutes of stoppage time, but I doubt anybody’s ever been happier with a draw than Orlando City’s supporters were.  Add on that it was the first game in MLS for the team, and that made it even more fantastic.

Okay, I promise, no more talk about soccer in the blog.  (You can see me go on about in on Facebook [grin].)

Photographed in Paisley Park region.

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