Our City is a weekly column focused on my perspective on Orlando City as a supporter. I would love to incorporate your ideas and stories, if you have something to add or a story idea please connect by commenting here or on Twitter: @kevinmercer225
As Orlando City fans sit down to watch this year’s MLS Cup Final between LA Galaxy and New England Revolution, I am certain many of them will wistfully begin to wonder when the Lions will get their first shot at the trophy. If you are just getting to know our club, I can tell you one thing, we absolutely love trophies!
While we have a relatively short history, two things have become inherent in our culture. First, we have built a winning culture here in Orlando with two USL Championships and three regular season championships. The years we didn't win, we were right there at the end. Second, we love to surpise. Playing in the U.S. third division, we achieved our fair share of U.S. Open Cup shocks and international friendly upsets, we've never played to just make up the numbers and we've never taken the field without playing to win. The ownership and manager have made winning part of our DNA. Forgive us if we come into MLS with a little bit of a swagger.
Of course, there are 19 other teams and 19 other supporters groups that are ready to show us just how tough a league MLS is to win. Compared to the top-heavy European leagues, MLS is refreshingly competitive. Of the 18 now active teams in the league, 12 have made an appearance in the finals and nine have won the MLS Cup.
Only LA Galaxy and DC United have any claim to a dynasty, with four MLS Cup wins apiece. In contrast to many other sports in the U.S., small market teams like Salt Lake City and Kansas City have walked away with the Cup at times, while New York can only claim one runner-up position.
What does this all mean? You can look at it two ways: on the good side, everybody has a chance at being there in the end. On the rougher side of things; it is going to be very competitive.
Orlando’s quest for its first MLS Cup started long before an Adidas official MLS match ball has been kicked in anger. The ownership has never hesitated to invest in talent. Coach Adrian Heath has famously been able to bring out the best in his players. A passionate and vocal support base helps the cause as well. A close relationship with 2013 champions Sporting Kansas City, the addition of Brett Lashbrook to the front office, the development of a worldwide scouting network, and the consolidation of Central Florida’s youth soccer system all provide off-field intangibles. As a club embarking on its inaugural MLS season, Orlando City has rarely put a wrong foot forward in preparation.
Away days in Green Hell and the K.C. Cauldron can unravel the best-laid game plans. A Michael Bradley through-ball or a Chris Wondolowski 90th-minute strike can break thousands of Orlando hearts. An inaugural season will provide a succession of learning experiences and frustrations. But how many seasons until we see Orlando City hosting a cup final?
As the new kids, the Lions will have the challenge of an extremely competitive league and the burden of history working against them in their quest for a first MLS Cup.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Number of other teams in the league adjusted.