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Staff Roundtable Week 3: Orlando City at New York City FC



It’s Week 3 and with that comes Orlando City’s first road trip of the season. The Lions travel to the Big Apple to take on the soccer Yankees Manchester City B New York City FC on Friday night for Viernes de Futbol. Orlando City hasn’t done well on baseball fields over the last year, losing at NYCFC, Louisville City, and Jacksonville. But on the bright side, Cyle Larin has a hat trick in both trips to New York in the last year.

At any rate, it's time to unleash our Week 3 roundtable conversation on you. This week, we've got Wade Williams, Brent Petkus, and Daniel McGann seated at the big purple table. Let's get their takes on what's been going on with Orlando City and the game ahead against New York City.

The club is still tinkering with how best to manage without Kaká in 2016. What can the team do better (or at least differently) in the attack to generate more quality chances on goal without the captain?

Wade: It appears to me that the biggest issue in the final third is chemistry. Kaká is the master gear in this system — all other gears move when he moves — so when he is removed, gears stall, pistons misfire, and we wind up with over 20 crosses in a match, or nobody on the end of Kevin Molino’s one-touch passes around and in the box. Familiarity will breed success, the group is too talented to be this incompetent for long.

Brent: I think Orlando City is doing its best currently to manage without the captain. I feel the attack is lacking in the final third. We have talked at length about Kevin Molino and how he is destined for a breakout year. The problem is we haven’t seen the goal scorer Kevin Molino from the USL days. I really am looking to see Molino shoot in more situations. Rafael Ramos has to be more consistent in the attack. His crosses have been all over the pitch.

Daniel: The issue right now is turning the majority of possession that Orlando has been seen over the past two games into more chances. The team seems to be hesitant in the final third, outside of Cyle Larin, to let shots fly. This was especially seen in the Chicago match, where Orlando went up by a man for the majority of the match, held almost 65% of the possession, and still failed to pull three points at home. If Orlando is going to succeed this year the Lions will need to turn the possession and accurate passing strengths that the club saw in 2015 and at the start of this season into more goal scoring opportunities.

Antonio Nocerino finally made his debut for City on Friday. While anyone who expected him to waltz right in and dominate probably got a rude awakening, he did show glimpses of being a skilled possession player. How much longer do you expect it to take the Italian to fully make an impact on the field?

Daniel: Unfortunately, Nocerino may need a bit more time to find form in MLS than what he may be expecting. He stated that he would need approximately two weeks to be fit for Orlando. The reason being is that MLS is a totally different monster than most leagues in the world, especially Serie A, where travel demands can really take a toll, while pitch conditions, (*cough* NYCFC) can also cause issues for incoming players. Given those issues in MLS, the quality that Nocerino displayed even if in minor spurts looked to be on a different level than most within MLS and, with a return of Kaká, those two could form a dangerous and exciting combination.

Wade: It is hard to answer this question with no definitive timetable for Kaká's return. I would expect it to take a couple matches with his old buddy to be fully comfortable, but we were treated to some flashes of his skill and creativity in his debut. Should be a very fun player moving forward.

Brent: No matter how great a player is it will always take a few matches to get accustomed to the style of the league. MLS is no exception. Nocerino will come into form sometime in mid-April. The big question about Nocerino is how he will play alongside Kaká. For many parts of Friday's match, his play reminded me of Kaká's. He was doing well possessing the ball and making dangerous passes in the midfield to spring Molino, Winter, Larin and Ramos. I think he is a utility guy that can be used in the defensive midfield position and out wide.

Adrian Winter was probably the best player on the pitch after his introduction against Real Salt Lake and again in the first half against Chicago. Is the Swiss midfielder a 45- to 60-minute guy? Is there anything he can do to save some energy for the final 30 minutes?

Brent: Winter will be the first sub onto the field once Carlos Rivas returns back from injury. Winter’s role is to provide a spark and he did that in the first match. During the first half of the second he was easily Orlando City’s best player. The problem occurred in the second half when he disappeared. I don’t think he should be saving any of his energy. I believe he was the fittest player in camp during the beep test. I would rather see him off the bench.

Wade: I think he’s a spark, a part time player, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Across all sports, players like this have made incredible impacts for their teams. Boston Celtic great Kevin McHale was a two-time Sixth Man of the Year. John Havlicek invented the role. Desmond Howard won a Super Bowl MVP as a specialist. Mariano Rivera is one of the most revered pitchers in the history of baseball. Having a small role is fine when you maximize it, and Winter has been maximizing his time on the pitch in impressive fashion.

Daniel: The way Winter plays is really built around hustle. To ask a player to dial it down when he succeeds in that role could be challenging not only for the player but also for the coach. In a perfect world, Winter should be able to stay his same 45-60 minute energetic self while the team has the depth to either use him off the bench or sub him out early, but we all know from last year depth in MLS can fade very quickly and Winter may need to show the ability to evolve into the role needed by Heath and crew if that happens again this year. I believe he can.

Orlando City has lost in its last three road matches on baseball fields (at Yankee Stadium last year and friendlies at Louisville City and Jacksonville). Is there something about the club's tactics or shape causing this or is it simply a case of the home team knowing its field better and taking advantage?

Brent: The tactics of Orlando City make it difficult to attack on a smaller field, as Orlando likes to use the width of their outside backs to create space between the center backs. A smaller field makes the space smaller and forces you to play more direct. Most of the goals from last year's game were from long balls played to players with speed. Speed will kill on the small field and if Rivas is healthy he will greatly help the Orlando City cause. I would think you will see a similar lineup from Orlando City with Cyle Larin up top and Molino and Winter on the outside.

Daniel: Orlando is a team that likes to overlap from the back and find open space on the wings. Unfortunately, when you're playing on a barely legal pitch because of "size" issues, that can be very difficult. The tighter confines in Yankee Stadium may not actually play well to any soccer style but it can definitely hinder teams who like to play the ball wide like Orlando. Here is to hoping that MLS stops allowing games on junior pitches sometime soon. It only hurts the game.

Wade: I try not to look too much into friendlies, but this is a trend that can't be ignored. It reminds me of stories from those classic Celtic teams that would purposely run their trap defense to lead the ball handler into "dead spots" on the wooden floor. One team is familiar with those dead spots, and one team isn't. Well, when we head to the Big Apple to play the Soccer Yankees, one team will be familiar with the (laughably) odd size and dead sod on the pitch, and one team won't be. However small an advantage it may be, it is still an advantage.

We've got one last chance to grab a win in the month of March. Do the Lions get it done on the puny and ludicrous Yankee Stadium pitch? Why or why not and how does it unfold? Of course Inchy’s boys get it done. I’m specifically looking for Kevin Molino to break out. In two games he’s managed an assist, two shots on goal and roughly one million key passes. Those close-but-not-quite plays will soon be additions to his earth-shattering highlight reel, with some sweet additions coming at the expense of the NYCFC back line this weekend.

Daniel: I joined a podcast for Blue City Radio and was asked this same question — maybe not in the same context — and I will reiterate that playing in a hostile environment without Kaká and the team still seemingly having some out-of-form moments, I still believe Orlando can come away with a point. So, my expectation for this match is a 2-2 draw, with Orlando coming home to really put it to Portland. Either way, this team will need a win soon or the Lions could find themselves looking up at most of the teams in the Eastern Conference standings.

Brent: I think they do. The streak has to stop somewhere. The only thing that has me concerned is how the center backs of Tommy Redding and Seb Hines are going to deal with David Villa. This will be the test for me on whether or not this back line can survive this year. Villa will get his opportunities and he is good for a goal. If Redding and Hines can keep him off the score sheet we will be celebrating a win. If we can’t keep Villa from scoring multiple goals, look for Aurelien Collin to make his return to the lineup. For Orlando City, I think you are going to see the skill of Nocerino shine in the midfield. He is going to have lots of opportunities to beat the midfield of New York City FC. Larin will get another goal and I see Nocerino getting one as well. Prediction: Orlando City 2 NYCFC 1.

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That's your roundtable discussion for Week 3. Feel free to add your answers to these questions or explain why our staff is right/wrong in their predictions or analysis in the comments section below.


Reflecting on Eight Years with The Mane Land

A look back over my time with The Mane Land (so far).



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

As of last week, I have been a contributor at The Mane Land for eight years. That’s longer than I’ve ever been at any of my actual jobs in my life. There are literally only a couple of people who have been with the site longer, but I’m still amazed at how long it’s been. This is not to say I’m going anywhere, but rather I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at the past eight years, and look ahead to the future.

Unlike some, I didn’t come to be a supporter of Orlando City until it was announced that the club was joining MLS. At the time, I was contemplating picking a club to follow in MLS, but being in Tallahassee, there were no nearby options at that time. I considered FC Dallas and D.C. United, given the two were geographically closer in proximity to me than any others. Fortunately, it was literally while I was considering my options that the announcement was made regarding Orlando City’s jump to MLS. It was an easy decision.

As I do in many aspects of my life, I immediately started researching my new club, which led me to the content being produced by The Mane Land. There was also an article on the site titled “Join The Mane Land Staff.” I had often over the years internally bemoaned that I rarely used my Bachelor’s degree in English, and the desire to write welled up in me so much that I emailed the staff. 

In response, one of our former editors, Andrew Marcinko, contacted me and said “I think your voice would be a great fit on TML.” He asked me to submit a Fan Post (those went away with our presence on SBN), and then another piece for review. Following that, our founder and managing editor, Michael Citro, emailed me to welcome me to the staff. I had no idea at the time how big a part of my life this blog would become.

I started out writing Monday’s Lions Links — often one of the more difficult days to write — and a feature piece. It’s been many years gone by now, but there was a time when the feature piece was “Pride Pub,” an ongoing series that paired craft beer and good food based on Orlando City’s opponent. I can tell you that the research for that was very enjoyable, and I still use some of the recipes I found to this day.

Eventually, I started contributing more match coverage and analytical pieces. Staff came and went, but I never thought to leave since I was enjoying myself. Sometime after that, I was promoted to senior columnist, for which I’m grateful. I can without reservation say that I’m a better writer thanks to my time with the site, and from working with such excellent staff.

In November of 2016, Michael asked if I wanted to give co-hosting The Mane Land PawedCast a try. My first recording was for Episode 71. We just recorded Episode 354, and with the exception of maybe two or three episodes, I have been on every single one of 283 episodes over the last six plus years. Michael and I have spent a lot of time talking on and off the podcast over the years, and I’m proud of what we have produced and to call him my friend.

We recently added an Orlando Pride-specific podcast called Skopurp: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. For years we wanted to give the Pride the time and attention the club deserves. Now, it is a reality, but one that I ask you to listen to and share. I’ll even put out that although Michael and I are the current hosts, we merely consider ourselves stewards and are hoping to get others to come onboard and eventually take it to the next level.

When I started with The Mane Land, the site had just made the move from a free WordPress site to the SBNation network. It was a big deal, and for many years it was a good partnership. Of course that all came to an end not too long ago, and our blog went the independent route thanks to the incredibly generous support of our readers and listeners. In fact, if you want to be one of those supporting our efforts, please go to our Buy Me A Coffee site to become a member. The move has allowed a flexibility we didn’t have before, but I really want others to have the same sense of joy and accomplishment that I have as a member of our staff. 

At one point we had nearly twice the staff that we do now, and as you know, many hands make light work. The opposite of that is also true. I genuinely believe that there must be others out there with the same passion for Orlando City as I have — with the same desire to have their voice heard, whether through the written word or on a podcast. I promise you there is an opportunity to contribute here with us. Our internal discussions are informative, engaging, and often funny. Please consider joining us, as I did eight years ago. I haven’t regretted it and I know you won’t either.

I want to thank all of those who contributed to The Mane Land over the years. There are many that I am still in touch with, though they are no longer a part of the staff. Of course, the current staff are a pleasure to work with, and I appreciate their dedication to what we are trying to do.

Finally, I want to thank the readers and listeners over the years. From those who regularly comment on our articles, to those that I’ve personally met at matches or even randomly on the street, you are a big reason that we do all of this. You are a big reason why I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. it is always a genuine pleasure hearing your thoughts or simply sharing a moment of joy together — U.S. Open Cup final, anyone?

So, thank you. I look forward to many more years of this journey together.

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The Mane Land Announces Membership Program

Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.



Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.

You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.

The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.

The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)

Supporting TML helps build a better TML for you to enjoy, so you’re really subscribing to your own Orlando soccer fandom.

Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)

We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).

For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.

Current Benefits

The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.

Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.

TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.

Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.

The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.

Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration

While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.

We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.

Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.

The Most Important Part of This Post

Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.

The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.

No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.

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Welcome Home!



Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.

I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.

Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.

Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.

We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)

I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.

Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.

Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.

We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.

Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.

For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.


Michael Citro
Managing Editor

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