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Staff Roundtable Week 8: Orlando City at New England Revolution



Orlando City completes its two-game road swing on Saturday at New England, with a clash with the Revolution at Gillette Stadium. I’m not even going to say anything bad about MLS referees this week. I’m simply going to assume that we finally get through a match without any real controversy.

The match at New York was disappointing in almost every facet, from finding out Saturday the Lions would be without Kaká to the seemingly nonstop waves of Red Bull attacks that started just seconds after Cyle Larin made it 1-0 for the good guys. Herein, we’ll wrap up that match and look ahead to the Revs. Joining us at the big, purple, round table this week are Daniel McGann, Brent Petkus, and Jeff Milby. Let’s get right to it.

On Sunday, Orlando City once again scored an early goal and then proceeded to spend much of the rest of the game on the back foot. Why can't this team seem to build on early game success?

Daniel: Well, our passing percentage is 77.3% for 2016 and was 81.7% for 2015. So, we are connecting passes at a lower clip, leading to more giveaways and less possession. This becomes exacerbated throughout the match, especially when we score early and the other team begins to pressure. We have not dealt with that type of high pressure from other teams this year, and it has caused issues and teams will continue to exploit Orlando in that fashion.

Brent: This team is still very young and is not used to having an early lead. Last year, this team was having difficulties finding results early in the season. Now they are finding themselves in the lead early in matches and they are playing more defensively. They are sitting back and absorbing pressure, which was successful against NYCFC. They need to be more like the team that played the Portland Timbers than the NYCFC game.

Jeff: This is the proverbial million dollar question for Orlando this season. For me, it comes down to midfield play. In order to compete in the possession game, your midfield must be able to take control. Kaká has been injured, and without him there has been next to no consistency from the middle third. Antonio Nocerino has been a no-show since donning purple and Kevin Molino has been up and down. Of course injuries have played a big role, but there has been little lineup consistency so far from Adrian Heath in this department. Granted, on the whole this is still a young team, and closing out a game positively and professionally can be difficult to learn. Perhaps these sorts of performances will be lessons for the future.

Was the good start to the season a mirage? Are we seeing an average team get exposed the last few games? If not, what's going on?

Brent: The start of the season is not a mirage, it’s a good representation of what this team is. They are able to get points in games that they weren’t going to last year. The one worry I have about this team is the play of the center backs. Tommy Redding has done a great job adjusting to the starting role. Seb Hines had a great preseason but his positioning has been shaky. This team will need to absorb pressure and so far Joe Bendik has done that. The center backs’ play will tell where this team will go.

Jeff: Maybe, but who knows? This answer may sound like a copout, but MLS teams have bad runs all the time. Last year, the New York Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield but also had a run of five games without a win from May to June that included four losses in a row. Portland won the MLS Cup, but also had three different four-game runs without a win. Every team has a poor run at some point throughout the season. The good news for Orlando is that it is located on the East Coast, which gives the Lions the benefit of being in the weak Eastern Conference.

Daniel: We are seeing a team that has not defined their type of soccer yet. Last year we were the possession-oriented team. This year, we are not, which is seen by our 48% possession and low passing accuracy. The team needs to identify what type of football they want to play to move forward and start commanding the pitch.

Has the organization built a roster that is too reliant on a healthy Kaká, and, unlike last season, can this team get a win in New England without its captain this time around?

Jeff: Being reliant on a star is a pretty common way to build a team. No team in the league this side of Los Angeles has the kind of depth to overcome the loss of its best player (though the case could be made for Kansas City, which played better without Benny Feilhaber so far this year). Kaká missing games this year has been a major headline for Orlando City, but you can’t really blame the organization for it. Injuries come with age, but blaming management for relying on an aging star is like blaming Orlando City for playing in MLS — it’s just how things are done in this league. The team can get a win without him in New England this week, but it’ll need better play from Kaká’s supporting cast in the midfield to do it.

Daniel: I actually believe the team is built to survive without Kaká. Unfortunately, the players who were brought in to help in those roles — Nocerino and Baptista — have not been effective so far and continue to be inconsistent.

Brent: This team does not have a central midfielder who can keep possession. If they do not have this piece in the lineup their play becomes direct and more reliant on set pieces. This team is at its best when Kaká is on the field. The Antonio Nocerino transfer was to hopefully fill that role, but unfortunately his play has been mediocre at best. I think this team has a small chance if Kevin Molino or Darwin Ceren can fill Kaká’ s role as a possession-based midfielder.

The Lions travel to New England this weekend for a rematch with the Revolution, a team they thought they had beaten in the 92nd minute just a week and a half ago. What did they learn that they can use against the Revs Saturday?

Daniel: Keep possession and do not take your foot off of the gas pedal. After the first goal, Orlando seemed to play into a defensive shell at times and had a hard time gaining possession, stringing passes together, and going on the attack. Orlando is best when working together small passes, making other teams chase, and then making that dangerous run. But, so far this season, they have not dealt with high pressure well and until that is solved then we will continue to see lackluster performances.

Brent: Orlando City learned that Chris Tierney can be one of the most dangerous outside backs. The good news is he picked a hamstring strain against D.C. United and is questionable. They did fairly well keeping Lee Ngyuen away from goal. They need to not turn the ball over in the defensive third. This causes the defensive shape to be unprepared for the counter attack. The last thing they learned is the refereeing will be bad and they need to continue to play. The referee is something they can’t control and they need to finish the opportunities they get and take the referee out of the match.

Jeff: Don't give up late goals. As our Brad Newton mentioned this week, Orlando City has lost more points in stoppage time than it has won, and that was certainly true against New England. This team needs to be clinical in closing games out, and hasn't been so far. It is fair to say that Orlando has gotten hosed by the refs (including the late penalty last time around against the Revs), but the team can't blame referees if it hopes to improve.

What decides the game on Saturday and who comes out on top? How does it all play out?

Brent: I don't see this team going on the road and winning without Kaká. Lee Ngyuen will control the midfield in Kaká's absence. New England will find the back of the net twice. Orlando will push in the second half, trying to find a goal and I think they might get one at the end. Final Score: New England 2 Orlando City 1.

Jeff: I say it'll be a 1-1 draw. New England has a knack for draws (six so far, which is most in the league) and Orlando will be happy to take a point on the road before returning home for a rematch with the Red Bulls. Orlando takes the lead in the first half, only to see New England tie things up around the hour mark.

Daniel: Possession and passing. Maybe that is too obvious, but Orlando needs to maintain possession and stop giving away the ball on simple passes in the midfield. We can all talk to specific match-ups, but Orlando has been playing well 1-v-1, but it has been the team that has been a bit out of sync. This Saturday I would love to say that OCSC will come away with points but the story so far is not pointing in that direction. Orlando loses 2-1 and continues to look for a spark.

Pride Time

The home opener was a success in all facets for the Orlando Pride. Despite a 3-1 win, there were plenty of nervy moments while the Dash attacked the net. It’s easy to overlook the early exit of Houston’s Carli Lloyd and just focus on the result, but now that we’ve had a couple of games (10% of their inaugural NWSL season) to see them in action, what should our realistic expectations be for the Pride this year?

Jeff: Based on the first two games, it's fair to say that Pride fans can expect this team to play entertaining games. Orlando is tied for first in the NWSL in goals scored (4), but is also tied for second in the league in goals conceded (3). In terms of results, realistically, contention for a playoff spot can be expected. Houston and Portland were the first two teams that missed the postseason last year, so playing competitively with those teams should be a harbinger for a positive first campaign.

Daniel: Fighting for the playoffs. This team is either as talented as or more talented than every team in NWSL. They have international talent in every third of the field and look dangerous. They may need some time to gel on the field and that will be an ongoing issue but there is no reason that this team cannot fight for and make the NWSL playoffs.

Brent: The realistic expectation for this team is mid-table. This team is not ready for the playoffs yet. Ashlyn Harris let this team off the hook with her excellent goalkeeping. The back line is not experienced enough to be in a top four playoff spot. This team is about growing and preparing for next year. Alex Morgan will bring excitement to the Camping World Stadium but it won’t be enough to make the playoffs.

* * *

And thus concludes your roundtable discussion for Week 8 as Orlando City prepares for a date with the Revs and the Pride head to Chicago to face Christen Press and the Red Stars.

Feel free to add your answers to the questions above 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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Orlando City

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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