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Staff Roundtable Week 11: Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact



The Lions return to action Saturday night, looking to end our long national nightmare (also known as a 0-3-3 skid). All Orlando City has to do to break the streak is to beat the Montreal Impact, a team that has been at the top of the Eastern Conference standings pretty much since the start of the 2016 MLS season.

Taking their seat at the big, purple table this week are Gavin Ewbank, Luis Hernandez, and Lindsay Harrison. They’ll weigh in on Orlando City’s 3-2 loss at Sporting Kansas City, the upcoming home tilt against the Montreal Impact, and the Orlando Pride’s win Saturday ahead of this week’s match at Houston.

OK, let's start with the obvious. Those 34 shots Sporting Kansas City took sure seemed like a lot. Defending is a team effort. How did SKC get so many looks? Where should the fingers be pointing after that debacle on Sunday?

Gavin: I think it was just one of those games where you find a team in Sporting KC that was struggling to score goals lately, looking to get themselves on the board at home against a team like Orlando — that's struggled in the back this season, and was likely going to be playing on their back foot throughout the match. Which it looked like they were. When you look at the chart, most of their shots came within the 18-yard box, which shows a big defensive breakdown in the final third, and the blame can go to a handful of players there, especially the back line, which was already sitting back for the majority of the match.

Luis: I don’t think it’s fair to point out any one player in the match against Sporting. I just think it was a matter of heart. They wanted the three points more than Orlando did. Adrian Heath, who’s a very passionate leader, wasn’t on the sideline to motivate the side, and it became a perfect storm. For whatever reason, on that day against that team, Orlando City didn’t display the heart of a lion or spirit they did like against teams like Real Salt Lake or Portland.

Lindsay: SKC got so many looks because, for whatever reason, Orlando City this season has decided that they just want to let teams come at them and hope that they can soak up the pressure. Unfortunately, however, the dam eventually breaks and we are left looking at stat sheet where the only column where we won was in saves. This type of performance comes from the tactics set out by the coaching staff so I would certainly point fingers at the coaches, as this isn't one person playing badly, it's the whole team. The system, and set-up, is at the root of our current problems.

Orlando City has played on the road five times, with a 1-3-1 record and looked bad against teams that had been struggling, in New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City. Aside from the normalcy of the road being tougher, what are the Lions doing away from Orlando that is creating so many opportunities for their opponents?

Luis: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Orlando City plays to the level of its opponent. The Lions can get themselves worked up against Portland because they are the defending champs or against NYCFC as a natural rival, but I haven't seen the team display any killer instinct consistently. We haven't been able to step on the throat of a team when we score first. The players just relax too much afterwards instead of staying focused. They feed off the energy from the crowd at home; you can see more urgency then.

Lindsay: I don't think they are really doing anything different on the road than at home. The biggest difference is they don't have the crowd to act as the 12th man when away, but even when we are home we seem to be playing for the draw anyway. They are going away from home and starting with the mentality that if we get one point, we've got three since we are away from home. That is a toxic mentality, especially once they score. It's always an uphill battle to stop a home team from scoring once they are on the scoreboard, especially when you have already soaked up so much pressure.

Gavin: Like I said above, defense has already been a problem for the club all season, and the one main thing I've noticed in most of the road games this year is that they prefer to sit back and stay cautious rather than constantly try to push forward like we see them do at home. And when a team with problems in the back does that, you tend to see those flaws come to light far more often and that's what we saw happen in Kansas City, and even against the Red Bulls in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago.

Darwin Ceren and Brek Shea both left the match early with injuries and will be out against Montreal (and beyond). How would you address these absences in the lineup, if Shea can’t play?

Lindsay: The simplest solution if they are unavailable to play will be switch outs. Luckily, in the case of Darwin Ceren, we have a natural switch in Servando Carrasco to partner alongside the returning Cristian Higuita in the defensive midfield. If Shea is not able to go, then I expect a few changes might take place. We will either see a like-for-like trade with Luke Boden replacing him, or if Heath really wants to switch it up, as hinted at earlier this week, then Kevin Alston is also an option and may give him some of the pace that is typically associated with Shea’s game. In either case, the safest bet is to keep Antonio Nocerino on the bench and away from the ball entirely.

Gavin: We’ll probably see Carrasco play in Ceren’s place with Higuita back in the lineup. I’d like to see Adrian Heath revert back to his 4-2-3-1 this weekend with Nocerino on the bench — or if he has to, play him in the defensive midfield role with Higuita, because that would let him roam forward more while Higuita stays back like he normally does, especially because Carrasco tends to stay back, too — with the normal set of attackers in the front three. Carlos Rivas or Adrian Winter on the left wing would be a good balance to Luke Boden’s slower pace at left back.

Luis: I believe Brek Shea’s injury isn’t going to be significant, and I expect he’ll be able to play. I would look back to the match against the Chicago Fire, which Ceren missed due to red card suspension. According to, the Lions were in a 4-3-3 without Kaká. I’d have Winter in the starting XI and take out Nocerino. In the defensive midfield, use Higuita and Carrasco holding it down and have Kaká on the left side in front of Brek.

Since Didier Drogba’s arrival in Montreal, the Impact look like a completely different team. Part of the reason for that is the play of Ignacio Piatti, who is a league MVP candidate. How can the Lions stop him or slow him down on Saturday?

Gavin: It’s definitely going to be on Higuita and the two center backs to slow down Piatti in the midfield. If Tommy Redding starts, we saw him against New York City FC earlier this season completely shut down David Villa, and he’s been good at doing that to other key players in other games, too. Higuita has to do a good job of keeping Piatti in check, but without getting too physical to the point of an early card that could limit him for the rest of the game, like he does far too often.

Luis: Honestly, Piatti worries me. The Impact already demonstrated this season they can win without Drogba. We're going to need some strong midfield play to contain Piatti by limiting the number of shots he takes or force him to taking poor or harder shots. Hopefully, the Lions can limit the amount of space around him because he's a player who will make you pay for giving him room to work. The amount of fouls should be interesting with PRO assigning Mark Geiger for the match.

Lindsay: I think the only way that they will be able to stop Piatti is if they employ a similar approach to that of dealing with Diego Valeri. They need to pack the midfield and make sure that there are no lapses in defensive duties when he is on the ball. Piatti is a playmaker who can make a goal out of nothing, therefore we need to interrupt his stride and get in his face to help slow down a very potent Montreal engine room. However, Higuita will have to be careful with his challenges, especially after his recent red card, which will put him under extra scrutiny from the referee.

Finish this sentence: In order to get a win over Montreal, Orlando City must ______________? Also, what is your predicted final score and who are the goal scorers?

Luis: Dominate possession and finish in the final third. The three times Montreal has lost this season, the Impact have failed to score. Orlando City is due a clean sheet and I think they are going to be motivated to perform well. I'm going to say the Lions win 3-0, with goals from Larin, Molino, and Winter.

Lindsay: Change their game plan. Orlando has to do something other than soak up pressure. The Lions need to take it to Montreal in front of their home fans and need to play some winger/wide flank soccer to help avoid the strong midfield of Montreal. However, with that in mind, I am still predicting a 2-1 win to the Montreal Impact. They are the current league leaders and I just don't see Orlando being able to get back on track after such a bad performance last week.

Gavin: To beat Montreal, Orlando City has to score more goals than the other team, obviously. But seriously, Orlando has scored in every one of its games this season, but that doesn't mean they've been blowing teams out of the water, either — Portland being the exception, of course. We've addressed the back line issues, and against a team like Montreal the back will be key, and they're going to need to score to win. I'll say they do, winning 3-1.

Pride Time

The Pride were outplayed for much of Saturday's match against Western New York Flash but still managed to get the win. Why did Orlando have so much trouble at home against the Flash?

Lindsay: The Pride had trouble against the Flash because they seemed unable to get their midfield started. Kaylyn Kyle did not have the best game, looking lost and distracted at times, and Sam Witteman struggled to get away from her marker in the pack. That said, once they changed formations and moved some talent around, they were able to get the breakthrough they needed and it was nice to be able to steal some points at home, which has been sorely lacking on the men’s side.

Gavin: Well, it’s still early and the team is still trying to piece things together. I think one of the main problems was the lack of service to Alex Morgan in the first half, and even early in the second half. She was almost a non-factor for the first 65 minutes, and when she’s involved they are a much better team, obviously. The back line also needed to tighten up some more; they were a liability at times.

Luis: The strength of the Flash was in the midfield, which is an area the Pride have room for improvement. I wasn't surprised the Flash did so well until Tom Sermanni made his substitutions and changed the formation to a 3-5-2, and that made all the difference. The Pride needed the extra bodies in the midfield to muck it up and clog things up for the Flash. I think it's a mark of a good team to find a way to win even when they didn't play their best. The team just kept grinding away until opportunity presented itself for Edmonds to hit Morgan in stride.

Orlando is 0-2 on the road this season. Will the Pride grab their first points away from Orlando Friday night? What's the key to a Pride victory?

Gavin: It's going to be a tough one. The Pride beat the Dash already this season, so at least they have that going for them heading into the weekend. In their last road loss, the Pride didn't start Jasmyne Spencer, so don't do that. Spencer has been a lightning bolt on the field for this club and a spark in the lineup. She's given teams fits every time out and was a thorn in the side of the Dash the last time these two teams met, and she'll need to be again this time around.

Luis: Yes, I think the Pride can take its first road point against the Dash, but it won't be easy. Houston is one of the most offensive-minded teams in the league. They are going to shoot early and often. Rachel Daly has taken as many shots as Alex Morgan this season, and Andressa demonstrated what she could do when the Dash played in Orlando. The key to the Pride victory is going to rest on the back lines for both teams. Our defense needs to play solid and frustrate Houston while Orlando pressures the back four into turnovers and mistakes.

Lindsay: I think the Pride have a good chance of getting a point on the road, but probably will not pick up the win. The Houston Dash are still without FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd, but will be looking to rebound after losing to the undefeated Washington Spirit this past weekend, and so I expect it will be another tight game. If the Pride have any chance of bagging all three points, then we will need to reduce our defensive mishaps that are so prevalent in the partnership of Laura Alleway and Monica and they will need to use Lianne Sanderson effectively when she makes her appearance.

* * *

And thus concludes your roundtable discussion for Week 11 as Orlando City prepares for a date with the Montreal Impact and the Pride heads to Houston for a clash with the Dash.

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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