Orlando City came back from the dead to steal a point at Yankee Stadium in the final game before the Copa America break. Taking five of a possible nine points from three matches in nine days was a positive entering the break, especially considering a number of injuries, suspensions and even the captain leaving for Brazil duty. Again.
Meanwhile, the similarly shorthanded Pride suffered its worst loss since entering the NWSL, falling flat at FC Kansas City to the tune of a 2-0 loss. Orlando never seemed a threat against a team that had entered the match without a win and with only two goals to its credit all season. Woof.
Orlando City was largely outplayed on Sunday, which is not surprising given the circumstances (third game in nine days, on the road, missing several first-choice players, against a rested team that had been embarrassed the week before). Given that, are you satisfied with the single point? Why or why not?
Logan: With as many starters as we had out for one reason or another and being on the road in a difficult situation, it was a great comeback from a team that should have lost. The old adage for competing in soccer has always been win at home and draw on the road, and to that extent they were successful. Can't complain about the result from the team in those circumstances, they got the job done.
Wade: I'm satisfied with any result that brings points on the road, and given these circumstances, one point is a blessing. We were a David Villa slip away from being beaten — I'll take the point with a smile and a sigh of relief.
Scott: Heading into the weekend down five starters and playing on short rest, I'd have absolutely taken a point if you'd offered it before match time. When David Villa's chip gave NYC a 2-0 lead and then he went to the spot for a penalty kick later in the half, I couldn't help but think of last summer's five-goal outing for New York against Orlando in Yankee Stadium that featured a bevy of second-half goals. But the subsequent slip and miss gave the Lions new life, and along with a shot of adrenaline from Júlio Baptista off the bench, the Lions were able to steal another point. Playing on the road against a team that - despite coming off a 7-0 drubbing - is near the top of the East with so many unusual absences had me prepared for disappointment, so I couldn't help but feel pleased that the Lions salvaged the draw.
Cyle Larin failed to score in New York for the first time. He obviously had a couple of good opportunities, but how did New York City FC keep him from finding the net?
Wade: I don't know that they did anything markedly different to make a difference. Or maybe I'm just allergic to giving NYCFC praise. To me, the run had to end at some point. On a large enough sample size of data, the data will always regress towards the mean. As he played there more and more, there was no way he could keep up his rate of production. Like streaming hot streaks in fantasy baseball — eventually, every run has to end.
Scott: Could it have been some form of karmic retribution for the weirdo header Larin scored in his first game at Yankee Stadium this year? I suppose there's no way to know.
NYC has certainly seen its share of Larin goals on that tiny pitch, so holding him off the score sheet was certainly a priority. That being said, he still had a couple of chances that he could have put away, most notably the header off an Adrian Winter far-post cross early in the match that Josh Saunders made a big save on. His 60th-minute breakaway that was again stuffed by Saunders was another very good chance, and although he didn't find the net on this day, the fact that he got himself into those dangerous positions still shows his quality, not to mention his assist on the game-tying goal from Kevin Molino.
Add in the fact that he came to NYC having played 174 out of a possible 180 minutes in a two-game week and still went the distance on Sunday, and NYCFC was probably a bit fortunate that he didn't hurt them more than he did with the critical assist.
Logan: They had some great stops and last-ditch defending, coupled with denying him opportunities for most of the match. Limiting him to three shots total was key and any time a team can starve him for service, he'll struggle. Larin probably should have capitalized on the few chances he did have, but clutch stops by Saunders and the NYC defenders kept him out of the box score. Larin may never be the type of forward to carry the ball forward, but until he is he will be heavily reliant on his teammates to have any impact.
Obviously we've seen plenty of Servando Carrasco but this was our first look at Harrison Heath in 2016. What is your assessment of the defensive midfield in the absence of both Cristian Higuita and Darwin Ceren?
Scott: Yankee Stadium is certainly a strange place to make your MLS (season) debut, but I thought Heath showed fairly well in the tight confines of that pitch while going against the likes of David Villa, Mix Diskerud, and company. It wasn't an all-world showing from the 20-year-old, but that is to be expected in a (season) debut, and especially one alongside a fellow midfielder who finds himself behind the two first-choice DMs in Higuita and Cerén. His 69% passing rate wasn't great, but that small pitch (again) has something to do with that number, and he lent a hand in breaking up play with two tackles and a pair of blocked shots. All things considered, it was a good day for Heath to get some experience under his belt and help fortify depth for the future while Orlando managed to snatch a point. Everyone's got to start somewhere.
Logan: Heath had a decent season debut. His passing percentage hovered around 70% and he did an admirable job on the defensive end. His yellow was for a professional foul, which is a lot more than I can say for Carrasco's. He's not a terrible option off the bench if we're going to consistently have one or both of Higuita/Cerén unavailable. Both Carrasco and Heath are solid passers but neither are defensive stalwarts like Higuita, which is something that would be nice to see in the second-choice pairing, but Higuita seems to be the only destroyer on the roster. The really interesting thing is that Heath has now pushed Antonio Nocerino to fifth choice and it will be interesting to see if the Italian sees the field again anytime soon.
Wade: Yikes. I mean, neither played particularly bad, and I've written before of my appreciation of Carrasco's ability to accurately send the forwards deep, letting them use their speed to get behind the defense. As for Lil H, he always seems to do better than I expect. Whether I set the bar too low for him is subjective but one thing that isn't — Orlando City needs Higuita and Ceren there in the long run.
What do the Lions need to work on over the Copa America break in order to start turning all these draws into wins?
Logan: Turnovers. Sloppy play in midfield has left the defense in precarious situations, often with the fullbacks nowhere near a position to defend and the defensive midfield chasing the opposition. The defensive line needs fixing too. Too many goals have been conceded because a defender was caught napping, but stopping the cheap giveaways is a quicker and simpler method to limit the defensive bleeding and provide a more consistent attack.
Wade: The defense has to be better. Joe Bendik has been outrageous, but he isn't 24 feet wide and eight feet tall — he can't block everything. Positioning along the back line, stepping up on attackers, these are the things the Lions need to improve from within.
Scott: The good thing is that many of these draws would have been losses a year ago. The obvious downside, however, is that City could have taken a full three points from several of its draws and those points left on the table can come back to haunt you later in the year. While perhaps obvious, consistency would go a long way toward curing the team's ills. The Lions have been most consistent this season in stoppage time, where they've netted five (!) goals. Not leaving their urgency for so late in matches would be nice, as would clamping down when holding onto a late-game lead, as we saw them cough up against Philadelphia last week.
With three months of the season down, what moves, if any, should the club make in the summer transfer window?
Wade: Defense. Center back would be nice. I love most of what I've seen from David Mateos this year, but I'm still not sold on Seb Hines and I think Tommy Redding needs more seasoning before being truly ready to be an every game player.
Scott: Orlando's improved depth has shone over the course of its three-games-in-nine-days stretch, which was good to see. It seems like another central defender could be on the way, so is there any way to reverse the Antonio Nocerino move in the summer window? That allocation money, not to mention his salary, could be put to more effective use, to say the least.
Logan: They need a defender. Dionatan Teixeira may be that answer, but he's a relative unknown. The Lions need a physical stopper who can break up attacks. The forward and midfield areas seem filled out, and with roster spots and cap space so tight they can really only afford to bring in one player, especially if he takes up an international spot. It's got to be the right guy.
This is where Wade tapped out, having not watched their match. SMH. #FireWade
We got our first look at the Pride without several key starters over the weekend, and the result wasn't pretty. Yet there were portions of the first half that were very positive. How did FC Kansas City get (and stay) on the front foot against Orlando?
Scott: The Pride's failure to capitalize on their strong start to the game was what left the door open for Kansas City, and Yael Averbuch's deflected free kick was a bit of luck that helped them close the door on Orlando and assert control on the match once that solid start faded for the Pride. The lack of firepower up front without Alex Morgan ultimately limited the danger Orlando could generate in attack, and Kansas City took advantage, to their credit.
Logan: Goals change games. It's a cliche, but after Averbuch's free kick deflected in the Pride seemed deflated. FCKC had only scored two goals all season before the match and the Pride made their offense look dangerous in the second half. Maybe all Orlando teams are going to be slump-busters this season. Pair that with a limited Pride attack and Orlando never really looked like getting back in it.
With Alex Morgan, Kristen Edmonds, Laura Alleway, and Ashlyn Harris all out, who was missed most and which player was missed least?
Logan: Morgan might have been the most missed, even if she hasn't had the greatest impact so far this season. The Pride needed someone to finish the decent chances they had in the first half and to provide any sort of threat in the second. Harris might have saved Erika Tymrak's curling shot, but I doubt even she gets to the deflection off Sanderson. Alleway was probably the least missed, Pressley has been a pretty good replacement in the last couple of matches.
Scott: As mentioned above, the Pride weren't able to turn possession into truly threatening chances, which leads me to believe Morgan was missed the most. Even when she's not scoring, she commands extra attention from defenses, and given the fact that Aubrey Bledsoe wasn't at fault for either FCKC goal, Ashlyn Harris wasn't missed quite as much on this day.
* * *
And thus concludes your roundtable discussion for this week as Orlando City and the Pride are off this week for the international window. OCB hosts Louisville City on Sunday and of course we've got Copa America Centenario to watch.
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).
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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