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Staff Roundtable: Orlando City vs. NYRB and Vancouver; Pride Face Chicago Red Stars



Orlando City fell 2-0 to New York Red Bulls Wednesday night, leaving the Lions still in search of their first win (and goal) of the Bobby Murphy era. Will they be able to slow down the Vancouver Whitecaps midfield enough to earn it this weekend?

The Pride did what needed to be done to secure three points against the Boston Breakers. Can they find back-to-back wins against Chicago?

Michael Citro, Austin David, and Brad Newton discuss all this and more in this week's edition of The Mane Land Roundtable.

Brek Shea has found himself in the captain’s armband in both games under Bobby Murphy. Do you see him as a reputable leader for this club?

Michael: I don't know, honestly. I'm not down in the trenches with him. He's very quiet and soft spoken in interviews but on the field he doesn't seem that way. I don't know if he's a cerebral enough player to wear the armband. Look at Wednesday night. He was sitting on four yellow cards and needed two more games without a booking to have one rescinded, and he takes a silly card for dissent. If Rivas truly has visa issues and can't go to Canada, that move leaves the club without a left wing. That doesn't scream "captain material" to me, but ultimately the players and coach have to make that decision.

Austin: In terms of being a prototypical "captain," Brek Shea is not that. He can be a fairly quiet and reserved guy both on and off the field and has a tendency to get a bit hot headed in moments of the game, making silly mistakes. He's also more of a "lead by example" kind of captain, rather than a vocal leader. At the same time, he has been a professional player for a longer time than most others on the pitch and the players seem to respect him, so I can understand why both Murphy and Heath chose him as a captain at different times during the year.

Brad: Putting it nicely, no. Shea hasn’t really had the same pull with this team that someone with the tenure that Kevin Molino has (who, despite his performance on Wednesday, I believe should have been wearing the armband). The rumors of Shea being on the bubble and in potential trade talk haven’t really produced anything, but more than him being a leader, I would expect him to be a piece that brings in some fresh legs as a new era begins in Orlando.

With no goals scored in the last three games, how can Murphy get these Lions scoring again?

Austin: I think the team’s confidence is shot right now. After that 4-0 drubbing they took at the hands of FC Dallas, they haven’t been the same team on the pitch. Obviously that loss was paired with their coach being fired, which probably doesn’t help things. Plus, the players are hearing all kinds of criticism from fans and media alike, which just adds on to the frustration. Somehow, Murphy needs to get inside the players’ heads and boost their confidence. Convince them that they are good players, convince them to stop being so hesitant in front of goal, convince them that, as a unit, they can beat any team. They’ve proven that they can score with the roster that they have, so they just need to prove it again. That could be the biggest thing to help with this scoring drought.

Brad: Aside from finding a Lazarus Pit to lower the team into so they're magically healed and find their old form again, I'm not sure. Hopefully, the squad's captain comes back healthy and in form and the dynamic duo of Kaká and Larin finds a way to salvage a season that isn't entirely out of grasp yet.

Michael: I applaud Murphy for trying something unconventional. It didn't work, but at least he tried something. I felt like the last time the Lions went to Red Bull Arena under Heath they forgot why they scored five goals there last year — Rivas to Larin. New York had no answer for the Brek/Rivas combo down the left and the Colombian's crosses to Kid Fantastic were spot on that night. Murphy could have gone back to that for Wednesday's game but chose instead to stick Rivas up top. He's just not good in an isolated striker role, which we've seen in the past. Maybe he tears it up in training in that role, but in games he just doesn't get much done.

I would like to see Murphy try Baptista at CAM, keeping Molino out wide to the right. Trust The Beast to give you a solid 65-70 minutes and take advantage of his size and strength underneath Larin. Aside from that, there is nothing of quality coming in from the flanks. The service of the fullbacks must be better.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC are next on the docket, and have proven to be an explosive MLS offense with the second-highest total goals scored thus far. With Orlando City’s back line struggles, will they be able to do anything to slow down the likes of Kekuta Manneh, Christian Bolanos, and Pedro Morales, or will they be forced to try outgunning the Whitecaps?

Michael: The Lions have been better defensively of late, but when you can’t score and basically can’t even get forward, you’re stuck defending all game long, like we saw against Houston and New York. Murphy seems to be placing more emphasis on not conceding but this team has been a mess offensively since the departure of Adrian Winter with Kaká sidelined. Teams are able to collapse on Molino and render him ineffective since no one else seems capable of taking on and beating defenders 1-v-1. I expect we’ll see a similar game to Wednesday…defend, defend, defend and hope to get one on the counter. I don’t expect a better result based on what we’ve seen, especially with Shea suspended and now Harrison Heath injured.

Brad: I do think things get worse before they get better for Orlando. Their next four matches are at Vancouver, at Columbus, Revs at home, and Sounders at home. This match against Vancouver is another in the second miserable summer at Camping World Stadium and aside from seeing a back line that has played together more than 90 minutes, I really don't know what's going to help Orlando's chances before fall.

Austin: You will most likely see a more defensive lineup from the Lions come Saturday. It's an away game, against speedy forwards and talented midfielders and half your roster is basically hurt. It doesn't mix well for the Lions to do anything else but defend and counter for 90 minutes. Pulling out a draw will most likely be the team's goal at this point, with everything else considered.

Kendall Waston and Tim Parker dominate the air for Vancouver, combining for almost five aerials won per game. Is there anything the Lions can do to nullify this strength of Vancouver’s, as it is an obvious weakness for this club?

Brad: Set pieces are a glaring weakness for Orlando City and aside from the obvious in limiting free kicks the Whitecaps get in Orlando's area, I'd try to keep Vancouver honest with their possession and not let them get balls up and challenge them.

Austin: With set pieces being such a glaring problem with the current Orlando City defense, the best thing Orlando can do is simply not give up any opportunities for set pieces. Limiting those chances will hopefully nullify Waston and Parker's effectiveness

Michael: The Lions really struggled to win aerial balls against New York on set pieces. Seb Hines seems the only defender capable of winning balls in the air and Larin can help when he’s in the game. The team must find help in the transfer window because it’s a weakness of the current roster. On the offensive end, if Larin can’t win battles in the air against the center backs, the Lions will need to move the ball quickly and decisively on the ground.


Kristen Edmonds was fantastic against Boston, scoring both goals late to steal three points for the Pride. How did they find themselves in a position to need two goals as the game wound down against a club that had scored just three times coming into the match?

Michael: There are a couple reasons the Pride fell behind. The first is that Kaitlyn Savage had a poor touch on her first attempt on a very slick and wet Camping World Stadium surface. That gave Boston a gimme, which is shockingly in the running for NWSL Goal of the Week. The second is that the team moved the ball too slowly in the attacking third and was not aggressive enough in making runs and playing balls behind the back line early for Jamia Fields and Jasmyne Spencer to run onto. The Breakers weren't much of a threat most of the game, it was just a matter of the Pride being too deliberate, which Tom Sermanni touched on after the match and is something I'm sure they worked on this week. At least I hope they did, because the Red Stars are much better than the Breakers and this is potentially a battle that could decide the fourth playoff spot.

Brad: Like the other Pro club in Orlando, the Pride found themselves playing with a makeshift formation. Although, this was because key players were called up for international duty and the team hasn't had quite had the same amount of time getting to mesh as other teams have in this aspect. I'm willing to give them a lot more leeway, especially considering they got three points from the match, that always helps.

Austin: Much like the men's team, the Pride were forced to use a pieced together formation, due to the international call-ups that will be affecting this team for the next month or so. The main reason the club didn't look cohesive for most of the match was because the team was trying to find a rhythm, since most of the players hadn't played with each other as starters. All things considered, the ladies did an excellent job maintaining composure and continuing to force the ball towards goal, eventually getting those two stoppage time goals.

The Chicago Red Stars come to the Campground next in a battle of two mid-table teams. Tom Sermanni's squad hasn't won back to back games since early May — is this the time to repeat the feat?

Brad: Considering the Red Stars played a really close game when the club was at full strength that Chicago ultimately won 1-0, it'll be interesting to see how this one plays out. One thing to consider is that were it not for Red Stars keeper Alyssa Naeher, it could have been a pretty well convincing win for the Pride.

Michael: Now is the time to play Chicago. For all the pieces Orlando is missing, the Red Stars are also affected by international call-ups. Their top goalkeeper, striker and defender are all USWNT players in Alyssa Naeher, Christen Press, and Julie Johnston, respectively. With the two teams knotted on 18 points in a fourth-place tie, a Pride win would nullify the Red Stars' current head-to-head tiebreaker and push Orlando ahead on points, with the wins and goal differential tiebreakers in hand – with seven matches left in the season. It's a huge game and Orlando has the talent to win it, but the back line must hold together again and the Pride need to get some offense from the front line of Fields-Hagen-Spencer.

Austin: The Pride have a good chance of pulling out two wins in a row. The Red Stars have also had their fair share of international call-ups and one of the big reasons that Chicago only won 1-0 the last time the two teams played was goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who has been called up for U.S. Women's National Team duty for the Olympics. If Edmonds and Spencer can continue their fine run of form, I don't see why Orlando doesn't pull this one out.


And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and don’t be afraid to put down Pokemon Go and pick up a book or a magazine or quite literally anything else.


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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