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Staff Roundtable: Orlando City hires Jason Kreis, Prepares for Columbus Crew SC; Pride Set to Face Seattle Reign



The Bobby Murphy era is winding to a close as Orlando City SC prepares to take on Columbus Crew SC Saturday night. The Lions managed to score two in a draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC — the first goals under the interim coach’s watch — but will they convert that momentum into three points? Jason Kreis has been named the new head coach for the club, and this roster may see the 4-4-2 diamond formation sooner rather than later. Are these Lions prepared to fill it out?

Kaitlyn Savage has been in great form for the Pride recently, and looks to protect the net well enough for the Pride to get three points over the Seattle Reign.

Logan Oliver, Scott Crumbly and yours truly discuss all this and more in this week's edition of The Mane Land roundtable.

Orlando City found the back of the net for the first time in three games last weekend, scoring twice to draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The defense seemed to really collapse around Kevin Molino early, giving Júlio Baptista and Cyle Larin space to work with near the top of the box. Molino’s field vision has been knocked before — he’s been seen with his head down taking an extra touch throughout his MLS career — but has shown stellar improvement. Do you feel he’s turned a significant corner in this respect? Should we expect more assists from The Original moving forward?

Scott: Molino has taken a step forward this season following his injury-shortened 2015, and it's a shame to think where he could've been with a full season under his belt from last year. But it seems Molino has grown into his role with Orlando City in '16 and we're seeing a natural progression, including improved vision as he gets used to being a focal point for opposition defenses while playing without Kaká on the pitch for much of this year. This season hasn't panned out quite as Lions fans would've hoped to this point, but six assists to go with six goals from Molino has been a bright spot so far. With 1.5 key passes per game coming from No. 18, I think we'll see him continue to provide service for his teammates moving forward.

Wade: The Original has gotten better and better as the season has progressed. He started slowly, but found his form after the captain displayed his confidence in Molino in demanding he take — and make — a penalty kick. He's grown stronger and more decisive on the ball, believing that he not only can play in this league, but thrive in it. Expect #Molinomania to run as wild as ever as 2016 wears on.

Logan: Molino's play this season has given legitimacy to all of the speculation about whether or not he could be an impact player in MLS. The good news is that the goal-scoring part of his game seems to be back, and he was always more of a set-up man before he added the goals to his game. I believe he'll get back to that sooner rather than later.

Had Baptista scored his penalty kick, the Lions could very well be looking at three points instead of one. If Captain Kaká isn't on the pitch, who is your choice to take the PKs and why?

Wade: Depending on who is, you could go several different ways. The Original is always a good choice, and has the official endorsement of the captain. I feel Carlos Rivas could benefit from easy chances at net to get his confidence up, especially if he is to be given more opportunities in an attacking role.

Logan: Carlos Rivas is the only other guy on the roster who has proven he can score pens reliably, but really no one else has been given the opportunity. Larin would be my first choice, just because he can put the power and pace on the ball to beat the keeper.

Scott: Without Ricky on the field, I think Molino should be the fill-in for spot-kick duty. We saw him step up and confidently convert a penalty in the win over Portland back in April, and he's the offensive spark the team looks to when the captain isn't playing, so it seems like a natural role for him to embrace. While strikers like Baptista and Cyle Larin are options, we've never seen Larin take an MLS penalty and Júlio didn't do himself any favors in his audition in Vancouver.

Jason Kreis has been announced as Orlando City’s new head coach just days before Saturday’s match with Columbus Crew SC. Do you expect to see his trademark 4-4-2 formation immediately? What XI do you expect to see fill it out?

Scott: Kreis made it a point to say that he prefers to let his personnel dictate the formation rather than to force a formation onto a team, but I do think we can expect to see the 4-4-2 diamond even if it isn’t an immediate switch. Kaká slots in as the midfield creator at the top of the diamond, while Cristian Higuita provides the ball-winning and breakup ability to sweep and provide an anchor at the back. For the two shuttlers, a player like Darwin Cerén has the motor to cover the necessary ground to fan wide and also provide cover for his fullback defensively, while Molino can also create width and take advantage of the passing opportunities created by the four-man midfield.

The fullbacks like Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos/Kevin Alston are accustomed to providing width going forward, which they’d continue to do without two true wing players in the diamond. The tricky part of the 4-4-2 would be who to partner up top with Larin, who we’ve only seen in a center forward role in his season and a half in MLS. Baptista isn’t really a natural partner up top as both are bigger, more physical hold-up players. Carlos Rivas could potentially provide a quicker complement to play off Larin in a pairing, or the club could bring in reinforcement.

Logan: I don't think we have the depth at forward to run two strikers consistently. We have options, whether it's Rivas, Barry, or Baptista who lines up next to Larin, but there's not a lot of quality after Cyle and Júlio. I think Kreis sticks to five in the midfield and tries to implement his pass-and-move philosophy with what we have. I wouldn't be surprised if we target a striker this window.

Wade: I could see Kreis establishing this formation early, though I think variations are to be expected as personnel inevitably turns over. Along the back, I think our best options are Boden and Ramos on the flanks, given their health. Not encouraging, but both players have played well in stretches. I personally prefer the center back pairing of David Mateos and Tommy Redding, though you could beat them in the air without leaving your office chair. I believe Darwin Cerén would be the man on the bottom of the diamond, as Cristian Higuita is likely to draw more interest on the market when one of the two becomes expendable. Brek Shea seems more effective further up the formation, and he opposite Molino while Kaká works on top of the diamond appears to form a really potent midfield supporting Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas up top.

Seriously — I would love to see Mateos cleaning up possessions and launching balls deep to Cyle and Carlos. That sounds like a lot of fun to watch.

The Crew were always an intense meeting for last season's Orlando City team. With some of the old players and City's former head coach gone, do you think that animosity will carry over to the pitch this weekend?

Wade: Truthfully, I think this "rivalry" has lost a fair amount of steam. The fun was in the volume last year, and there never seemed to be another good reason a club from Ohio would be considered a rival for Orlando. Look for the clubs to play their games with little out of the ordinary of note. Also, Cristian Higuita losing his temper and getting a yellow is not out of the ordinary. Could be playing Columbus, could be playing your daughter's team from the YMCA — dude's got a 50/50 shot at a yellow card.

Logan: Without Kei Kamara and Rafa Ramos, it’s bound to be a toned-down atmosphere compared to some of the other matches. But Columbus is frustrated with how their season has gone so far and we still have Higuita and Cerén, so I would count on some fireworks.

Scott: There are certainly some differences between this year and last, with both teams sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table at eighth and ninth place, respectively. Gone is the 22-goal production of Kei Kamara for Columbus, and gone are the managerial services of Adrian Heath for OCSC. We'll see how things play out on Saturday night, but from an outside perspective it seems like tensions would not be quite as high this weekend given how long it's been since the two teams faced off. Some of the chippiness we saw last year seemed to be a result of three matches between the two sides crammed into the middle of the schedule, while both were in better position than they are currently.


Kaitlyn Savage was in strong form in the 0-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Red Stars, making key saves when needed and only missing on what was a near impossible goal. How do you feel about her performances so far?

Scott: Anytime you lose a keeper the quality of Ashlyn Harris, the pressure heaped on the backup is immense. Savage's performance against Chicago was the type that Tom Sermanni loves to see, and as long as Savage can avoid being the goat in Harris' stead, she's really doing all that can be asked of her. More of the same please.

Wade: I love watching a good product on the pitch, and you get there with savvy moves from the front office. This was a savvy, championship move. Top teams find quality contributors in odd places, and Kaitlyn fits the bill easily.

Logan: Savage has been an admirable replacement for Harris and the Pride staff seem to have hit a home run with this signing. The competition when Harris returns from the Olympics will be fierce. It's great to know that the Pride have two class ‘keepers on the books.

Seattle Reign lead the NWSL in draws, while the Pride are the only team in the league that have yet to have one. Do you anticipate a definitive result, or will Orlando's drawless streak come to an end?

Logan: They have to get one eventually, right? Orlando had a great victory last time around and this depleted roster still has a lot of fight in it. The offense has been lackluster unless Kristen Edmonds is scoring golazos and Kaitlyn Savage has been great, so I would expect a 0-0 draw.

Wade: I think a draw is possible, but considering there's three outcomes and that's only one of the possible ones, the betting man in me wants to say we'll see a definitive result. The Pride have alternated wins and losses for over a month — I wouldn't be surprised to see the pattern continue.


And this edition of the roundtable is adjourned. Let your opinions be heard below, and make sure you find a spot in front of the TV for the games this weekend.


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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