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Staff Roundtable: Orlando City Prepares to Visit Chicago Fire Following Seattle Defeat



What kept Cyle Larin out of the net against the Seattle Sounders? Did Matías Pérez García impress in his debut? Should we expect to win on the road against the Chicago Fire, and what can Jason Kreis do to make it happen?

This week we have Michael Citro, David Rohe, Austin Siegel, and yours truly to discuss all this and more in this week’s edition of The Mane Land Roundtable. Yes, it’s the ultra-rare, four-person roundtable!

Cyle Larin had scored in three straight games before being held off the sheet against Seattle. Did you think he had more to give, or was the Sounders defense just too strong for Kid Fantastic?

Michael: I think the Sounders squeezed Larin between Brad Evans and Chad Marshall and choked off his service. The pathways between Kaká and the Canadian international were closed. Still, Larin can’t be contained in the air if the service is good and there were a couple of chances for him to get onto crosses that didn’t quite come off, as they were both just a few inches too high. If they were a bit lower we might be talking about his brace this week. As far as whether he had more to give, I thought he looked a bit tired and sluggish at times, which Jason Kreis talked about after the match, as he’s been working his players hard the last two weeks to try to install his principles and systems.

Wade: It can be hard not to expect goals every night out from Cyle given his propensity for doing so, but there’s bound to be games where he comes up empty-handed. I was surprised he didn’t convert any headers, but he was marked well throughout the match. Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to the other team.

Dave: I think it's a bit of everything. I'm certain that Cyle would say he could have done more. Professional athletes often feel they could have done more or made more of their chances. Additionally, more chances might have resulted in another goal for Larin, but after the first goal, it didn't feel like those chances were coming. Much of that could be attributed to the soundness of the Sounders defense, but players of Larin's ability are supposed to be able to overcome such circumstances. As I say, I think it wasn't so much one or the other, but a combination of many factors. Hopefully, he'll get back on the sheet against Chicago.

Austin: Cyle Larin is an aerial threat and one of the best in MLS at getting on the end of crosses, so shutting him down requires a defense that's capable of preventing quality service into the box. Did Seattle do that? Well, Kaká's 70th-minute cross nearly brought the Lions back into the game, but Júlio Baptista and Seb Hines couldn't slot it home. Orlando City did a decent job creating scoring opportunities for Larin, but the Sounders limited the young Canadian to just one touch. Counting on that kind of defensive prowess from the last-place Chicago Fire seems like a risky bet. I think we'll see a bounce-back performance from Larin in Chicago.

Matías Pérez García made his debut, subbing on for Hadji Barry in the 55th minute. Did his performance inspire confidence, or concern?

Wade: Confidence, no doubt. Dude had 48 hours to assimilate with the coalition, and managed to be threatening, creative, and savvy — you don’t draw four fouls by accident.

His experience could prove to be a crucial piece to Kreis’ playoff puzzle down the stretch, should his outing be a sign of things to come.

Michael: Considering he probably hadn’t yet learned all of his teammates’ names, I’d call MPG’s debut with Orlando City a success. He immediately made the offense look more dynamic, slipping into pockets of space where he and Kaká could play off each other and drawing fouls to set up free kicks in dangerous areas. I think he’s the kind of player who can work well within Kreis’ system, and while I am not sure about his long-term viability in Orlando, he should provide some decent coverage in the attacking midfield during his stay with the Lions.

Austin: Matías Pérez García gives Orlando City the midfield depth they've been looking for ever since Adrian Winter left the club and he played like it on Saturday. With an 87.75% pass completion rate and several quality chances, it was a successful (but limited) debut for the first acquisition of the Jason Kreis era. The question now is what his role will be going forward and whether the former San Jose man will threaten the starting XI.

Dave: I don't think there's any concern with García coming in for Barry. Kreis has already made it known that he isn't afraid to play anyone, and that he's basing that on performance both during practice and in games. I suspect he felt that there needed to be a change in the attacking half of the field since Orlando was down 3-1 at that point. If your team is down two goals and the offense isn't clicking, why not give the new guy some playing time? It allows a coach to see how that player will do in an actual game.

Up next are the Chicago Fire, who sit bottom of the table and are coming into their third game in nine days. Is it unfair to expect three points on the road?

Dave: I don't think it's ever unfair to expect a win. Though the chances of a win as a percentage will certainly fluctuate depending on things such as days of rest and home/away. I imagine it was quite a week of work for the team following the 3-1 loss, and that our new skipper was all about not letting that happen two weeks in a row. I think we'll see a better performance against a team that shouldn't be as tough as our previous opponent, especially as the players adjust to their new coach and his scheme.

Austin: Probably not, because I don't think Orlando City is foolish enough to overlook Chicago. Coming just a few weeks after their head coach was fired and a key player sent packing (not to mention Sunday's disappointing loss to Seattle), I can't see the Lions walking into Toyota Park like they own the place. On paper, Orlando City is a better team than the Fire, especially with Chicago drained from a U.S. Open Cup run. I do worry that if the Lions come out overly aggressive, they could be exposed by Chicago on the counter attack.

Michael: Orlando City has had no trouble getting results in Chicago in MLS play, with two wins in the Windy City last year. With the Fire struggling all season and coming off a demoralizing U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss at New England in the midweek, this is definitely the Lions’ best opportunity to come away with three points on the road for the first time since March. That said, I have always thought the Kreis era might start with a bang and then get worse before it gets better and we may have seen the start of that last weekend against Seattle. I’d like to think Orlando can at least fashion a draw and the Lions are certainly capable of winning, but show me a second road victory this year before expecting me to predict one. That said, if not this weekend, when?

Wade: As a fan, I expect three points every time the club takes the pitch. When you factor in circumstance, this could prove to be a big three points on our way up the table.

Chicago — while potentially dangerous — is the only team in the league averaging less than one goal per game. Despite the problems along the back line, I think Orlando City should win this one.

What can Jason Kreis learn by watching the 1-1 draw at home early in the season to put the club in the best position to get the win?

Austin: David Accam's goal against Orlando City back in March sticks in the memory, because he basically caught Seb Hines from behind on a dead sprint, won possession, and beat Joe Bendik one-on-one. Even though it came against the good guys, that goal was pretty cool. Committing a few defenders to mark Accam probably isn't a bad idea this weekend, and with the Lions looking for all three points, I expect Chicago to concede the possession battle early and look to hit Orlando on the counter attack. Midfield composure is going to be crucial, and since Kaká was unavailable the last time these teams faced off, his impact could interesting to watch. 

Michael: He can hopefully devise a way for his back line not to get beaten over the top on long balls. None of Orlando’s defenders can win any kind of race with David Accam, even with a head start, and therefore the team should not play as high a line at Chicago as it did against Seattle last weekend, where it looked at times as if the Lions were playing an offside trap. Players will have to be cognizant of where Accam is at all times and the attacking midfield and Larin up top have to be conservative in their approach to avoid turnovers. Kreis said he wants to concentrate on fixing the defense, which is smart. Let’s hope the lads learned something from that Seattle game.

Dave: That first draw against Chicago was a frustrating one, given the amount of chances Orlando City had to win it. That being said, this match will come down to how good or bad the defense plays. Orlando City typically scores goals, and Joe Bendik makes a bunch of saves. The question then becomes did we score enough goals, or make enough saves to overcome the play of the back line? Kreis will obviously be able to go back and watch how the players matched up against Chicago, but he won't necessarily be using the same players or having them in the same positions. Additionally, his game plan will be different from Adrian Heath's, and so there is only so much he can use in that regard. I still think that Kreis is in an ongoing evaluation and implementation mode. The players are learning the new scheme, and Kreis is still learning about his players. I'm not saying that the opponent, nor how Orlando played that opponent before doesn't matter, just that it’s only one piece of a much bigger puzzle for Kreis.

Wade: David Accam has to be contained. Given what we’ve seen from this back line, that’s a horrifying thought, but it is the truth. Having him shadowed might be what it takes — and if it is, then so be it. He’s the one weapon to fear on this team.


And that will do it for this week’s discussion as Orlando City prepares for its trip to Bridgeview. Sound off below with your answers.


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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