Our City is a column dedicated to the culture around Orlando City, Major League Soccer, and the United States.
So, I have to be honest, I’m writing this column the morning of Orlando City’s match-up with the Columbus Crew. That’s how deadlines work, since I’ll be at the game tonight, I have to file this one beforehand. I’m writing this with a bit of faith that Orlando pull out a win tonight and stay in the playoff race.
That’s how it has gone for the Orlando City faithful these first few years in Major League Soccer, that as the summer comes towards an end, as the days become shorter, kids start back to school, and the temperature in Florida doesn’t actually cool down for fall…so too we hold our finger in the ever-closing door of the MLS postseason, hoping against hope we can find a way into the party.
In Orlando City’s inaugural 2015 season, the club finished in a heartbreaking — but respectable for a first-year MLS team — seventh place, five points behind Toronto FC. One year, and a mid-season coaching change later, the club finished eighth, but only one point behind the Philadelphia Union.
Each season, hope for a chance at the playoffs was extinguished in the final games of the season. Orlando City fans were able to devote the early fall to equal parts mathematician and superstitious miracle seekers as we watched the table closely looking for our chance to claw into the playoffs.
The playoffs are important beyond the trophy at the end of it. Postseason play is lucrative with new games to sell out and commemorative merchandise to sell. In a soccer-centric city like Orlando, who isn’t going to want to be in the stands for our first playoff run and leave with an Orlando City MLS playoffs scarf to add to the collection, right? The playoffs also provide intangibles to our front office and our supporters. When selling the club to that potent new attacking midfielder we will need to recruit to fill the Kaká-sized hole coming soon to our midfield, selling a role on a successful club is always a plus. For our supporters, keeping the stands full season after season requires a level of success. The die-hard might always come to games, but their friends and co-workers might tag along to see a team they associate with success.
So here we are again, our fingers prying harder than ever to keep that postseason door open for a little while longer. A talented team is struggling to find the form that opened the new Orlando City Stadium. The season itself, has been, if I’m being totally honest, disappointing. We lost to Miami FC in the U.S. Open Cup, we didn’t beat Atlanta, and we’ve become the highlight of every struggling club’s schedule as they turn their seasons around. Our boys in purple can erase the old hurts and new disappointments with a string of miracles and a bit of luck in this final stretch.
The crazy thing is, we’ve got the talent to do it. We all know that. We believe in this team, even if we don’t always believe they are going to make the playoffs. By the time you read this Sunday afternoon, Orlando City will have either fended off fate for another week and kept postseason hopes alive, or will all but have sealed their doom and left us waiting for it all to come together next season. I’m hoping for the latter, but as usual we’ll need a bit of luck.
How good was it? How bad was it? Do you think we still have a chance or is it back to the drawing board for a third straight season for Orlando?