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TML Staff Roundtable: 2022 Orlando City Preseason Thoughts



As we head into the 2022 MLS season this weekend, it’s time to once again get a feel for the hopes and expectations for the campaign that awaits. Orlando City is a strange hybrid team entering the season, because Oscar Pareja’s squad has a solid returning defensive nucleus, but a completely retooled attack.

I reached out to The Mane Land staff to find out what everyone is thinking ahead of the Lions’ eighth season in Major League Soccer.

1. What would you say is Orlando City’s biggest strength entering the 2022 MLS season?

David Rohe: The strength of the club lies with the defense. The core is back with Robin Jansson, Antônio Carlos, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan, João Moutinho, and Kyle Smith all in front of Pedro Gallese. Add in Sebas Méndez in the defensive midfield and you have a recipe for continued success.

Adrian Barragan: Orlando City’s biggest strength entering this season is leadership. Head coach Oscar Pareja has shown to be the right man for the club as he has led the Lions to the playoffs the past two seasons. Being able to re-sign Mauricio Pereyra, who has donned the captain’s armband for the club, will be an integral part of assimilating fellow Uruguayan newcomers Facundo Torres and César Araújo to the team. Robin Jansson has stepped up to become the commander in the center of the defensive line as well as Pedro Gallese bringing his starting international experience to the club.

Ben Miller: The experience and continuity in the back line and defensive midfield. Orlando returns every single first-choice starter, and even though things got a bit leaky at the back at times during the back half of the season, being able to bring all those guys back is undoubtedly a good thing. 

Sean Rollins: I think the biggest strength is in the back. The starting back four and Pedro Gallese are all back this year. Rodrigo Schlegel and Kyle Smith provide some depth as well. I think there are fewer questions in the back than up front.

Mike Kennedy: The Lions’ defense leaked too many goals for my liking in 2021, but it still led the team to the playoffs, and I think it will improve. Pedro Gallese is a top tier shot stopper. Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos reliably snuff out a lot of danger in the middle of the back four. Sebas Mendez leads a strong defensive midfield rotation, and he disrupts plenty of threats as the No. 6. This defensive spine will lead the Lions back to a third straight playoff appearance.

Joshua Taylor: I would lean towards the midfield being the biggest strength for Orlando City SC. The Lions have a good group of veterans, such as Sebas Mendez, Mauricio Pereyra, and Joey DeZart to add some versatility and depth in the midfield. Hopefully, Pereyra can continue his stellar form like last season as he was the top assist leader for the club, and I would expect Andrés Perea to improve this year.

Marcus Mitchell: I believe Orlando will be excellent at set pieces this upcoming season and will catch a few defenses off guard. Mauricio Pereyra, Alexandre Pato, Facundo Torres, and Joao Moutinho are all capable of either delivering good crosses or scoring from dead ball situations. Forwards Ercan Kara and Tesho Akindele are both big targets, and center backs Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson collectively scored four goals from set pieces last season. Assistant Coach Josema Bazan will have plenty of weapons at his disposal and Orlando’s creative players should make opposing defenders think twice before fouling in the final third.

My Take: I agree with most of the staff here in terms of the defense being the team’s strength. Orlando’s defense was stout with the exception of a few outlier games. Orlando shipped five goals at New York City FC, three at Chicago, three at Atlanta, and three at Philadelphia, even though Kacper Przybylko’s elbow should have prevented the latter from happening. And the team shipped four at home vs. Montreal but played much of that game a man down and some time two men down. Those few meltdown games prevented the Lions from being among the best in MLS in goals against. The back line and Gallese combine to be one of the top back-end quintets in the league.

2. What is your biggest concern with Orlando City entering 2022?

David: Injuries. Orlando City’s season was greatly impacted last season when Alexandre Pato went out for most of the year. Add in all the other injuries to Ruan, Moutinho, Mauricio Pereyra, and others, and it makes everything that much more difficult. I’m hoping they’ve changed whatever they are putting in the water to make the team more durable for an entire MLS season. 

Adrian: The health of the forwards. We already saw Ercan Kara go down with a knock that cut his preseason short, which limited his chemistry-building time with his new teammates on the pitch and he will now have to do that on the fly during regular-season matches. We already know Pato’s injury history with the Lions last season. He seems ready to go for the start of the season but we will see how long his durability will last throughout the season.

Ben: I’m worried about depth at center back and left back. There is no natural left back behind Joao Moutinho, and after Rodrigo Schlegel the level of experience for the center backs falls off a cliff. The Lions are in a better place financially to make summer additions should they wish to do so, but the cupboards are dangerously close to empty in those two positions.

Sean: My biggest concern for 2022 is the health of the strikers. Alexandre Pato has a history of injuries and was out most of 2021. Then Ercan Kara got injured early in preseason. I think striker health could be a problem.

Mike: Orlando City fans are understandably excited to see Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara contribute bundles of goals and assists this season. I’m concerned we’re expecting too much of them in their first season in MLS. Many players need significant time to adjust to this league. New teammates and coaches. New culture. Long-distance travel. Let’s not forget the stifling heat and humidity at Exploria Stadium for a large stretch of the campaign.

Joshua: I’m still worried about who will be carrying the attack up front for the Lions. With Dike, Nani, and Mueller moving on to Europe this off-season, Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele, and Silvester van der Water will be counted on to score some goals. Alexandre Pato will also be looking to redeem himself after missing most of last season. We’ll have to see how new arrivals Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara adapt once the regular season begins. It may take some time for them to gel, but it will be interesting to see who will finish as the club’s leading goal scorer at the end of the season.

Marcus: I’m pretty worried about a slow start by the Lions. The offense was overhauled this off-season and it may take some time for the goals to come as new players settle in. Orlando has difficult road games against the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers late in March and the team could be without Torres, Kara, Pedro Gallese, and Sebas Mendez due to World Cup qualifying. If the Lions have trouble finding their footing early on, they could find themselves clawing for points when summer rolls around.

My Take: I have several concerns and they’ve been brought up by my colleagues. The two DP additions have to adjust quickly. Two center back injuries could wreck things pretty quickly. Not extending Emmanuel Mas (or replacing him) left no coverage behind a brittle Moutinho. I’ll add that no adequate replacement for Mueller was added and even if the Gaston Gonzalez reports come to pass, he’s another young, unproven player who will need to adjust to a new culture and league. But my chief concern is that Orlando was already slightly behind a few teams in the East and those teams got better while Orlando struggled to replace what it lost. Did the Lions lose ground to the top teams? We’ll see.

3. Which new Orlando City player are you most excited about seeing this year?

David: I know that there was a ton of attention given to Facundo Torres during the weeks-long drama of bringing him in, but I’m most excited to see what Ercan Kara can do. Like Daryl Dike, he’ll need some service but I expect him to be a potent striker, scoring 15 goals in his first year in MLS.

Adrian: I’m really looking forward to seeing what Facundo Torres can bring. Seeing his goal highlights from Peñarol showed me he can be a dynamic goal scorer at any range. And by the way Peñarol fans are reacting to every tweet Orlando City including Torres shows how much they miss him already, especially when they just won a championship with him. Hopefully the Crow will bring that championship experience with him here to Orlando, even if it is a different league.

Ben: It has to be Facundo Torres for me. A young South American talent the front office clearly believes in? Sign me up. He already showed some promising moments in the preseason match against Colorado, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he does in his first year stateside. 

Sean: I’m excited to watch Facundo Torres this season. From the time I saw him during preseason, Torres looks comfortable and skillful on the ball. I think he’s going to be crucial in the midfield and should be fun to watch.

Mike: Although I’m concerned about how quickly we’re expecting to see Facundo Torres perform at a top level, I am very excited to see what he can do on the pitch. Some eyes widened when Luiz Muzzi labeled him one of the top three young talents out of all South America. Will El Cuervo live up to the hype? I can’t wait to see.

Joshua: I’m very excited about seeing how new Designated Player Ercan Kara will do in Orlando this season. The offense has been off to a slow start in the preseason but Kara did manage to get an assist in a preseason match against Minnesota United. Despite only playing parts of two preseason matches, Kara has shown he can create scoring chances and produce. If he can find his form early on in the regular season to score goals, it will help ease the pressure on the club from relying too much on the defense.

Marcus: I’m excited to see Kara in action! He’s one of many forwards joining MLS from Europe this season and I think he is a good fit to come in and score. In his interview with Miguel Gallardo introducing himself to fans, he was a nice blend of soft spoken and confident. He’s a proven scorer who will have plenty of service over the course of the season and could wind up winning the Golden Boot or an award at the end of the season if things fall his way.

My Take: Facu is the one who will bear watching. He’s dynamic and even when he wasn’t providing goals or setting them up in the Colorado preseason match, he was still fun to watch. That said, he’ll need to produce or Nani’s shoes will go unfilled and Orlando will lose ground in the conference.

4. Which of the following players will be the most difficult to replace: Daryl Dike, Nani, or Chris Mueller?

David: It has to be Nani. The level of experience and leadership he brought to the club is not easy to replicate. Assuming that Torres is his replacement, he might be younger, faster, and potentially more dynamic, but that isn’t all Nani brought to the pitch. If you go back and look, you can see him teaching and coaching during matches. That will be lost. 

Adrian: I believe Nani would be the most difficult to replace. Not only will his goal scoring and assist abilities be missed, but his playmaking style of play to take on defenders with his dribbling skills caused defenders to focus on him, which in turn allowed openings for his teammates. Also, his impact off the pitch with jersey sales and even bringing in casual fans to fill seats at matches as Orlando is now without a big European name.

Ben: This was tough for me, as I was split between Nani and Dike, but ultimately, I have to go with Nani. He had 18 goal contributions last year and carried the offense for the first third of the season when Daryl was on loan. Dike’s presence and gravity up top will be missed, as will his goals, but Kara didn’t have trouble scoring with Rapid Vienna and his profile is similar to Daryl’s. If he can adjust, then he should be able to provide similar goal numbers at the striker position. Torres is a bit more of an unknown and has far more pressure on him, given his fee and how reliant Orlando was on Nani for large stretches of his three years in purple. I’m not saying Facu won’t be able to fill those shoes, but it’s a much tougher task.

Sean: I think the most difficult player to replace will be Nani. Daryl Dike had an excellent 2021 but I think Kara can play that target role well and in the same way. Nani was a threat in the midfield that opened up chances and scored a lot of goals for that position.

Mike: Mueller will be the toughest to replace. Sure, he struggled last year. But he improved every season until last, and his hustle and intensity made him a leader on the field and a fan favorite. Kara will offset Dike’s production. El Cuervo will do the same for Nani’s. Unless we bring in a winger soon or during the summer transfer window, we’re asking Silvester van der Water and/or Benji Michel to consistently provide what Mueller did for most of his time in Orlando. I’m not convinced either is the answer on that wing.

Joshua: Daryl Dike will be hard to replace at striker. Dike was the club’s leading goal scorer last season (regular season plus playoffs) with 11 goals. He is also a physical player and was a handful for defenders to try to slow down. Kara, Torres, and the rest of the forwards will have some big shoes to fill this season.

Marcus: I’m going to go with Mueller. While I think Nani and Dike made greater impacts in 2021, Torres and Kara should fill those gaps nicely. Trying to find a way to replace Mueller’s production without breaking the bank could prove difficult for the Lions. Silvester van der Water and Benji Michel have shown flashes of brilliance and Argentine winger Gaston Gonzalez could join the team in May, but Mueller gave the club plenty of production over the years after being selected in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. Designated Players will fill the void left by Nani and Dike, but another winger will need to step up to replace Mueller.

My Take: This was a trick question. All will be hard to replace, but it is especially tough to replace double-digit goal scorers in MLS and Orlando lost two. Nani and Dike each scored 10 times in the regular season in 2021 and so they’ll both be extremely hard to replace. Nani also amassed eight assists while Dike recorded just three, so it would seem logical to say he’s the toughest to replace, but I’m going to say Dike because Nani played in 10 more games than Daryl. Had Dike not gone on loan and played the full season in Orlando, he might have spent much of the year in the Golden Boot discussion and the Lions certainly would have finished higher than sixth. Being extremely conservative, Dike likely turns two draws into wins and two one-goal losses into draws, giving the Lions 57 points and a second-place finish in 2021. Kara has a big job to do.

5. What position in the Eastern Conference will the Lions occupy at season’s end?

David: It’s not going to be easy, and a lot will depend on how healthy the team stays, as well as how quickly the newcomers integrate into the culture of the club, but I’m predicting that the Lions will finish seventh in the Eastern Conference and make the playoffs. I’m iffy on this, but Óscar Pareja is a very good coach, and until he proves me wrong, I’m going to assume he gets the job done.

Adrian: Fourth is a good spot for me. Orlando City was only in the sixth seed last season because teams multiple teams were tied on points. The Lions were able to replace key players such as Nani, Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller this off-season while keeping a good balance of youth and experience. I can see Orlando making the playoffs comfortably, which isn’t too unrealistic.

Ben: Fifth. I expect the Lions to be solid defensively but struggle at the other end of the field, at least at first. Kara and Torres will likely need time to gel and adapt to a new league and the grueling travel that comes with it. I think we’ll see the best of this team after the All-Star Game once the new faces have time to bed in, and it will end up in fifth.

Sean: I think Orlando City will finish in sixth this year. The team has a lot of new and young pieces that could take some time getting used to MLS. I think the East will be really close again this year, and it could be one or two games that separate sixth from second again.

Mike: The Lions will just miss a home playoff game in the opening round by finishing fifth in the East.

Joshua: I don’t see Orlando City as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this year, keeping up with Philadelphia, New York City FC, and New England. I do believe that the Lions will fight for the playoff spots and will finish in fifth place in the East this year.

Marcus: Orlando will finish fourth in the Eastern Conference, securing a home playoff match by the skin of its teeth. There’s been an injection of offensive talent throughout the Eastern Conference this off-season so I’m imagining quite a bit of scoring and more parity across the board rather than teams like the New England Revolution and New York City FC running rampant. Every Eastern Conference team will likely have something to play for come Decision Day.

My Take: I would love to be as optimistic as most of my colleagues. I don’t think Orlando will finish higher than seventh in an improving Eastern Conference after opting to see if a trio of Pato, Michel, and van der Water can replace Mueller on one wing and tabbing a (yes, very talented) 21-year-old to immediately replace Nani’s production. I feel that Kara will be able to provide double-digit goal totals, but he may start slowly in getting there. Among 13 of SBN’s MLS bloggers, Orlando City’s average predicted finishing position is seventh, putting me right in line with them. Two of my colleagues picked them to finish as high as fourth, while two others had them finishing in 10th and 12th. I think 12th is exceedingly pessimistic, although possible if there are key injuries as I spoke about in my concerns above. I think fourth or fifth is the absolute ceiling but I would love to be proven wrong. (Go on, Lions, make me look bad here!)

6. Hit me with your boldest prediction for Orlando City’s 2022 season. Make ‘em extra spicy!

David: The Lions shock the league as all the new pieces come together perfectly and Orlando City scores a club-record 60 goals to win the Eastern Conference. Both Pato and Kara score 18 goals, and there are no significant injuries to be seen. Pareja is finally awarded the Coach of the Year award with Orlando City that he should have received two years ago.

Adrian: Pedro Gallese wins 2022 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. It’s no debate that Gallese has been the best Orlando City goalkeeper so far. Since joining the Lions, the Peruvian international has not only been consistent, but has been getting better each season with the club. Gallese was named to the MLS All-Star squad in 2021 and I look for him to be even better this season as El Pulpo is looking for that contract extension. 

Ben: Andres Perea gets six goals from defensive midfield while coming off the bench. A complicated one I know, but the 21-year-old bagged two down the stretch last year and had another chalked off in the Halloween Heist against Nashville SC. There are signs of the offensive side of his game starting to flourish a bit, and he’s so young that I think there’s plenty of room for it to grow further with him knocking in a few more this year. 

Sean: My bold take is that Pato won’t get injured this year. That seems almost impossible but the optimist in me thinks he could remain on the field all year.

Mike: Because he’ll need to play more than we expect and he’ll re-discover some old form while on the pitch, Pato will edge out Seattle’s Jordan Morris for MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

Joshua: Orlando City will win the 2022 U.S. Open Cup and qualify for the Concacaf Champions League next year for the first time.

Marcus: Orlando City will win the MLS Cup. Does it get much bolder than that? After some growing pains and Gaston Gonzalez’s (reported) arrival in the spring, the Lions will survive the dog days of summer and claim a playoff spot for a third consecutive year. The trio of Torres, Kara, and Gonzalez helps carry the Lions through each round of the playoffs and into the MLS Cup final, where the Lions beat whichever Cascadian team comes out on top in the Western Conference this year. There will be concerns about depth, particularly along the back line, but Pareja will end up with his first-choice starting XI by the time the postseason rolls around. Despite winning the MLS Cup, no Lions will win an end of season award, even though Pato will spend most of the year as a frontrunner for MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

My Take: There are some good ones here. I’m going to go with Benji Michel making the leap and finishing with eight goals and eight assists in his best MLS season yet, with this run of form earning him a call-up to a USMNT camp.

If you made it to the end of this roundtable discussion, wow. Good job! We can be a verbose bunch sometimes, but we’re all excited for the MLS season to get going. Let us know in the comments where you agree and disagree and give us your own bold predictions.


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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