Orlando City’s roster is set for the club’s ninth season in Major League Soccer. MLS rosters are comprised of up to 30 players who are all eligible for selection to the game-day squad during the regular season and playoffs. The Lions list 29 players. While it might be tempting to ask why not use all 30 slots, it pays to keep in mind that MLS is a salary cap league.
To the extent that the league’s available online information is up to date, the following is the 2023 squad who will start the season as Lions, who counts as an international, who the Designated Players and MLS U22 Initiative players are, etc. We’ve even supplied the numbers so you can get your custom jerseys made.
Position listed is from the official designation by MLS, although players may obviously play in different spots than what is listed. Let’s meet the 2023 Lions in numerical order, as grouped by position from back to front.
1 Pedro Gallese – International
El Pulpo returns for his fourth year in purple since leaving Alianza Lima, which had loaned him out to Veracruz. That club got disaffiliated and Orlando reaped the benefits. The Peruvian international is the best goalkeeper in club history and his return should provide some stability in the back despite having new starting fullbacks on either side of him. Despite having played here for a few years, Gallese is still on the club’s list of internationals.
31 Mason Stajduhar – Homegrown
There might not be a better story in Orlando City’s history than Stajduhar’s. The Homegrown struggled with some injuries early in his pro career and then was blindsided by a diagnosis of Localized Ewing Sarcoma — a type of bone cancer. After undergoing treatment, Stajduhar worked his way back into form, became the primary backup to Gallese, and capped it off with an amazing shootout victory in the U.S. Open Cup in 2022, proposing to his girlfriend after the game (she said yes and they’ve since been married). Like the Lions, the 25-year-old enters his ninth season in the league.
99 Adam Grinwis
Grinny is back as the third goalkeeper for Orlando City. The 30-year-old will be in his sixth MLS season but might get more playing time with OCB than the senior Lions if the guys in front of him stay healthy. Even if he never plays another minute for City, Grinwis will forever be a club folk hero for his penalty shootout performance in the U.S. Open Cup against New York City FC back on July 10, 2019 (the “Running of the Wall” game).
3 Rafael Santos – International
One of the club’s newest faces — he’s literally only been in town a matter of days — Ramos joins from Brazilian side Cruzeiro (although he was on loan with Coritiba last year). Signed Jan. 5, Santos had to wait for his international paperwork and it took a bit longer than expected. He’ll be playing catch-up to start the season as Luca Petrasso has been playing well throughout preseason camp in the left back spot. Those two will battle to occupy the spot left behind by Joao Moutinho, who left for Italy’s Serie A.
6 Robin Jansson
The Beefy Swede is back for his fifth year in the City Beautiful and it’s hard to believe he’s been here that long. One of the steadiest center backs in the club’s MLS history, Jansson is returning from foot surgery. If the 31-year-old can stay healthy and stop yapping at the referee, he’ll be counted on to provide phenomenal long passes that ignite the offense and the kind of steady defense he’s been known for in his time since joining the club from Swedish side AIK.
15 Rodrigo Schlegel
Club legend Rodri Schlegel enters his fourth year with Orlando City. All he’s done so far is fill in as goalkeeper during a playoff penalty shootout and send a U.S. Open Cup match into extra time with a 94th-minute equalizer against Nashville last year, helping extend the Lions’ run to the eventual trophy. The best center back off the bench in club history and one of the current best third central defenders in the league is a high-risk, high-reward player. Just 25 years old, Schlegel is entering his prime as a center back and will hopefully continue the growth he’s shown since arriving from Racing Club in his native Argentina.
24 Kyle Smith
Whether you call him The Accountant or El Soldado, Oscar Pareja’s Swiss Army Knife is back for his fifth MLS season — all with Orlando. Smith has been forced into far too many matches the last two seasons. He’s versatile enough to play multiple positions. Last year, he chipped in two goals, which was a career high, but more importantly those were both late game-winning goals against Toronto and Seattle. A fantastic team player, the 31-year-old plugs in wherever he’s needed and although he does many things well while not necessarily being master of any one thing, he’s shown his value over the years, whether by making a vital goal-line clearance or scoring the aforementioned late winners.
25 Antonio Carlos
Brazilian center back Antonio Carlos is back for his fourth season with Orlando City. The 29-year-old has formed an outstanding partnership with Jansson in central defense, but he’ll likely miss the first week (at least) with a knock to his lower right leg. I was told earlier this week it’s not expected to be a long-term thing, but with Orlando City’s track record on revealing injury information, that might mean he’ll miss one game or five. The Lions are a much better defensive team with the Brazilian in the lineup. He’s the best defender in the air on the Orlando City roster, has great mobility for recovery during transition opportunities, and doesn’t often lose focus.
26 Michael Halliday – Homegrown
Mikey Halliday enters a critical season for him in his professional career. After signing a Homegrown Player deal during the summer of 2020, Halliday played with OCB and has split time between the senior side and the developmental squad over the course of the last two seasons. With the departure of Ruan in the off-season, the time is now for the 20-year-old Halliday to seize the starting right back spot. I’m not saying it’s a make-or-break season for the young defender, simply that it’s a good opportunity for the U.S. youth international to take a big step forward.
28 Abdi Salim
A 2023 MLS SuperDraft selection, 21-year-old defender Abdi Salim signed a one-year contract with three club option years on Feb. 14. The athletic and versatile rookie can play either inside or outside on the back line. He performed well in the preseason and the first-round pick may have earned the No. 4 center back spot. We’ll have to see what Pareja does if he’s missing two of his top three center backs. On second thought, let’s hope we don’t find out.
30 Alex Freeman – Homegrown
It’s probably still too early to see much of 18-year-old defender Alex Freeman with the senior team in 2023. Freeman signed his Homegrown Player deal just over a year ago on Feb. 15, 2022. The contract runs through the 2025 season, so the club obviously giving the youngster time to develop his game. He’s expected to be a depth option behind Halliday and Smith.
68 Thomas Williams – Homegrown
At 6-foot-3, Williams cuts a towering figure among Orlando City’s defenders. The 18-year-old got some brief tastes of MLS soccer in 2022, logging 181 minutes. He’s on the second year of a three-year Homegrown Player contract that also includes an option year in 2025. Williams is just 18 and the club can afford to be patient with his development. He’ll be a depth option in 2023 but might be a regular with OCB.
5 Cesar Araujo – International, MLS U22 Initiative
Orlando City signed Araujo to an MLS U22 Initiative deal on Jan. 7, 2022 and turned out to be a plug-and-play option for the Lions a year ago. He walked right into the team and took Sebas Mendez’s starting position, excelling as the club’s defensive stopper in central midfield. Araujo enters his second season with the Lions and if the 21-year-old continues to develop and excel in MLS, European teams will come calling soon. For now, he’s in Orlando and although he’s working on getting his green card, he’ll start the season requiring an international slot.
8 Felipe Martins
A new addition to the midfield, the Lions signed veteran Felipe Martins (generally referred to merely as “Felipe”) to a one-year deal with a club option for 2024 on Nov. 22, 2022. The 32-year-old Brazilian provides coverage in the central midfield after the departures of Junior Urso and Joey DeZart. The former Austin FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, New York Red Bulls, and Montreal Impact midfielder brings a wealth of experience to the roster.
10 Mauricio Pereyra – International
Team captain Mauricio Pereyra transitioned from a Designated Player to a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) contract this past off-season, opening up a slot for the Lions to sign Martin Ojeda. The 32-year-old Uruguayan is a respected leader on the pitch and has been transitioning into a deeper-lying playmaker role since the middle of 2022. He enters his fifth season in Orlando after being acquired in the secondary transfer window during the 2019 campaign.
11 Martin Ojeda – International, Designated Player
One of the exciting new faces on the team is Designated Player Martin Ojeda. The 24-year-old Argentine joins Orlando from Godoy Cruz in his country’s top flight. He requires both a DP and an international slot on the roster. Ojeda has been acclimating through the preseason and has impressed. He should combine well with the Lions’ other attacking options once he settles in.
14 Shak Mohammed – Generation Adidas
The Lions drafted Shakur Mohammed with the No. 2 overall selection in 2023. The Generation Adidas player was considered by many as the attacking player with the most upside. By virtue of being a GA signing, Mohammed won’t count against the MLS senior roster. The versatile Ghanaian from Duke University can play up top or on the wing. At only 19 years old, he won’t have to rush his development with a wealth of attack-minded options on the roster.
16 Wilder Cartagena – International
Cartagena enters his second season with Orlando City after being acquired on loan from Al-Ittihad Kalba SC and the Lions exercised the club’s option to extend the loan through 2023 in a move that was announced on Nov. 14, 2022. The 28-year-old Peruvian provides versatility in the midfield with his ability to play either a defensive or a box-to-box role. He can even play center back in a pinch, which he did some this preseason. Cartagena requires an international slot.
17 Facundo Torres – Designated Player
Although the MLS site hasn’t updated his status, I’m told that Torres has gotten his green card and will not count as an international on the roster. However, he does occupy one of Orlando City’s three DP slots. The Uruguayan international returns for his second season in the City Beautiful after some flirtations from European clubs in the off-season. Another solid season will no doubt earn him some offers. The former Peñarol star will be a focus of opposing defenses in 2023 as he was last season (although he was still successful offensively).
20 Luca Petrasso – Homegrown
Although listed among the midfielders on the MLS roster page, Petrasso will primarily deploy as a left back or left wingback, although he could play as a winger if needed. A new face on the back line, Petrasso arrived from Toronto FC in a deal on Jan. 11 that saw the Lions send $300,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) the other way, with the possibility of another $50,000 in GAM going to the Reds if certain performance metrics are met. He is the favorite to start at left back in place of the departed Moutinho since Santos arrived late. I’m told the coaching staff is high on Petrasso’s upside and crossing ability.
23 Dagur Dan Thorhallsson – International
Fire up Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to welcome our new import from Iceland. Thorhallsson is a 22-year-old midfielder who was signed from Breidablik in his country’s top flight on Jan. 31. He enters the first season of his two-year contract in 2023 and requires an international roster slot. The club’s new No. 23 has the versatility to play as a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box player, a fullback or winger, or even a false 9. He’s a good set piece taker and could add a new dimension to the Lions’ attack. He’s already scored a goal with Orlando City during the preseason.
32 Wilfredo Rivera – Homegrown
It’s a critical year for midfielder Wilfredo Rivera, who signed a Homegrown Player contract in March of 2021 that runs through the end of this season. The club holds option years, but it is imperative for Rivera to entice Orlando City to pick up the first of those options at the end of the 2023 campaign. Will this be the year he gets MLS minutes? It’s more likely the 19-year-old will continue his development with OCB but don’t rule out an early U.S. Open Cup appearance.
77 Ivan Angulo – International
Acquired on loan from Palmeiras in last year’s secondary window, Ivan Angulo is set to remain a Lion through midseason, with the club holding an option to extend his stay for six months. The 23-year-old Colombian winger has displayed an incredible work rate, great pace, an ability to take on defenders on the edge, and a knack for creating scoring chances for his teammates. He also defends well and can recover quickly in transition. The winger has the versatility to serve as a wingback as well. He isn’t clinical enough to score at a high rate, despite getting a goal in the last preseason match, but he does a lot of the dirty work that needs done for a team to have success. It will be interesting to see how he performs, where he plays, whether he is able to hold off Gaston Gonzalez, and if the club will hang onto him or extend his stay at midseason.
7 Ramiro Enrique – International, MLS U22 Initiative
One of the last guys to arrive for preseason camp, Ramiro Enrique hasn’t been in Orlando long, but he’ll have some significant expectations on his shoulders, as an addition at the forward position who has spent more than a few minutes playing top-flight soccer. The 21-year-old Argentine was signed from Banfield in the Primera Division on Jan. 26. The club made a significant investment in Enrique, not only using an MLS U22 Initative slot, but also inking him to a three-year contract with two additional club option years. He’ll require an international roster slot for his first season in Orlando.
9 Ercan Kara – Designated Player
Like Torres, Kara was still showing as an international player as of this writing but he just returned from overseas and should now be set with his green card. The Austrian enters his second season with the Lions after signing as a Designated Player on Jan. 27, 2022. He dealt with some injury issues on and off last year that hindered him somewhat, but still managed double-digit goals on a team that didn’t always provide him the best service. Orlando City’s front office tried to help him out by adding Gonzalez last year in the summer window but a knee injury to the young Argentine delayed the start of that partnership. Angulo’s addition helped some, but nothing compared to what the signing of Ojeda should provide.
13 Duncan McGuire
First-round 2023 draft pick Duncan McGuire begins his first professional season after being selected No. 6 overall. McGuire has impressed with his size and work rate in the preseason. McGuire can learn the tricks of the trade from Kara and apply his own considerable skill, which earned him the 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy his final year at Creighton.
27 Jack Lynn
Orlando City 2022 draft selection Jack Lynn enters his second professional season. The Notre Dame product spent most of 2022 with Orlando City B, but he made the most of his time there, setting a new OCB record for goals in a season (15). Lynn enters the season as questionable with a left thigh injury. He doesn’t figure to see a lot of first-team minutes, but it’s possible the 23-year-old will surpass his four minutes of action that he had in 2022. He could also factor into the early rounds of the U.S. Open Cup matches.
22 Gaston Gonzalez – MLS U22 Initiative
Argentine winger Gaston Gonzalez figures to make his belated MLS debut after a torn ACL prevented that from happening in 2022. Gonzalez either has his green card by the time this story publishes or he will have it shortly. He’s not currently listed on the MLS site as an international so that may indicate the paperwork has been received. The 21-year-old signed last May through the 2024 season with three club option years. He arrives as an MLS U22 Initiative player, completing the three slots the club has, from Club Atlético Unión de Santa Fe in Argentina’s Primera División.
95 Favian Loyola – Homegrown
One of the most exciting Homegrown signings in Orlando City’s MLS history, the 17-year-old Loyola wowed those who saw him in the MLS Next match during All-Star festivities last season. Loyola was a force for OCB down the stretch of the 2022 season and his future looks bright. He’s unlikely to see much time with the first team in 2023 due to the plethora of attacking signings, but he should feature for OCB throughout the upcoming season. Like Lynn, he’s starting the season with a left thigh injury and enters the first week of the 2023 campaign listed as questionable.
And there you have it. The 2023 Lions are set to embark on a grueling season filled with more competitions than ever before. They will endure blistering hot summer nights, play through rainstorms, and will seek new trophies and accomplishments with the assembled talent. How quickly that talent finds some chemistry will go a long way toward determining how the season goes. Step one of the journey takes place tonight at Exploria Stadium at 7:30 p.m. against the New York Red Bulls.
Reflecting on Eight Years with The Mane Land
A look back over my time with The Mane Land (so far).
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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