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Our City: Football and Friendship

Two games into the season and it's safe to say we are all enjoying the MLS journey so far. Sharing the games with friends has made the early season that much more enjoyable!

Two games into the season and I've had one takeaway lingering in my head. No, it isn't how well Kaká and Kevin Molino seem to be linking up in the midfield. It's the experiences I've had watching the games.

Put simply, football is better with friends, and I've been honored to share the past four Orlando City seasons with a great group of them. I've mentioned this confederation when I paid tribute to one of our friends who passed away before the season started, Daniel Britt.

What started as a couple of us sitting together to watch Orlando City SC beat the now-defunct FC New York in their first home game in 2011 has become our unofficial supporters group, the Olde South End.

While watching a club from my hometown play in a top tier league is a dream come true, I realized last Sunday in the midst of such an amazing atmosphere that none of this would mean as much if I wasn't sharing it with my friends. From the tailgate to celebrating a game-tying goal, none of it would have been as special if it weren't for the people I've been honored to share the stands with over the past four years.

Growing up an American soccer fan in the 1980s and 1990s was a lonely endeavor. I was fortunate to share the passion for the game with my family and my best friend since grade school. Every once and a while, a World Cup would pique some interest among my extended cohorts, only to fade by autumn and college football season.

The idea of watching an MLS game in Orlando with a group of friends just as passionate as I was would have been pure fantasy to me back then. This was a world before you could watch multiple games per weekend on cable television, a world before the internet. Shocking as that might seem. People just didn't really follow soccer in those days.

The most dramatic example of the contrast between then and now is watching the U.S. Men's National Team play Portugal in two different World Cups. In 2002, I danced around my living room alone when Brian McBride scored against Portugal on the way to a memorable upset. In 2014, while watching it with my Dad, we saw hosts of World Cup viewing parties across the country, including in the one in Orlando.

Watching the Houston Dynamo game Friday night was just as significant, just in a different way. I watched it over at my best friend's house, just as we've watched English Premier League, U.S. World Cup games and qualifiers, and Gold Cup games.

Just as Sunday had been over the top and amazing, this past Friday was subdued and normal. Sure, it was Orlando City's first road game and first MLS win, but to us it was just two guys who have known each other since grade school watching a game. I'm glad we'll have another thing to share in Orlando City, and another reason to make some time in busy lives to get together for awhile.

And while watching the past two games has reminded me of the good friends I'm lucky to share soccer with, it has reminded me of another thing. I'm not alone in this feeling. We are all building these memories with out friends and family. We are all creating traditions one game at a time, and we are creating them with the people that matter the most to us.

We all have our tailgates, official or unofficial supporters groups, and away game watch parties. Even when we are watching on our own, our social media is working overtime as we share the experience with each other.

It is the "city" part of our name that reminds us, this isn't just about goal celebrations in lonely living rooms anymore.

Go City!