Our City is a weekly column focused on my perspective of Orlando City as a supporter. I would love to incorporate your ideas and stories, if you have something to add or a story idea please connect by commenting here or on Twitter: @kevinmercer225
Can you feel it? Orlando has been electric in the build-up to today's game. The town has been painted purple from UCF to Downtown, From Altamonte Springs to Hunter's Creek. After four successful years in the USL, after what has felt like the longest off-season ever, it's finally time for our Orlando City SC to take on fellow league newcomers New York City FC in our inaugural Major League Soccer game. We have arrived!
Today is about a dream Phil and Kay Rawlins had over a kitchen table in Austin, TX. Their hard work, dedication, and belief has culminated in today's game. He was both genius enough and crazy enough to believe in our city as the place to bring his club and aim for the big leagues. I can't imagine there will be a happier heart in the Citrus Bowl tonight.
It's also about Flávio Augusto da Silva, the Brazilian entrepreneur who hitched his dream of owning a soccer club in the United States to the project Rawlins began in Central Florida. His boldness paid dividends when we were awarded an MLS franchise. That trademark boldness came in handy when it came to calling up the former FIFA Player of the Year to ask if he was ready for a move to Central Florida.
Today is about people that won't even be in the stadium tonight: Jamie Watson, Miguel Gallardo, Dennis Chin, Matt Luzunaris and James O'Connor, among other former Lions who played their hearts out for both the badge and the supporters. Today, in the back of our minds, we'll remember the heroics of Sean Kelley in the 2011 USL Final, or the 2013 final when Dom Dwyer single-handedly took over the game and brought the trophy home.
Remember the on-field leadership of guys like Anthony Pulis and Rob Valentino? This moment is an expression of their dedication to the club and the dream of taking it to MLS. I hope those guys are watching the game from where they are now. I hope the club will bring them back sometime to receive the affections they deserve. They are forever Lions.
Of course it's about the club's players today, too. Nine of them have worn the badge before, and they understand how much this team means to the community. I hope that passion is passed on from the players and Head Coach Adrian Heath to the new guys. This is a team that has never given in.
Today is about all of these people; the city, the supporters, the club. We'll be forever in your debt. Your accomplishments and contributions should live on as long as the club does.
Today is about something else. To me, it's about something more important, and that is you. We wouldn't be here without you. To the die hard supporters, four years strong. You sat in the rain, you sang your hearts out, you made sure everybody in American soccer knew "This is Orlando!" You went throughout the city like Paul Revere, exclaiming that Orlando City was here and it was going to be huge.
You know what? Orlando finally believes us. 62,000 of your fellow citizens have answered the call.
Sports, when they are at their best, are a civic rallying point -- something that we can all get behind, in a world that seems to love to invent ways to divide us. Today, we are all Lions.
Today, in a game being broadcast across the world, we begin to tell a whole new audience. "This is Orlando!" this is "Forever Our City"