It's been a tough couple weeks for our Orlando City Lions. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem right to throw shade at a team in a friendly, so we'll need a new way to lift our spirits. How about a look at the five best surprises so far for the boys in purple?
1. Ramos Moving Forward
Many expected the fullbacks to be influential in the attacking build-up. Ramos has delivered well, posting the third highest passing percentage among regular starters, along with being second on the team, behind only Kaká, with 1.5 dribbles per game. He's moved forward with purpose, but that hasn't interfered with his defensive duties a bit, which was most apparent against Brad Davis in Ramos' breakout game versus the Houston Dynamo.
2. The Brek Shea Experiment
Remember the unsettling feeling you got when you learned it would be Brek Shea, not Luke Boden, starting at left back? I heard every complaint in the book, including: "We need him closer to the top," "He won't track back," and "Does he know how to defend?!"
Pipe down, already.
Brek has been a shining light for Orlando this season, from his work on the ball, to his runs and crosses into the box, to his remarkable, award-winning save that you see when you close your eyes at night.
3. Amobi Okugo's Leadership
Okugo came out of the gate establishing his role in this club with three straight eye-opening performances, planting his flag in the middle of the field against NYC, before assuming a Jason Voorhees-like place in the nightmares of the Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Okugo's poise on the ball and motor off of it have led to near-universal praise. While he's slipped a bit the past few games (stupid quick kick), we've seen the player he is capable of being in our midfield. It's especially apparent considering he's been a key part of one of the most accurate passing teams in MLS to date.
4. Aurélien Collin and the Back Line
While the pit bull that is Aurélien Collin is the most obvious reason for the success of the back line, the truth is that Seb Hines deserves his fair share of props as well. Combining for over ten clearances a game, both men have done a fair enough job clearing out danger and protecting Donovan Ricketts.
And, unless you're an ostrich with your head in the sand, you know Collin has been dominant in the air. There might be, might be, five guys in the league you'd rather send up for a ball. "Inhumanly relentless" doesn't do justice the ferocity with which Collin attacks the ball in the air. He's consistently been in the running for Man of the Match for Orlando, and has his own t-shirt (along with Kaká) at the MLS Store.
5. Fan Support
The best surprise? The consistent, unwavering fan support. My biggest concern after we #FilledTheBowl was an Orlando City hangover and seeing attendance drop to the embarrassing levels UCF football experienced in the building.
You, the fans, have proven once again just how clueless I am.
30,000+ strong every single game. If you think this is an easy ticket to get in town, try getting a pair of tickets on a Thursday without severing an arm and a leg. I dare ya.
From the virus that is the Orlando City magnets, to the beauty that is the billboards around the city, it's a damn good time to be a Lion, recent form be damned.
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Those are my five biggest Orlando City surprises since Opening Day. What's your favorite surprise of the season so far?