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
The early season has been quite the roller coaster for the Orlando City faithful. Fits and spurts of genius combined with moments of frustration and confusion. Friday night's match-up with MLS Eastern Conference leaders the New England Revolution was an excellent showcase of the highs and lows of our early expansion season.
Our Lions were played off the park in front of the home fans while gifting the Revs' hard working offense with two goals, only to rally and look like world beaters, scoring two hard-fought goals to earn a point at home.
Last night was so chaotic, MLS pundit Taylor Twellman tweeted this gem, only to later delete it. I can't blame him. In the first half this tweet made perfect sense and in the second we were the team that played so well in Portland.
Over a stretch of the last four games (three league games and one friendly), I've been working towards this conclusion that we really are an expansion team. Four years of USL dominance, great management and coaching, solid preseason signings, a great core of USL players moving up with the club, and of course, the signing of one former FIFA World Player of the Year, had me convinced we were something very different.
This isn't the 1989-1990 Orlando Magic after all. We aren't a team consisting of only professional castaways and rookie talent. City management has done an excellent job of bringing in talented players from around the league and around the world of soccer. On paper, this team shouldn't be begging for wins and feeling satisfied with draws at home.
And that is the maddening part -- for long stretches, this team hasn't played like a team with one foot in the Eastern Conference cellar. We are playing some brilliant football at times. That play hasn't equaled goals or wins, though --the only two stats that really matter at the end of the day.
So, therein lies the realization that my beloved Orlando City is indeed an expansion team. From here on out I can no longer live in that blissful preseason naivety. Our preseason dreams never looked like the nightmare of giving away 90th minute free kick goals or an offense that, until recently, was shooting blanks.
When I thought of Kaká dominating the midfield, I didn't think he would demand so much respect from his teammates that they would make ludicrous passes into double coverage just to give the ball back to him. As a supporter, it would be counter-intuitive to imagine these early season ups and downs in December.
The last 20 minutes of Friday night's game might have been some of the best soccer we've played in MLS, and certainly the best we've played at home. To all of us, it feels like a turning point. Behind those two comeback goals is a season more like the one we imagined in the preseason. Realistically, I think those 20 minutes were only another turning point on this wild ride we call our inaugural season.
The MLS season is a long one, with our last match still four and a half months away. While I'm predicting a few more g-force emitting turns and vomit-inducing free falls, this team has the talent and the staff to stabilize this wild ride.
My new prediction: the Orlando City inaugural roller coaster slides into the playoffs as a lean, mean locomotive with a head full of steam. It might be a crazy summer, but we'll still be playing in the fall. Go City!