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Our City: Comparing the Orlando Magic and Orlando City Inaugural Seasons

The Lions pride themselves on being an ambitious club. This has drawn comparisons with other MLS expansion seasons. How does Orlando City's first season stack up to Central Florida's other professional team, the Orlando Magic? What can we learn from these comparisons?

Our City is a weekly column dedicated to the fans and supporters' perspectives of Orlando City. Any feedback, comments, or questions? Find Kevin Mercer on Twitter @KevinIsHistory

There is a popular trend for TV commentators, journalists, bloggers, and fans to compare an inaugural team to those who have come before them. Due to the unique circumstances around inserting a brand new team into an established league, sometimes this is the best way to judge a season.

We've heard a lot about how well Orlando has stacked up against previous MLS inaugural clubs. Today, I thought I might find some camaraderie with another expansion team a little closer to home, the 1989-90 Orlando Magic.

Comparing NBA and MLS teams is, of course, rife with challenges. Basketball and soccer are entirely different sports, their respective seasons are unique, and the team make-up is wildly different. When considering this comparison, even the way expansion teams find their players are different. The NBA has an expansion draft and college draft much like MLS does. However, NBA teams are essentially locked into those players and a few low end free-agent signings. MLS benefits from a rich international transfer market.

While Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles have become local sports heroes, the 1989-90 Orlando Magic couldn't go out and buy a player of equivalent caliber to Kaká. They could not search for talented European and South American players to push expansion and college draftees to the bench or off the roster completely.

The NBA system locks teams into struggling for a number of years of development, while MLS has a certain element of freedom in building a team.


Not including last night's match-up with Chicago, Orlando City season stands at a record of 7-12-7, while the Orlando Magic finished their first season at 18-64. The lack of ties in NBA games allows for us to calculate their win percentage at 22 percent.

Since MLS allows for games to end in a draw, it becomes more difficult to calculate a win percentage easily. If you were to count each draw as a win, then Orlando City's win percentage stands at 54 percent. If you could a draw as a loss then that number plummets to 27 percent. You can manipulate these stats by arguing that finding a way to grab a draw on the road is a victory, while dropping points with a draw at home is a disappointing result. Orlando City has drawn four times at the Citrus Bowl and three times on the road. This would give them a winning percentage of 38 percent.

Another way to compare the two inaugural franchises would be league position. The Orlando Magic finished second to last in the Eastern Conference in 1989-90, while Orlando City is still mathematically fighting for a playoff position.

What can we conclude from this comparison? First, it really isn't as bad as it seems for Orlando City fans the first year out. We've been treated to a competitive but unlucky team. Only recently have we seen a string of blowout losses, something the first Orlando Magic season was full of.

The second lesson, and maybe the most important one, is that the Orlando Magic got a whole lot better. As the pieces they acquired early on found team chemistry and new pieces were added, they won their first Eastern Conference Championship six seasons into their existence. Orlando sports fans supported the team well until 1999, when they had a slight but not drastic dip in attendance.

This is all good news for Orlando City. If they can continue their ambitious ways, Central Florida should continue to support them with solid attendance. The selling out of next year's season tickets is proof to that trend continuing.