Happy 2016, everyone!
The Mane Land turned one year old in late 2015 and we've now been through an entire calendar year from start to finish. It was a fun year and we learned a lot, hopefully while providing the best Orlando City SC content on the web. We'll leave that to others to decide, but we tried to cover a wide range of styles and types of writing as each contributor to the site brought their unique voice to bear.
Some of the things we did simply didn't work. One example of that is when we used a provocative headline about Cyle Larin and how he could become the LeBron James of MLS in a broader piece about how MLS and its clubs shouldn't sell top young talent to European leagues if Major League Soccer truly wants to become one of the world's top soccer leagues. While many understood right away that we weren't crazy enough to actually compare the rookie striker to one of the NBA's best ever players, there were a lot of confused (and amused, apparently) people on social media who saw the headline and missed what we were aiming at. That's an example of going for something and missing to an extent. That's largely on me as the managing editor for overestimating the number of people who would get it immediately. Sometimes though, it doesn't matter if not everyone gets what we're trying to achieve. Usually, the right people will get it.
But much of what we did worked quite well. In our brief time with SB Nation, The Mane Land has become one of the network's most widely read MLS blogs. We've accumulated one of the largest Twitter followings among SBN's MLS team blogs and are in the top half in Facebook followers as well. Keeping in mind that many of those blogs have been around for a while, I view this as a feather in our cap. Our voice is being heard and Orlando City fans are finding something of value in what we do.
It would be surprising to me if there wasn't something of value for every Orlando City fan. After all, our contributors are Orlando City fans from a variety of backgrounds and with a myriad of styles. Some prefer to educate/report, while others like to entertain/amuse.
Some of the things from 2015 I'm most proud of include:
- Being able to send a writer to three MLS road games (Houston, Chicago, NYC) and the Flamengo friendly in Rio. It's not realistic to cover every road game on our (lack of) budget, but we'll be at as many as we can.
- Our preseason UpRoar television show, which we wanted to do more of, but our producer got inundated with paying gigs all season. (We will continue to look for ways to do more video content.)
- Providing straight game recaps, analysis pieces and player ratings from all league games and photo galleries from all home matches.
- Covering big events in Orlando like the 2015 Florida Cup, the Mexico-Costa Rica friendly and the USWNT-Brazil Victory Tour match.
- Breaking several stories, such as Brett Lashbrook leaving OCSC, the split with Louisville City FC, and, recently, Stewart Kerr being named Orlando's goalkeeping coach.
- The numerous players (and even some of their parents), Orlando City staff, and media colleagues who have been so complimentary about the site. It's incredibly validating and lets us know that we're doing some things right.
Personally, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to our site in 2015, whether a staff member or a reader who took the time to do Fanposts or Fanshots. In fact, several of our staffers were once readers who took the time to put together a few Fanposts and were invited to join.
As we enter our second season covering the Lions, we'll continue to try to evolve, get better in our areas of weakness, and build on our strengths. We invite your feedback, as always. My goals for 2016 include improving our coverage of the U.S. national programs, and to that end, we've already added a writer who will concentrate solely on the USSF teams. We'll expand to provide coverage of the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B.
I'd like to thank some of our former contributors who helped build this site into what it is today, most notably Andrew Marcinko and Kevin Mercer, who both joined The Mane Land before it even made the move to SB Nation. Those guys were rock solid and I've never met anyone with the encyclopedic knowledge of Orlando's soccer history that Kevin has. We'll also miss Allen Etzler, who took a new writing job with Golfweek, which views us as a competitor for some unknown reason. We're proud that Allen parlayed his time with us into the next stop on his journey.
Finally, I'd like to thank every one of our readers. We appreciate your time. There are a lot of Orlando City blogs out there, so we're humbled every time you choose to spend time on our site. Please continue to provide feedback in the comments section at the bottom of our stories. Tell us what you'd like to see more of. This is your site, too. Constructive criticism is welcome. (Most of the complaints about this site that I've seen are unspecific, unhelpful, and come from the same cast of characters which really tells us nothing and fails to illuminate any potential areas for improvement -- what can one really learn from "you suck!" anyway?)
We'll never be all things to all people and you can't please everyone, but we do want to make an honest go of being the best source possible for Orlando City-related news, analysis and humor. If you'd like to help us do that, let us know!
Thanks again for a great 2015. On to 2016.