As we count down to the new year of 2017 — which will be Orlando City SC's third in MLS and second in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2016, it's time to look back at the club's 10 best moments of the year.
It’s not very often that you get the opportunity to have a home opener for a brand new franchise, but the city of Orlando has seen a couple of them come its way over the last two years. On April 23 of this year, the Orlando Pride held their first home opener at Camping World Stadium, defeating the Houston Dash, 3-1, while also setting a new NWSL attendance record with 23,403 on hand to witness history.
The first win in franchise history, coupled with a league attendance record, makes this our No. 2 moment of 2016.
Alex Morgan and Lianne Sanderson, who knocked in a free kick from about 25 yards out, both scored their first goals as members of the Pride, adding to a Houston own-goal in the 46th minute.
The lure of Alex Morgan vs. Carli Lloyd quickly faded when Lloyd left the match early due to a knee injury, and the Pride were able to use the energy of the record-setting crowd to bring home the club’s first ever victory.
"I think the crowd that we had today have taken this league to a new level," said head coach Tom Sermanni after the match. "I don't think just the number in the crowd, but there was a passion in the crowd, there was a color in the crowd in the way they supported the team, which was absolutely phenomenal.
"Hopefully we did enough tonight to encourage them to come back to the rest of our games."
And it’s safe to say that that night did leave a lasting impression on many, as the Pride finished second in the league in average attendance, with over 8,700 fans per game — second only to the Portland Thorns — and a total attendance of 87,851 across 10 games.
Already up 1-0 thanks to an own-goal early in the match, Sanderson, who was subbed on to start the second half, doubled the lead in the 57th minute, blasting a free-kick from the middle of the field, about 25 yards out, making it a 2-0 game.
56' GOOOOALLL SANDERSON! Catches the Dash off balance and puts it in the free kick in the back of the net! pic.twitter.com/0zUuGTQUVM— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) April 24, 2016
Orlando's third goal came on the counterattack. After a big stop at the other end by Ashlyn Harris, the Pride marched up the field. Jasmyne Spencer found Steph Catley down low on the left side, and she found Morgan in the box, who finished off the cross for her first goal of the season and first with the Pride.
The Pride made women’s soccer history on that late-April night, and will surely be hoping to do so again in 2017 with its opening match in Orlando City’s new downtown stadium, set to officially open this coming March with a set capacity of 25,500.
Come back every day through New Year's Eve to count down the remainder of Orlando City's top 10 moments of 2016.
Check out the rest of our top 10 Orlando City moments of 2016:
9. Orlando City signs Antonio Nocerino and Julio Baptista.
8. MLS Commissioner Don Garber looks on as the first seats are installed in Orlando City’s new downtown soccer stadium.
7. Orlando City kicks off the Jason Kreis era with a victory over New England.
6. Orlando City dismantles defending champion Portland, 4-1.
4. Orlando City B makes the playoffs on the last day of the season.
3. Frantic finish seals comeback for Orlando City on opening day vs. Real Salt Lake.