After a late surge Orlando topped the Brazillian side Bahia 6-1--it was a showing that many can be proud of. There were moments where Orlando looked like a team ready to take that next step within MLS and become a team that is expected to reach the playoffs. However, at other moments, the team looked out of sync. This was just a friendly, and the season doesn't start until next week.
Speaking of the start of the season I cannot help but notice how slow and uneventful the buildup has been. Knowing the same first-year-in-MLS feeling was never going to be replicated, there was still hope for a buildup that was comparable in some fashion. This year, when talking at the water cooler, there does not seem to be same type of fervor that existed before the start of the 2015 season.
It could just be that this is another year in MLS--but that doesn't speak well for the long-term branding for the club. It could also be tied to an issue with the club's marketing campaign and strategy, which seems to be a bit more explanatory than just a ho-hum attitude about the second year in MLS.
Let's talk about what was expected this year. We have another week filled with activity to drive the #fillthebowlagain campaign but it seems to be a little late coming, it also seems to be bereft of depth. Where last year the city of Orlando stood up to paint the town and create activities that engaged the city and its inhabitants with this growing culture of soccer, this year it seems to be taken for granted, almost as if they expect something from the city rather than reaching out to drive us to action. Also, does it seem like this year there are not as many magnets around town? Maybe it is just old weary eyes but there seems to be less passion for Orlando that expected romping around the City Beautiful.
To describe this underlying feeling that seems to be gripping the most ardent of supporters needs only one word: underwhelmed. That is how I, as a fan--as a member of the Orlando City culture--feel towards the start of this season. Could it be a combination of hoping for too much and finding not what was expected? Of course, but maybe it is a lack of effort or understanding from the side of Orlando City itself. When a club grows to now encompass not just an MLS team but also an NWSL and USL side as well, then most would expect the staff to grow in commensurate, but that does not seem to be the case.
Hopefully this concern is something that is alleviated in the future as Orlando continues to grow and understand the process and the work that it takes to run not just an MLS side but also the NWSL and USL levels. Maybe in the future we will see more continued engagement across the board and it has just not started yet. Concerning, though, is the idea that last year at the launch of the Orlando City MLS campaign there was a feeling of belonging, tied to the introduction of the Society XXI, that not only had myself but also others feeling as if they were a part of a new culture that was being built. This year, however, there has barely been a word spoken about the Society XXI and it almost seems like there was a relaunch of what we were expecting into something we still do not understand.
Yes, the team won last night and did so in pretty awesome fashion, but that doesn't mask the feeling of uncertainty and disappointment I've had so far this preseason. Maybe it's just me, but maybe not. Hopefully the club can turn it around soon.