Before the final whistle of the 2-2 draw, before Seb Hines’ opening goal in the 66th minute, before the stoppage of play in the 49th minute to remember the 49 that lost their lives in the night club shooting last week, and before the pre-game tributes, Orlando spent a week coming together, mourning, and preparing to come back stronger than the community has ever been. Saturday night, Orlando City capped off an emotional week for everybody involved.
"I think it was an incredible evening for the city, for this football club, for the game in general; and for everything that’s happened this week," said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the match. "It’s been a really emotional, emotionally draining week for everybody connected with the football club and I thought the players responded really well. And you know, I think it’s been a great evening for Orlando; not the football club, just Orlando as a city. I think our supporters -- I always say they never cease to amaze me and they’ve done it again this evening and I’m just sorry that we couldn’t give them the victory they needed, that they wanted."
Not every player has ties to Orlando, and not every player has been in this city long enough to call it home, but each and every one of them knows what it meant to the city and the fans.
"We knew what we had to do to win and we played our hearts out tonight and we know what it meant for the fans to get the three points for them," said defender Seb Hines, who’s been with Orlando City since the team’s MLS debut last season. "We can only do our part and we tried everything to get the win today. It’s difficult to not get the win, but we have to look at the positives we keep our beat."
"We really wanted to win, not just for us but for the fans," forward Julio Baptista added. "And the team really did come out and play better during the second half but now we just have to start preparing for the next game."
Sports will always be a solace from the outside world, and for a little over two hours, the club was about to provide that solace to the more than 37,000 in attendance, and many, many more watching from home. And it’s because of nights like Saturday that Orlando City is starting to become as much a part of Orlando as the fans are to Orlando City.
"This community is part of the DNA of the team and this only gives us more reason to push forward and win," Heath said. "We have the best support in the league and we owe it to them to have something."
Regardless of what happens from here on out, Orlando is forever united.