All right, ladies and gentlemen. Monday night was a tough one for us. FC Dallas put on a show for their hometown fans at the expense of our Orlando City SC Lions to the tune of a 4-0 ass whooping that we won't soon forget.
Y'know, we Mane Land contributors come in various forms. Some of us are seasoned bloggers and journalists, having covered multiple teams and sports across multiple platforms. Some of us are specialists -- knowledgeable soccer minds with a local voice. Some of us are aspiring journalistic professionals, gaining experience in the field and networking every step of the way. Do you know what we all are? Fans. And that's the most disappointing part of a performance like this one.
When you follow a team -- hell, any team -- game by game, minute by minute, that fanhood grows strong. The visceral connection is impossible to ignore, embedding itself deeper and deeper in us all when we share in Kid Fantastic's joyous smile after a scored goal, or The Original's scowl when he feels his teammates aren't reaching his level of intensity.
After a game like that one, you feel that connection strained. It's as though your first born son just shouted, "I hate you!" for the first time. It isn't anger, it isn't disgust. It's the first time you realize that this child -- which you have loved and cared for and encouraged as best you can -- isn't everything you thought it would be.
It is utter, disemboweling disappointment.
Transfer Window Expectations: Given that this was the first league match without Adrian Winter, one thing is certain -- we are now demanding something to get excited about. While that something could come from within the team via development of current players, the more immediate remedy is a purchase in the transfer window.
We can speculate all we want about which players looked good at the Copa, or the Euro, or who we like to play with in FIFA, or who is out of contract. Chances are, whoever is brought in will be totally off our radar as American fans -- though The Mane Land always strives to bring you the latest transfer news.
Let's just hope the moves are a lot more Júlio Baptista than Amobi Okugo.
Servando Carrasco: It isn't easy picking a rising player in this one, but Carrasco will get the nod from me. It took some time, but this guy has totally won me over at this point in his Orlando City career. He's always active defensively, manages to stay in solid position, and he just might be the best passer we have for a midfielder not named Ricky or Kevin. His ability to stretch the defense with the long ball is a unique weapon for this club -- only David Mateos does it better -- and he could find himself with more opportunities moving forward if this is the form our starting midfield finds itself in.
Our Collective Patience: I see this time in Orlando City SC's existence as the ultimate test to the relationship it has forged with this city and this fan base. The honeymoon is over -- Kaká's proneness to injury can no longer be ignored, Brek Shea's performances have not been up to par for Planet Earth's Favorite Left Back, Wee Man would win a header over Tommy Redding, we might as well trot out Gavin Ewbank to play right back, the boys lost to goddamned Fort Lauderdale in a game that few of us with 9-5 jobs and children could watch -- and now we have to decide if we're really, actually in love, or if that flame that had burned oh so hot left no coals from which to resurrect that glorious fire.
When I see this fan base, I see thousands upon thousands of deep burning coals, just waiting for some kindling to spark that fire again. But no coal burns forever without fuel.
The Starting XI: No, I'm not trying to cop out from the duty of picking a player who performed poorly. I'm telling you that 11 men -- Joe Bendik, Luke Boden, David Mateos, Tommy Redding, Kevin Alston, Cristian Higuita, Darwin Cerén, Brek Shea, Kaká, Kevin Molino and Cyle Larin -- played below expectations.
Allow me to be clear about this -- I believe every one of those 11 men is worthy of wearing Orlando City purple. On this night, they wore it poorly. Each one of them.
That 11, on paper, should be good enough to compete for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The last two contests have seen Inchy's boys fall to an NASL club and put forth a performance that couldn't compete for a free bar tab after a beer league game.
That isn't good enough. But these Lions are. Who is ready for them to prove it?