Major League Soccer released the full schedule for the 2017 season last week. With it in hand, we now know when, where, and who Orlando City SC will play during the next several months and are able to properly plan to follow the Lions on the journey to their first ever playoff appearance.
If you are a die-hard fan, you will probably want to watch each of the club’s 34 matches in the regular season — and you are absolutely right to do so. However, as soccer fans, we know that some games are just more appealing than others, even though all of them are worth the same three points in the standings.
With a brand new and modern stadium ready to be inaugurated and two expansion franchises joining the League, the 2017 season promises to bring a handful of remarkable moments to Orlando City and its passionate fans over the course of the next months. Join us and take note of five matches you will not want to miss this year:
March 5 — vs. New York City FC
Season openers are always special. Add to it the excitement of playing for the first time ever in a brand new stadium, which will be your home for the foreseeable future. That is what Orlando City will experience against New York City FC, as the team will inaugurate its downtown stadium on its first MLS match of 2017. With 18,000 season tickets sold out, it is safe to assume that all the 25,500 seats will be occupied when the Lions see the field for the first time this year.
If that was not enough, there are some additional interesting storylines to follow, as the fact that the teams met in their first ever MLS match in 2015, as well as the match-up between two of the most prolific scorers in the league and Jason Kreis coaching against the team he helped to build. That will be a night to remember.
May 27 — at Minnesota United
Facing an MLS expansion franchise for the first time is always part of a team’s story. This moment is even more meaningful if you were in the exact same position two years earlier, playing your very first match in the league. But, believe me, that is not the most interesting part of this game.
When the Lions play against Minnesota United at TCF Bank Stadium, they will be going against former Head Coach Adrian Heath, who left the club last summer after eight years with Orlando City and is now leading the Loons. Heath recently reiterated he never agreed with his firing and his exit was not well received by a part of the Lions fan base. Odds are things will be very emotional when he meets the team for the first time.
June 21 — at Seattle Sounders
Playing the defending MLS champions is always intriguing. It is a nice opportunity to evaluate how good you are and it brings that feeling that if you beat them, you have every right of dreaming of the MLS Cup.
Even though Orlando has a poor record against the Sounders, being beaten by them both times the teams met in MLS, the Lions can be proud of their history against defending MLS champions, as they annihilated the Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-0, in 2015 and crushed the Portland Timbers, 4-1, last season. Let’s see what happens this time.
July 30 — at Atlanta United
In 2017, Orlando City will have the privilege of inaugurating not only one, but two new MLS stadiums. The Lions will face expansion franchise Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the first sporting event at the club’s brand new billion dollar stadium.
This is a match-up with the potential to evolve into a local rivalry, considering the proximity of the two states in the south of the country. It’s also fun to notice that while Orlando City has Brazilian ownership and directors, Atlanta United has been built under a massive Argentinean profile, thanks to head coach Gerardo Martino. Interesting.
Oct. 22 — at Philadelphia Union
The last day of the regular season, also known as Decision Day, has recently brought bad memories to Orlando City, as the club failed to make the playoffs on its two seasons in MLS. If this year the story ends differently, it would absolutely be a day to be remembered in the future.
However, the match against the Union can also be historic if the Lions do not advance to the postseason. Currently playing on the last year of his contract, Lions captain Kaká recently said he plans to extend his stay in Florida and the club seems to think the same way. However, a new deal has not been reached, so this could be his final match in a Lion uniform if he ultimately decides to move on. Good or bad, this will be a special day for Orlando City.