For the past six years Luke Boden has been a key player for Orlando City, but the veteran left back will no longer be wearing purple. After the 2016 season, Boden’s contract option was declined, and many fans were hoping that it was just to restructure his contract. However, Bodz will be joining the in-state rival Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Although there were reportedly options for Boden to stay in MLS, he decided to stay close to his family and home by moving less than 100 miles west. Typically, a player leaving a club and going to a rival team would be disheartening to fans, but Boden is a different story. Luke has been one of the best servants to Orlando City and he will not be hated nor forgotten.
Boden signed with Orlando City in 2011 when the club was still in the USL PRO. Playing in the USL, Boden was a staple for the Lions. He was a top player in the league and his ability to get up the field and provide service to the attackers made Orlando City’s left side a threat to every team the Lions faced. In four years in USL Pro, Boden scored four goals and added 15 assists in 82 appearances.
When Orlando City started building an MLS roster Boden was a no-brainer to be on the team, and he went on to make 45 appearances, scoring one goal and adding seven assists. He was by no means a star defender in the top league, but he was a solid member of a weak defense and the best option at left back for most of the past two years.
For all of these reasons fans loved Boden, but it was off-the-field reasons that fans, coaches, and players alike rallied around the Englishman. In late March 2016, Boden’s son was diagnosed with a rare eye disorder called Nystagmus. While his son went through surgery, the entire City of Orlando seemed to join in on the fight and everyone was there for the Boden family.
“It was just amazing the support we got, and it made it so much easier,” Boden said about the support from the city to the Orlando Sentinel.
This is just another reason why his move to Tampa is not looked down upon, but instead should be applauded. Bodz had an opportunity to continue playing in MLS, but he put his family before his personal ambitions and a bigger paycheck. When thinking of what it means to be a Lion, Boden is the ideal candidate. He gave everything he had for his team and never lost heart, even in the roughest of times.
In an Instagram post Boden bade farewell to the city of Orlando:
“Thank you for the last 6 years Orlando. I've met and played with some amazing people and done some very special things that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you for all your support over the years. I will never forget my time here.”
Saying goodbye to Boden is more difficult than most players. Through all the change, good and bad, which Orlando City has gone through he made it out alive. He helped Orlando City win championships in USL PRO and become a competitive MLS team. He gave his all to his teammates and to the fans.
The next time Tampa Bay visits Orlando in an I-4 Derby, Boden will return home and receive a hero’s welcome. I’d like to personally thank Bodz, for defining what it means to be a Lion and helping create Orlando City as it is today.