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Our City: Still Looking for That Off-Season Imagination in Orlando

As clubs around MLS look to retool their rosters for the 2018 campaign, things still feel a bit too quiet in the City Beautiful.

MLS: FC Dallas at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

You may have noticed the “city” aspect of my “Our City” column has been absent as of late. With the exception of a column on the charity friendly between Orlando City and Puerto Rico, I haven’t written about the club since September. The American soccer crisis attached to the U.S. Men’s National Team not qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and various aspects of Major League Soccer have covered up the fact that there hasn’t been much to say about the boys in purple.

With the MLS Cup playoffs now concluded, the season cycle of American soccer is now renewed. A plethora of drafts and transfer windows now greet our social media feeds as teams from around MLS now work to rekindle the dreams of supporters for another season of hope. Clubs around the league are gearing up for a 2018 run, be it Toronto re-signing its championship core, Columbus looking for that extra spark, LAFC looking to build a full roster, or Atlanta just buying…well everybody.

While general managers and coaches will argue this period is all about strategy and finding “pieces” for elaborate tactical puzzles of player relationships and compatibility, for the supporters this is a time for dreaming. In a league as competitive as MLS, every team is a potential champion in December.

Well, most teams at least. Orlando City seems to have gone into a long hibernation. Transfer rumors and done deals are flying around the league, now flush with increased allotments of TAM and GAM, are sparking the imaginations of club supporters right now. League pundits and observers are falling all over themselves to prematurely award trophies to every team that makes a dynamic move. Nobody is talking about Orlando City. Our club isn’t even in the conversation.

We’ve been promised up to 12 new signings this off-season, as the club has heralded a new rebuilding project, to create a team that will mirror coach Jason Kreis’ tactical ambitions — words that sound oddly familiar to the language the front office used for last off-season’s rebuilding project.

If you have been anywhere near the Orlando City Twitter-verse or Facebook groups, you will know the club’s most vocal supporters are in the midst of a full-blown revolt. Despite a promise of new players and a plea for patience from Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao, the path from Orlando International Airport to the clubs front offices have not been tread upon.

We all understand that transfers happen behind closed doors, we know that ambitious agents have used Orlando City in the past to get better contracts for players at their current club, and we know there are dozens of clubs working against us on every transfer. The unrest in Orlando’s support isn’t asking for miracles, just a bit of something to fuel our imaginations.

As we work to pay off our season ticket packages, begin to plan which away games we’ll be traveling for, and wrap $120 replica jerseys for our loved ones to place under the Christmas tree, we want something to spark our passions. You don’t have to promise us a trophy; just sign a player, any player, that might give us a chance at one. We’ve stayed loyal during three seasons of mediocrity and the calls for patience during the inevitable off-season rebuild.

The obvious rebuttal, the one I’ve read during the back-and-forth exchanges on social media, is to say “trust the process” or less politely “stop whining and get over it.” Rationally, I get that. Emotionally, as a passionate supporter of my hometown club, I want to see the club engage in a rebuild that feels imaginative and inspired. So far it just feels far too quiet.