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Thoughts From the End Line: How 2017’s Frustration Turns to Excitement for the 2018 Season

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There is only excitement for me now.

The End Line

Why are these thoughts coming from the end line? The answer is very simple: that is where I sit. My friends and I — a group that has been sitting together to watch Orlando City matches dating back to deep into the USL days — enjoy our perch staring straight down the end line right in front of The Wall. They are not the most glamorous seats, they do not get us on TV (even though you may have seen me on the jumbotron trying to get the folks around me to sing “More Than a Feeling” as it resonated throughout the stadium as halftime ended), but we have all come to love the view, and the new friends we have made who got stuck next to us.

As the curtain closed on the tumultuous 2017 season, we at The Mane Land tried to help you understand the gamut of emotions we as fans were all feeling in one way or another by examining the Five Stages of Grief. It has been a little over a month, and from discussions, posts, tweets, and blogs from around the internet, it looks like most of us, myself included, have settled into something other than acceptance as the final stage. As fans, the overwhelming feeling I am gleaning is frustration. It surely has not helped that the USMNT missed its flight to Russia, but the light at the end tunnel may not be a train at all. It could possibly be something great, and maybe, just maybe, we can shed some light on it.

Frustrations

How much of this do we really need to to rehash? Orlando City started so strong, started on such a high, and then once again fell just into the event horizon (for those not familiar, the event horizon is the threshold distance away from a black hole that not even light can escape) and the Lions never seemed to be able to pull themselves back out. OCSC’s preseason acquisitions helped, its mid-season acquisitions helped, but it seemed as though constant injuries, off-pitch issues, and a seemingly random starting XI throughout never allowed to the team to find that full-blown attitude we saw for a few matches.

Trying to discuss all of this added to the frustration at times. When times are bad, everything goes sour, especially peoples’ attitudes. Trying to have civil conversations can easily be derailed by that one friend we all have, blitzing into the chat with hashtags like #lazysoandso and #insertnameout. Someone is bound to come in with some unrealistic video of some player who we can’t afford, vomiting their stats, and screaming about how the club will be $^@$% without this player or that player. I have even been a bit guilty of this at times, and I think we all have.

The Point of Change

For me, this happened just recently. I have been trying to figure out what exactly triggered the change for me. The club roster announcement stung me a bit. I have not been shy about my backing of Antonio Nocerino, and hearing that his option was not exercised was a bit painful. That was the moment of reset for me. I found myself pivoting and looking forward to what may come. I looked at what was left in front of us, and began to envision what the front office may be trying to do.

Change also came in the form of becoming the keyboard cowboy for change. The internet was swarming with negativity, with angst, and with vitriol that was becoming toxic. Reading some of the comments that were being posted eventually made me want to try to bring a ray of sunshine to some peoples’ otherwise toxic lives. Sure, some folks troll just to troll, and that is fine and there is nothing anyone can do to change their minds. I think if we see a dramatic shift in the roster, we make the playoffs, and get to the conference championship, the trolls would still be screaming and yelling and shaking their fists at the sky screaming for someone to be forced from the Ivory Tower and have their head on a pike by sundown.

Excitement

How can you not be excited? Our second season in the new stadium. New additions to the roster are imminent. The pressure is on, and I mean the pressure is on everyone. This fan base is rabid, it is hungry, it is at the boiling point. We need to finally “defy expectations” and I think 2018 is the year we will all bear witness to this. If you paid any attention this season, there were so many lessons to be learned. I will not mention any names, because I do not want that juju on me, but there was a pretty good example set this season on roster building. Can Orlando City learn from this? I am pretty sure notes were taken and extensively reviewed as the season wound down.

The rumors started to fly pretty early this season. Jo Inge Berget from Malmo FF (Yoshi’s previous club) is just one name that has been thrown around. Personally, I love the idea of signing him; I mean, the Lions need all the beards they can get (#beardluck). All beard humor aside, just look at his reels from the past two seasons. Other names — some familiar, some not so familiar — have crept up from the darkest of places, or been linked out of some obscure website that somebody’s brother’s uncle’s sister’s best friend heard about from some bloke at the pub. This is what creates excitement, trying to peer through the smoke and mirrors and reach beyond the internet hyperbole and do our best, with our own personal codex of notes and scribbles, to unravel what the starting XI will look like on day one of 2018.

Just think, Mane Landers, one day we will all be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy a tasty beverage (in case you were wondering, I prefer IPAs or Rye Whiskeys) while we gaze upon the trophy cabinet and say, “do you remember that !#$^ season in 2017 that started so well? Those were trying times, but we learned, and we grew, and we struggled, and we bled, and we picked ourselves up out of the mire of ineptitude, took our destiny in our hands, and forged a dynasty that other clubs emulate, but will never be as good as us. Hey, kid. Get off my lawn!”

All jokes aside, it truly feels like the dark days and growing pains are behind us. We still have holes to fill, but now is the time to do it. The club should have some money to go out and bring in some core pieces to help solidify areas of concern (cough cough attacking midfield cough cough) and set this team up to be successful in 2018. The expectation, ladies and gentlemen, has been reset. Long gone are the days of the USL, although that history will forever be a metric that many of the fans measure the club by. The Lions have three seasons in MLS to be judged upon, which means we can start to group together data and look for trends. They have completed a year at home. If we look at the current expectation, it should not be difficult for the 2018 Lions to not only defy it, but to smash it to pieces on the way up.

This is how I see it from the end line. How are you trying to stay positive about 2018? Leave a comment!