I love all sports, but soccer is my first love. I grew up playing the game every day as a child. I played through high school, soccer wasn't as mainstream back then as it is now. So the thought of a future in soccer never crossed my mind.
I played the game for love, not because I thought there was a future in it. I legitimately believe soccer is the best sport in the world. In my opinion, it’s a sport that everyone can enjoy. It doesn't require freakish size or strength to excel like basketball and football. If someone has the will power to be great, they can in soccer. There is a reason that it is the world's game.
Unfortunately, the United States still doesn't view soccer in the same light that the rest of the world does. Even though it has increased in popularity, it is still a niche sport in the United States. I have been an interested observer every step of the way as soccer, and Major League Soccer (MLS) in particular, have grown in the United States over the years.
Originally, I wasn’t a big fan of MLS, and I didn't follow the league closely. I was more drawn to the international competitions and players. As a former player I loved seeing the game played at the highest level. But it wasn't just the purity of the game that attracted me to European soccer.
I loved the style that the international soccer stars possessed. That style wasn't just demonstrated off the field, but on the field as well. So, over the years, I began following specific players like Brazilians Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, and France’s Thierry Henry. Following those players eventually exposed me to different clubs, leagues, and players. As those players aged, I found the new 'hot' younger players to follow. After some years, I found that I had a comprehensive knowledge of all the major players and clubs in Europe.
Henry was my favorite player growing up, so when he signed with the New York Red Bulls, I started showing a greater interest in MLS. It was around the same time that Orlando City SC was formed with dreams of bringing an MLS franchise to Orlando.
As a sports lover, I felt an obligation to support my hometown team, but I was skeptical. The public seems to bear the cost of new stadiums, and I questioned how popular the team would ever be. I was resigned to the fact that soccer would never be big in the United States.
But as I researched the leadership group, I realized that something special was going on. The brain trust of Orlando City SC came from the UK and Brazil. That cemented my belief in the franchise because soccer has a greater significance in other countries.
As I watched the moves that Orlando City SC was making, I saw the commitment to not only winning, but growing the game as well. The organization has put its money where its mouth is.
The team signed Kakà to the highest salary in MLS. They financed their own stadium. They tried to bring Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez in. The organization is sparing no expense to try to bring a winner to Orlando. As a resident of Orlando, I appreciate that. I believe sports franchises shape the narrative of the city, and Orlando City SC is changing the view of Orlando worldwide.
The excitement that Orlando City SC brought to the city of Orlando is tangible. People who were not even sports fans are supporting the team. The energy of the fans and level of support has impressed everyone. Orlando was always a sleeping giant, and Orlando City SC woke us up.
Something special is going on, and I wanted to be a part of it. I have always wanted to share my knowledge and love of the soccer. The time is right. The Mane Land is giving me that platform to cover my hometown team. It doesn’t get any better than that.