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State of The Mane Land: A Look Back at 2017 and Ahead to 2018

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As the calendar turns to 2018, let’s take a last look over our shoulders at the year that was.

Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Another year has come and gone, constant readers, and as we complete three full calendar years at SB Nation, there’s a lot to look back and reflect on over the course of 2017.

Our coverage continues unabated, although our staff has shrunk to dangerously low levels. I’m thankful to have a terrific staff of writers, editors, and photographers who keep this machine running no matter how many people move on due to life or opportunity. For the second consecutive year, we lost some of our longest tenured writers and although we brought in some unique and talented voices, we will certainly feel the loss of those who have moved on to the next chapter in their lives. That’s blog life for you.

I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish in 2017. Despite a dwindling staff (seriously, where are all the writers in this area?) we were at most of the 2017 Florida Cup matches, covered the 2017 NWSL final, the 2017 Women’s College Cup, the USMNT World Cup qualifier, all three of the OCSC teams’ home games and a couple of road matches. We didn’t have many draft picks, but we still had someone at the MLS and NWSL drafts in 2017. From the opening of the new stadium, to the Pride clinching its first playoff spot, to Kaká’s swan song, and beyond, it was quite a ride.

I never expected we’d have to write about multiple arrests this season but I think we handled the stories fairly. Hopefully we won’t have to do that ever again. That’s the tough part of covering your favorite sports team — it’s not all goals and wins.

I’m proud that we did 39 episodes of the Mane Land PawedCast in 2017 and had a special guest for 37 of those. And we’re not talking scrubs here. We had Jason Kreis and Anthony Pulis twice each, Tom Sermanni, Jonathan Spector, Ali Krieger, and Orlando City GM Niki Budalic. We had five Orlando City players, eight Orlando Pride players and five OCB players. We had former USL Lions Brad Rusin and Miguel Gallardo, too. It was a fun year on the PawedCast.

As part of my annual check-in, I want to acknowledge a hard-working staff that did its best to keep me sane and get me a few hours of sleep this past year. I’ll start with those who have gone on to what we hope will be greener pastures.

Austin David was the fifth person I brought on board when I was still running The Mane Land on a free Wordpress site. He came aboard in November of 2014 and wrote more than 300 pieces at TML. Austin was a jack of all trades who provided feature stories, coverage of live events, helped put together video and graphics, and his absence is like missing a limb — he’s not here anymore but I still feel his presence. I was thrilled that he got a great opportunity with Orlando City’s social team in August and he took his stories to the club’s website. He also continues to look at expanding his broadcasting career and we wish him well.

Gavin Ewbank was even more prolific than Austin, even though he didn’t join us until June of 2015. No one has covered Orlando City in as many places for us as Gavin has. With more than 400 stories written for TML, only I have more bylines in the history of this site. Gavin traveled to D.C. and Atlanta to cover games this past season and after the season he caught on with Soccer by Ives. Gav’s willingness to cover live events was unsurpassed. He had a long drive in for Orlando City games, but he also covered road games in New York City, and caught the Lions in Jacksonville and some Florida Cup matches over in St. Pete.

Other staff members who moved on this past year include Pride fan Meg VanDyk, who left in February, talented photographer Austin Warren, whose busy schedule prevented his participation this year, and social media manager Tiffani Hubbert left in January and I’ve been doing all our Facebook posts ever since!

We also said goodbye to copy editor Bryan Nelson, who took over the SBN Newcastle blog; writer Adam Dupere, who was with us seven months; and shorter-term staff writers Braeden Mueller, Alfredo Martinez, Daniel Turcios, Dan Garza, Jonathan Foreman, Ben Sundock, Bill Johnson, Ryan Nagel, Mike Spillane, and Matt Clark — who left us to take over SBN’s Inter Milan blog. I personally want to thank young Alex Mohr, a high school kid who was turning into an all-star editor and writer for us who had to give us up due to time constraints.

Oh, and Andrew Harrison rejoined us back in June and left us for the second time in September. Dammit.

But enough about goodbyes. We also had some wonderful hellos as well. Chief among those is Kevin Mercer, who rejoined us in February and brought his popular ‘Our City’ column back to the TML lineup. I couldn’t be happier than to welcome Kevin back to our pages. Other knowledgeable and unique voices to join us this year included Ben Miller, Brandon Turton, and of course, the bearded guy. They all bring something different to the staff and I’m enjoying their contributions (and I hope you are, too).

As always, I’m indebted to and thankful for editors Scott Crumbly and Marcus Mitchell, senior columnist Sean Rollins, and writers Guilherme Torres, Scott Carnevale, and Logan Oliver. No, I didn’t forget Dave Rohe, I simply wanted to give him a special shout-out for making it through an entire year of co-hosting the podcast with me.

Our ambitions remain high, and, as always, only our staff limitations prevent us reaching even higher highs. We’d still love to find more Pride writers to give the NWSL side the same coverage we’ve been giving the MLS guys (previews, grades, five takeaways, etc.). We would love more international coverage of our players. And we’d like to do more video stuff. We’re also hoping to host a TML tailgate at some point this year for our writers and readers to get together and say hi.

In closing, I’d like to once again thank every one of our readers, especially those hearty few who take the time to leave us feedback in the comments section. We appreciate your time. It’s you who make us one of SB Nation’s most popular MLS sites and we are thankful you choose to spend your time on our site. Please continue to provide feedback in the comments section at the bottom of our stories. Your ideas are always welcome. Let us know what we’re doing well and what you’d like to see more of.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, I apologize. As always, blame it on old guy brain.

Thanks for a wonderful 2017. Bring on 2018!

Michael Citro
Managing Editor