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Our City: Changing Orlando City’s Conversation

As Orlando City’s off-season enters its opening scene, the club is subtly changing the conversation.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Fictional television ad man Don Draper famously reminded companies who brought a damaged brand to their firm, “If you don’t like what people are saying about you, change the conversation.” This past MLS season, nobody has liked what people have said about Orlando City. As the off-season gets underway for the Lions, you can feel those early ideas of new conversations occurring.

Earlier this week, the club’s reborn OCB squad announced two signings, both teenagers, both with youth national team credentials. Later in the week the club announced that it had forged links with perennial Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg. This link will see the clubs sharing resources, strategy, and players for both their men’s and women’s teams.

None of these moves change the horrible season only slightly in our rearview mirror now, and certainly none of it prepares Orlando City to do anything but continue to struggle next season, but they do change the conversation. The mood, one I might add has been fueled by the pessimism of our friends and fellow supporters, has been bleak, dark, and negative.

While I can’t argue against it, some of the posts one reads on social media paint our Lions as a dying patient with no hope for resuscitation, or a hexed pariah that may not play games beyond 2020, much less ever bring another quality player here in a transfer. Of course, this is the talk of frustrated fans making exaggerated statements for clicks and likes. These small moves towards the future this week change that conversation.

Another change to the conversation this week featured one of Orlando City’s founders, Kay Rawlins, in a great roundtable discussion of women in soccer. MLS host Susannah Collins facilitated the riveting 25 minutes in which Rawlins represented the club with her trademark grace and passion for the club and the game. In a front office with a lot of questions from the supporters, Rawlins remains a powerful ambassador with credentials stretching back into the club’s USL glory days.

While the focus was women in soccer, having one of the club’s best representatives front and center in such a discussion can only help the club’s image and continue to change the conversation about the club.

Don’t misread me, these small early off-season events are only the start of what needs to be a long new discussion that changes the way the league and its own fans see Orlando City. They need to improve the core, re-sign the players that have earned it, and fill the gaps that are prevalent across the squad. But, as someone who passionately watches these events, it feels more like the club I know Orlando City to be, and I’m glad someone is taking Don Draper’s advice and finally changing the conversation.