I’m sitting here waiting for my friends to gather at my house so we can make our way downtown to the stadium to watch Orlando City kick off their fourth Major League Soccer campaign. My friends and I are old pros at this, we’ve been doing it since the earliest of the Lions’ USL days. Still, this year feels different. I’m sure it feels different for you and yours this season as well.
That feeling has everything to do with anticipation. After jettisoning nearly every key piece that has driven the club through three seasons of entertaining mediocrity, the Budalic-Kreis reset has sparked the imagination of fans and pundits alike. While the media have various opinions of our chances this year, you can feel the raw excitement of the Orlando City support. Social media has been active with potential roster builds and fans connecting with the players who will carry our dreams this season. Something feels really different in Orlando this year, you can’t argue that.
After a 2017 campaign that left the Orlando support feeling beat up and disheartened, a bit of excitement is exactly what we need. Last season, to me, was defined by embarrassing losses to Miami in the U.S. Open Cup and to upstarts Atlanta United. It was defined by a succession of off-field incidents that put the club we love in a bad light. By the time the Lions let the Philadelphia Union use them as practice dummies in a 6-1 loss, we’d all had just enough disappointment for one season.
The Orlando City front office and Jason Kreis read the mood of fans correctly when they realized we needed something entirely new. What we’d seen, or some retooled version of it, wasn’t going to suffice.
So, sitting here waiting to head up to the stadium, I want to hold this one beautiful feeling of anticipation. None of us know where this season will go and where it will end. What glories, challenges, or failures we will experience and endure in 2018, but right now it doesn’t matter. This moment, watching out the front window, waiting for my friends to arrive, is perfect.
When you read this, Orlando City will have won, lost, or drawn. The season will be real and all the strategizing and off-season work will start to show its successes and shortcomings. With any massive overhaul, a little patience can go a long way. Things may not immediately click. Every well-oiled machine was a just a blueprint and a bit of hope at one point.
For right now, in these last few moments of the pre-season, a bit of hope is all I need.
How did you feel before kickoff? Is there a buzz among your family, friends, crew, or mates this season? Let us know how opening day went for you!