Our City is a weekly column dedicated to the culture surrounding Orlando City, MLS, and the American soccer landscape.
Orlando City treated the crowd on hand Saturday afternoon to a cocktail of equal parts frustration, relief, and excitement as the Lions bested the New York Red Bulls for their first win of the season. The Orlando City Twitter-verse and article comment sections were a divided selection of elation over the club finally getting the win with a near to first-choice lineup on the field to a chorus of cynicism over Orlando’s struggles on the defensive end.
Personally, I’m siding with those celebrating. I don’t believe in perfect wins, especially in a league purpose-built to always provide competitive matches week in and week out. Many naysayers were quick to charge that New York, in anticipation of its midweek Concacaf Champions League match-up against Guadalajara, rested its usual starters. Echoing every manager ever, you can only play against the team that lines up against you.
The second-choice lineup gave former Orlando City players Aurélien Collin, Tommy Redding, and Carlos Rivas a chance to square off with their former club. While the Orlando City that Collin played for is a distant memory, Rivas and Redding are recent departures who will both be a little disappointed to not get a win over their former club.
Somewhere in the midst of the seven-goal affair, I found myself getting sentimental about Rivas and Redding. Both players were expected to be cornerstones of Orlando’s first MLS build. Both struggled to find consistent playing time under two different coaches and only ever showed flashes of their potential. Redding was a personal favorite — a player who had a number of very good games in purple. He’s a player I’ll always track and hope he does well.
Watching Rivas play again was where my emotions became mixed. Maybe all my thoughts are best summarized in that feeling of running into an old ex who had all the potential to be your everything, but in the end, just wasted a lot of your time. It wasn’t anger, more just a feeling of why did I ever try so hard to back this player?
While my thoughts bounced between former players, Orlando’s rebooted squad started to gel here and there right before my eyes. Why look back unless that’s where you want to go, right? The future is now for Orlando City and it’s slowly coming together. Dom Dwyer played well despite still coming back from injury, Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram are connecting in the midfield, while I’m still dreaming about some of those Josué Colmán runs. As a glass-half-full person, there’s still a lot of season left and a lot to like about Orlando City’s chances to make a lot of noise this season.
That positivity is buoyed by a look down the schedule, with three of the next five games at home, and all five being against favorable opponents. Nothing is automatic in MLS, and I certainly have no disrespect for the Portland Timbers, Philadelphia Union, San Jose Earthquakes, Real Salt Lake, or Colorado Rapids, but I like Orlando’s chances against the competition.
Then again, a stiff cocktail of equal parts patience and faith with a splash of luck might be required for the next few months.
How did you feel about Orlando City’s first win? What did you think of Redding’s and Rivas’ return to Orlando? How do you see the next five games looking for the Lions?