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Our City: OCSC’s 2018 Season, Justin Meram, and the Long View of History

As Orlando City jettisons a key piece of its 2018 roster rebuild, it is history, not our uninformed gut-reactions, that will tell the story in the end.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

This hasn’t been “our season,” has it? After one of the biggest roster rebuilds in MLS history, Orlando City supporters came into the 2018 season with significant expectations. Our predictions hovered between the prospect we’d reach the MLS playoffs and we’d struggle a bit as we worked out the team chemistry with an eye towards the future. It would seem, with 12 games left in the season, we are going to end up trending below even our lowest hopes.

The situation surrounding Justin Meram hasn’t made the season look any better with the off-season acquisition surviving only half a season before being traded back to the Columbus Crew in a period he has called “the worst of his life.” I can’t, and won’t, suppose I fully understand the situation with the Crew’s once and future attacking winger, but none of it seems to shine a positive light on the team and city I love.

My gut reaction is to take Meram’s thoughts on a very personal level, but that would be reactionary. My cerebral reaction is to contextualize this “worst time in his life” as an indictment of some larger problems looming over Orlando City as a club and a community. The mid-season firing of Jason Kreis would certainly lend credence to that.

Pondering all of this on a walk this morning, I’m reminded of some of the theories and thoughts that come from my training and profession as a historian. In the moment we are blinded by emotions and a whirlwind of rumors and pieces of the story, unable to grasp the full breadth or width of the narrative. History, by design, has a long view when it comes to carving up the sources to understand the how and why of events. Many of my colleagues have argued that my study of the 1960s should still be considered “current events” and that history requires an arbitrary hundred years of distance between the scholar and the subject.

I don’t think we need to give Orlando City a hundred years to figure out what this season will mean in the grand scheme of things, but a bit of time will provide some perspective. I know those of us in the stands have shown a significant amount of patience with the Orlando City team and front office, so advocating for taking a long view of this season isn’t a popular idea, especially after James O’Connor was hired with a “win now mentality” by the front office.

On the surface, trading an unhappy player off an underperforming club might be the right move for all involved, but that is where the long view of history comes in. Actions create reactions — unpredictable ones at that. We can’t foresee the future, but perhaps it is better for both Meram and Orlando City after the parting of ways.

O’Connor is still working to define his team, and create his (second) legacy in Orlando. The departure of Meram gives his tenure an early hit, but the long view of history might see this as the turn Orlando City supporters are looking for.