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State of The Mane Land: A Look Back at 2018 and Ahead to 2019

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As the calendar turns to 2019, let’s take a last look over our shoulders at the year that was.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year to all of our faithful longtime readers, and those who have recently stumbled across our site. We here at The Mane Land have just completed four full calendar years at SB Nation, and there’s a lot for us to look back and reflect on over the course of 2018.

The past year was a challenging one for fans of Orlando City SC, but perhaps more so for those of us who had to keep putting disappointing results behind us and bringing you the stories worth bringing. At times we might have devolved a bit into more straight news regurgitation rather than context or analysis because it was soul-suckingly dark for much of 2018. The Pride missed the playoffs with a roster full of international stars and the Lions had a disastrous year, firing another coach and a GM and somehow failing to make proper use of All-Star caliber players, one of which was shipped back to his previous team.

But through it all, our outstanding (yet small) staff of writers sucked it up and found a way to push aside their desire to break things long enough to tell the story of Orlando City SC. I want to thank our entire team for their hard work and for donating their free time to wallow in the misery of 2018’s awfulness.

This machine keeps going thanks to the efforts of our small group of writers, editors, and photographers. I was kept running like crazy throughout the year as we had our fewest applications of any calendar year so far. If you like to talk soccer, you might also like to write about it and here’s how you can:

As few of us as there are — and there are fewer than ever before since our earliest days — I’m proud that we were able to break some stories this year. It’s not something that we necessarily emphasize, but it means that our group is making solid and long-lasting relationships by doing things the right way.

We welcomed back our historian, Kevin Mercer, last year but he again hung up his keyboard on blogging in November (at least until I can coax him back). I love Kevin’s passion and his interesting and uncommon perspective and I already miss his writing on our site. We said goodbye to Brandon Turton back in September and to Logan Oliver in December. I appreciated their contributions more than they will ever know or than I could possibly express. Ethan Smith and David Gray both joined us in 2018 and both left us. David only hung around a few months but Ethan was here from February until September.

We welcomed aboard Alek Pierce back in March and he’s still going strong with a Lion Links column every week. I’d love to get more features from him and hopefully his 2019 schedule will allow for that.

Once again we were at most of the Florida Cup matches in 2018, covered the Lions and the Pride with a presence at every home game, and added coverage of the return of OCB and the newest team in the area, the MASL’s Orlando SeaWolves. We were excited too infrequently, but the six-game Orlando City winning streak and the announcement of the 2019 MLS All-Star Game coming here were highlights.

Thankfully, the Mane Land PawedCast had the same pairing of hosts in 2018, though I’d gladly hand off the reins as crazy busy as I’ve been. I’m proud that Dave and I were able to get some fantastic guests in 2018, including Kyle Martino, Niki Budalic, Paul Tenorio, Paul Shaw, assistant coaches Miles Joseph and Daniel Byrd, SeaWolves coach Tom Traxler, and Steven Short of USL League One. We also had six Orlando Pride players and seven Orlando City players. I apologize for a lack of guests in recent months. That’s on me. I got a bit burned out while working a regular job, running this site, and trying to both sell and buy a house. I’ll do better.

As always, I’m indebted to and thankful for editors Scott Crumbly and Marcus Mitchell, who help me edit the copy here. None of us are perfect but we ain’t bad, usually. Big thanks to senior columnists Sean Rollins, David Rohe, and Scott Carnevale. These are the “big three” of guys who usually are able to grab breaking news stories during working hours and Scott grabbed the reins with our Pride coverage in 2018.

I also want to give a shout-out to writers Guilherme Torres, Ben Miller, our bearded guy, and the above mentioned Alek Pierce. Thanks for all you do for this place and for your unique voices. All of you traveled at some point to bring us stories from the world of soccer. A special shout goes to reader Jack McAwesome, who volunteered to step in and provide Orlando Pride player grades in 2018 and helped with some of our season in review ratings as well. Jack did such a good job I wish he’d join us in a more permanent way because he was, well, McAwesome!

We still want to give the NWSL side the same coverage we’ve been giving the MLS guys (previews, grades, five takeaways, etc.) and we got closer to that this year but we must do more and we will need some more help to do that. We would love to add video features and more gifs to our coverage. My ambition to host a TML tailgate in 2018 was educational. I got some club buy-in and did some outreach and came close to getting it organized but realized it was a bigger job than I’d thought if we were going to do it right. It’s definitely something I want to pull the trigger on in 2019.

In closing, I’d like to once again thank every one of our fantastic TML readers, especially those who take the time to leave us feedback in the comments section and have discussions that make this more a community than a website. You continue to make us one of SB Nation’s most popular MLS sites and we are thankful you choose to spend your time here. 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.

Thanks for putting up with all that we were forced to write about in 2018. We hope to bring you a lot happier content in 2019.

Michael Citro
Managing Editor