We are one day shy of concluding the second week of 2019, and if anyone has a logical explanation for the manic nature of Orlando City so far this year, please raise your hand and be acknowledged. Just to make sure we are all on the same page, the classic definition of manic that I am referring to is simply frenetically busy and frantic. This is by no means a slight, nor does this imply that everyone’s reaction will be negative, but it certainly is odd behavior that has raised some eyebrows, and questions.
This is certainly not just something isolated to 2019. In the waning moments of 2018, Orlando City went on an absolute news spree:
- Signed forward Benji Michel to a Homegrown Player contract.
- Acquired Danilo Acosta on loan from Real Salt Lake.
- Signed Ecuadorean Jhegson Sebastian Mendez.
- Transferred Yoshimar Yotún to Cruz Azul.
- Received TAM for Joe Bendik.
- Traded Earl Edwards Jr for a second-round draft pick.
- Hired Luiz Muzzi as exectuive vice president of soccer operations.
- Signed goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and defender Kyle Smith from Louisville FC.
- Jeff Radcliffe not coming back as the voice of Orlando City.
These were just the events that took place in the final 14 days of 2018. We could dig back even further, but the better idea would be to compare timelines that are roughly equivalent. For a club that finished in the dregs of MLS, the Lions certainly waited until the last minute to make this many moves. And then the calendar flipped to 2019.
The club still has many holes to fill, areas of depth need to be addressed, and the Lions honestly need to give a sense of positive movement and growth to the faithful masses. Admittedly, a quick glance at the usual suspects when it comes to social media would give anyone pause to continue any further down into the rabbit hole. The comment streams and threads are ripe with negativity and doubt. How has the club responded so far in 2019? It certainly has not imbued anyone with thoughts of rainbows and sunshine if any of the comment sections are to be taken seriously.
Very quickly in 2019, the rumors of the club signing Diego Ribas took off like a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center, only to come crashing down like a Chinese space station, burning up and fracturing in the atmosphere like our collective dreams. The full MLS schedule was finally released, and to what should be a surprise to no one, Orlando City is not going to be on the the national television stage much. For some reason, this seemed to be a surprise to some folks, including a number of people who couldn’t grasp why our rival to the north was getting so much TV time.
Digging into the schedule, it didn’t seem that scary at first glance. In fact, Orlando City has the most difficult schedule of all the MLS teams this season, based on the expected goals for and goals against ratios and last year’s records. Then the news got a bit more focused, and looked as though it was going to open the door to a good bit of Tony Robbins-style motivation.
News was starting to emerge from the combines, interviews with Head Coach James O’Connor and Muzzi were being published, and the SuperDraft was on the horizon, but then came the Orlando Pride. Coming in under the radar, whether on purpose or not, the head coach-less Pride were quickly approaching their own 2019 NWSL College Draft. Just days before, Erik Ustruck was named as the Pride general manager, but there was no formal announcement of who the next coach would be. When the Pride were just about to be on the clock for their pick, what snippet of information is blasted across social media? Here is a hint, below, in the tweets (look at the time stamps)
Maybe it is just me, but I would think that you would want to wait for a more appropriate moment to announce the newest member of the Lions than right before the Pride selects their newest player. Hopefully, this was just a simple mistake, and not anything more. The Ruan signing rumors got a little louder as well.
Then we hit the MLS SuperDraft and Orlando took three players in the first two rounds:
The club is also apparently out of the chase for Diego now, and OCB may be getting a number of young players on loan from our partner Club Athletico Paranaense for OCB, but I haven’t seen too much published on that.
There is certainly a lot going on in the world of Orlando City and its soccer organizations. The first two weeks of 2019 have been, well, I guess you could say interesting. Preseason for the Lions starts in eight days, the Pride still have no “official” coach (although we know who it is), and they haven’t really said too much about OCB. Is this part of some new corporate mandate from the front office? Is this a team trying to simply keep its card close to its chest until it is appropriate to show them? Is this a function of a bit of mass chaos with the amount of change occurring?
Personally, I think this can all be traced to jitters. People are nervous, and rightfully so, as the past three seasons were not kind to this organization or its supporters. This collective group needs some positivity, to know that the light at the end of the tunnel is the playoffs and not the Disney Monorail hurtling towards us with no intention to stop. It also looks like the Lions, as well as OCB, are going to be young! Hopefully that translates to hungry as well.