That’s it, fam. Though Orlando City still has a game left this weekend, the season is over. This was my first as a season ticket holder who didn’t miss a match, my first as a Mane Land staff writer, and my first getting attached to the idea that this team could make the playoffs. As the season dies I present to you, the seven stages of grief:
It set in every time Orlando lost or drew one of those “must win games” toward the end of this season. Each time the percentage of opportunity shrank and we watched the playoff line get further and further away. Fans across the club sat in disbelief as we watched week in and week out as the Lions failed to win a match at times when a draw just wasn’t going to cut it.
As the gap for playoffs closed, denial set in. The chance, be it small, was still there. There’s no way Orlando City was going to go another season without making the playoffs — especially not after making club history in the U.S. Open Cup run. Fans and supporters maintained hope and belief that Orlando City could do it this year.
3/4. Anger and Bargaining
Ah, anger and bargaining. A lot of people lived in this stage and might be stuck here at the time of publication. Fans are angry that the club will finish toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference table again. Fans on social media seem angry that the social team continues to post content, but just to be clear it’s their job to stay visible. Comments like, “JOC out,” or gifs of dumpsters on fire flood Twitter. Then there’s the bargaining where you see comments like, “…but we’ve improved so much. This is a better team.” Then anger again when, despite conceding fewer goals and earning more points, it still wasn’t enough.
Here lie those that got off OC Twitter for a little break from the anger, frustration, and disappointment. Your head might be filled with thoughts of “What if?” What if OCSC didn’t lose the lead late in the match so frequently? What if the Lions had finished even half of the chances they created? What if the Lions had Mauricio Pereyra all season? What if Nani hadn’t played a season before entering a full MLS season? What if injuries like those of Joao Moutinho, Cristian Higuita, and Ruan didn’t plague the club? Soon you’ll realize, just as Roald Dahl wrote in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, “You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.”
6. Reconstruction and Working Through
So, it’s time to pick up the pieces and rebuild. What does that look like for a club that underwent major changes last off season? Is it the coaching staff? Our very own David Rohe puts the argument for/against James O’Connor on the table. Who and what needs to change so this club can finally find success? Only time will tell, but it doesn’t seem like lack of passion or heart is the problem. I think everyone wants to be here, there just seems to be some mental barriers the guys need to work through. The winning mentality must start at the whistle and continue through the 90+ minutes, rather than chasing a win after they go down. In theory, our guys should have a huge advantage over visitors when playing in hot and humid conditions at home, when they train in it regularly! Six wins at home was never going to get the job done.
We must accept that the season is over. Sure, the Lions have a match to play this weekend against the Chicago Fire, but it will lead to much of nothing. As we accept the defeat of another season, perhaps we’ll have the opportunity to see the Lions play a little more freely, have some fun, and just maybe close out the season we’re ready to leave behind with a win at home.
Was it a pretty season? No, no it was not, but this season was at least entertaining to watch unfold. We had high hopes and genuine reasons to get excited and celebrate the small wins of the season. What say you, Mane Landers? What stage of grief are you stuck in right now? There’s a light at the end of that tunnel, one that gives our blood pressure a break from the Cardiac Cats.