Mane Landers, we are only eight days from the Orlando City home opener match against New York City FC. Eight days! After teasing us with two fun matches during the Orlando City Invitational and taking home the trophy, eight days seems like an excruciatingly long time until we see our starting 11.
Maybe you’re a season ticket member who never misses a match, maybe you buy a handful of single-game tickets here and there, or just maybe you’re toying with the idea of attending your first ever match — or you know someone who is. For some of you, this information won’t be new, but your wisdom on all the things I leave out is welcome for newbies in the comments.
Before the Match: Head Downtown Early
The March 2 match will kick off at 2:30 p.m. at Orlando City Stadium and heading downtown well before the match is worth it. I like to park at the SunTrust Center and make the trek. It’s only $12 to park and all the restaurants and bars along the way are filled with fans, food, and fun. You’ll see yard pong and beanbag toss in the streets and you’ll have plenty of time to grab a drink or a bite to eat at Lion’s Pride, the official OCSC restaurant, while you pick up licensed gear from their shop.
Once you arrive at the stadium, there’s a street party. Do we need more of the free items? Some say no, but who doesn’t love another free item that prominently features our crest? Street vendors and food trucks line the street to entertain fans before the gates open and many of the vendors have games you can play for prizes, ranging from high-fives to gift cards. Getting there early affords you the opportunity to take in the beauty that is the supporter groups as they march to the stadium, purple smoke and all. Seriously, if you’ve never seen the march in, you have to.
Make sure to visit the Den, as it has everything OCSC, including hats, jerseys, scarves, magnets, key chains and the essential clear bags. You can also pick up the game day poster, each of which is unique to that day’s match and is only sold on game days. They’re $5 and the money goes directly to the Orlando City Foundation. This is one of my favorites from last season:
Here’s a note if it’s your first time: Something I listened to someone complain about at the last invitational game (ad nauseum) was the clear bag policy. Listen, it’s posted everywhere, they send you an email before each match, and they mean it. You cannot bring your purse in. Don’t try to or you’ll leave upset. I’m here for it. It’s all an effort to keep us safe and you can win the clear bags at the aforementioned street party.
During the Match: Explore
Gates open an hour prior to kickoff, so once you’re in, take the time to explore. I made the mistake of going right to my seat and grabbing snacks from the closest concession stand. It wasn’t until I had won seats for a July match that I discovered the stadium serves Dippin’ Dots. It seems trivial, but I worked in a small movie theater through high school and college and have had my fill of popcorn.
Various snacks aren’t the only reason to go exploring. I knew after my first match I wanted season tickets, but didn’t know where I wanted them. “The Wall” clearly has the most fun, but for someone riddled with as much anxiety as me, it’s not a realistic option. I went to multiple sections and sat in different seats to see what views made my top choices and what sections would be out of the running.
There are so many beautiful walls all around the stadium that are perfect for photo opportunities. Additionally, OCSC had a “Bring the Noise” background set up for photos as well and the detail that some of these artists put into the murals are stunning. It’s such a beautiful stadium, so take the time to soak it in.
For the game itself, take in every second of the match. If the Orlando City Invitational matches are any indication of how this season is going to go, then fans are in for a fast-paced and wild ride. I know that halftime is the worst time for snacks and using the restroom, but losing sight of the pitch for even 30 seconds could result in you missing the best play of the game. My advice is to stay seated until the whistle blows.
Make sure to share your fun and those crazy moments on social media as well. Every match has a hashtag (opening day’s will be #ORLvNYC), and #VamosOrlando, #FaceOfCity and #DaleMiAmor will also help your posts be seen by other fans. Players tend to read their mentions too and will sometimes like and retweet your content.
After the Match: See the Sea of Purple
Leaving a match (especially after a win) is an event in and of itself. The sea of purple as you make your way down Church Street is filled with laughter and chants. It really is a special kind of magic. Be sure to have some cash on hand, because the street performers put on quite a show as they drum on buckets under the overpass or play guitar while their dog naps at their feet.
The home opener is early next weekend, so the night life won’t quite be ready to kick off, but it’s a great time to grab something delicious for dinner. There are so many amazing places and things to eat downtown, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Lion’s Pride: Shrimp and lobster risotto.
- Hamburger Mary’s: Mini Mee’s (burger sliders) and Mary’s Ta Ta’s (tater tots).
- Cevíche: Cangrejo fundido (a creamy, cheesy crab dip with flat bread for dipping).
- The Rusty Spoon: Haystack (shoestring potatoes with rosemary).
There is so much more to what happens before, during, and after Orlando City games to lay it out all below for the first-timers. I could never truly capture the magic I felt during my first game, these are just a few things I wish I’d known about sooner.
Here’s my favorite highlight from my first match, along with some quality banter between the two clubs. What was your favorite moment from your first game? Let us know in the comments.
We were playing nice buuuuut....— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 21, 2019
We'll bring extra salt for y'all. See you in July. pic.twitter.com/6ypkUYxVzc
I grew up hating soccer and found a love for it in the purple seats. Maybe someone else will too.