Where were you the night they built The Wall on the south end of the stadium? It was a crowd and environment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. We all know that a full stadium is a fun stadium, but Wednesday night, despite the club only allotting tickets for half the stadium, fans, onlookers, and supporters proved a half-full stadium can be even more fun. Years from now, Lions fans will share the story of the running of The Wall with their kids, and their children’s friends will still ask why the seats were empty.
It was a dark and stormy night, no not the famous line from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, but the reality of the third straight match for Orlando City. In fact, some of my party was tempted to leave when we couldn’t even sit without being poured on. I refused, and like magic, just as warm-ups were ending ,the rain stopped and the sky turned a cotton candy pink.
The first half of the match was, not to sugar coat things, boring. The guys looked every bit a team that only had one day to recover after “plane troubles.” Nani put the free kick opportunity way over and I told my husband we were doomed. I know, me, the optimist! It looked like the match would continue to play out that way with very little possession and missed opportunities. Then, in another swoop of magic, Sebas Mendez grabbed the ball in the midfield and sent it to Nani, who served in a cross to Chris Mueller that was just perfect!
Fan reactions are fun for me, so enjoy a few on that Mueller goal:
For the record, T.J. I agree, the Lions were the good guys this match. I’m sure the context here was meant differently, but after Mueller’s goal a desperate New York City FC started playing rougher and dirtier. Things got heated when lack of cards led the ref to lose a bit of control over the match, with Dom Dwyer and Alexander Ring getting caught up in a trash talking and taunting battle from which neither seemed to be able to walk away. The fans in the stands around me were beyond livid as they watched on.
The subs started coming on one at a time in the 74th, 81st, and 90th minutes. You guys know I’m a Uri Rosell fan, but man these subs looked more exhausted than the men that had been out there all match — except Tesho Akindele, he was done. From where I was seated you could see the pain and exhaustion on his face as he struggled to work back up to a jog.
Would it even be Orlando City if the team didn’t concede a goal late in stoppage? Of course Maxi Moralez was in the right place at the right time and scored the equalizer for NYCFC in the 96th minute.
You could literally feel and hear the hearts of supporters break as Orlando again lost the lead right before the whistle.
The most Orlando City thing ever.— Tyler Jay (@2PointOhhh) July 11, 2019
As extra time ended and the score remained 1-1, fans everywhere were holding their breath. The collective anxiety could be felt deep in your soul. There was never a doubt about Adam Grinwis though. Several people around me said, “Grinwis can do this,” and “I believe in Grinwis!” The anxious positivity as we headed into the penalty kick shootout was clear.
Ok. Everybody breath. Yes. The equalizer sucks. But this is how you build EPIC stories for history!!! You gotta believe. Enough of the negativity people. @OrlandoCitySC #FaceOfCity #usoc @opencup #ORLvNYC— Bill Allen (@whallen3) July 11, 2019
In the next magical moment of the evening, the referee indicated that the penalties would be taken on the south side of the stadium opposite of The Wall.
The stands immediately burst into cheers and when I looked up I saw the stampede. The Wall was on the move! A line of security guards and stadium staff were at the south side of the concourse to block supporters from entering. One broke through and ran to the middle and was chased by staff that looked ready to throw him out. Admittedly, I’m sure they were just doing as they were told, and whether someone told them to let supporters in, or if The Wall just overwhelmed them, security eventually “let” them in.
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As fans tried to search the moment on social media later, one pointed out that this memorable event needed an official name. So, OCSC took to Twitter with a poll thus dubbing this moment, “The Running of the Wall.”
The magic didn’t stop there! After both teams ended the five penalty kicks at four successful tries each, it was on to sudden death! Rosell didn’t stutter or hesitate. He knew right where he was going to place the ball and he did so with authority to put the Lions up. All they needed was a missed or blocked shot and the Lions were on to the semifinals. The fans around me who’d been clapping and cheering all held their breath as Maxime Chanot set up for the shot. Grinwis dominated his stance and denied NYCFC the win.
Me? I can’t stop singing the Harry Potter “Weasley is our king,” chant, replacing Weasley with Grinwis.
Another magical moment had to be the family behind us. I’m not usually a fan of sitting around kids as I don’t want my non-teacher mouth overheard. Any time NYCFC keeper Brad Stuver was sending out a goal kick, the supporters would yell, “You suck, a-hole!” The little boy, maybe four or five years old, asked his dad what they were saying and he politely worked around answering when his mom told him excitedly. The next time it was happening the little guy joined right in to which everyone around laughed.
For the first time the team celebrated with a south side Wall. For the first time Orlando City is headed to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, at home in Exploria Stadium on Aug. 6. LFG!