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MLS All-Star Game: Expectations vs. Reality

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Was the match worth the hype?

MLS: MLS All-Star Game Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS All-Star Game is something that many Orlando City fans have been looking forward to all summer. If you’re a season ticket holder, and anything like me, you likely got the pre-order email and logged on promptly to secure the seats you wanted for the show. The city itself spent the weeks leading up to the match transforming downtown. I, like many others, bought right into the hype around the eventual 3-0 loss to Atletico Madrid.

So, join me as I walk through my expectations vs. reality for the All-Star display.

Arrival

Expectation: I expected traffic to be a ridiculous nightmare, parking to be worse, and getting into the stadium something from the mind of Stephen King.

Reality: I had to work Wednesday, then rush home to feed and walk the dogs. Imagine my anxiety when we didn’t leave the Lake Nona area until almost 5:45! Traffic was surprisingly smooth the whole way. We even had the green light when we got off the 408 at Rosalind. Instead of parking at our usual spot (Sun Trust) we parked in the small lot right before it. Not only was no one else there, but it was $2 cheaper for not even a full block’s walk.

I was in complete shock as we entered the stadium in seemingly record time. Moving the metal detectors out to the street surprisingly seemed to help the flow in getting people through much faster. However, they were clearly fully staffed for the event that drew over 25,000 fans. Each metal detector had two people working it — one to check bags and one to motion fans through, instead of 3:2 (person: detector). The ticket scanners were working quickly and the in-stadium WiFi seemed to have had a boost resulting in fewer people waiting for tickets to load. Digital ticket hack, in case you aren’t already aware: add it to your Apple Wallets, or Android equivalent before leaving the house, and no cell service will be needed to access it. Question to self: Does Android have something like Apple Wallet? I don’t even know, I won’t pretend to.

Result: Win!

Pre-Game Show

Expectation: I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, just that there would certainly be something above and beyond the ordinary and that we’d be forced to listen to Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”

Reality: OK, am I the only one who thought Head Groundskeeper Matt Bruderek was slowly dying inside when they rolled those All-Star blocks out onto the pitch, and again when the fireworks shot straight down instead of up at one point? I’m not wild about fireworks in general — something about a childhood experience that I just can’t seem to get past — but they were easily 1,000 times better than what we got for the July 3 postgame fireworks.

As an over-the-top Hamilton fan, I was “satisfied” (if you know, you know) to learn Renee Elise Goldsberry would be performing the National Anthem. She originated the role of Angelica Schuyler in the hit Broadway show and did a beautiful job with the anthem.

Then there was the tin foil. I’ll admit, I’m not overly creative and sometimes a full-picture vision is lost on me, but why? What was the point of the shiny tinfoil-esque strips pulled from the boxes on field? I thought maybe it was an added effect for television, but I watched it back and nope. Also, did the handlers practice this beforehand? I don’t think I have OCD, but those things were all over the place! It just looked random and messy.

We 100% got Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”

Result: Draw.

The 90+ Minutes of Gameplay

Expectation: I fully expected to be wowed by the talent on field, as we enjoyed the match from a new point of view, and that the All-Stars would lose.

Reality: With season ticket renewals around the corner, we took this opportunity to try a section we’ve had our eyes on for a while. I’m a fan of the upper-bowl vantage points and of the covered seats. As such, I know that I don’t want lower-bowl (especially those first rows that are not covered) or corner seats. Listen, it’s a typical Florida summer, we were expecting rain, and planned accordingly by purchasing under the awning and bringing our OCSC raincoats. We climbed the 5,000 steps (I’m just guessing, there had to be around 5,000 for sure) to the top row and took our seats. Much to our disappointment, the overhead leaks were soaking us more than the walk from Church Street had.

The man next to me was fortunate in that he wasn’t directly being dripped on, but I know the giant drops every 30 seconds were bouncing off me and likely splashing him as well. A bit into the match, he complained on my behalf to someone working the extended media section. They offered to slide us over to the media seats to avoid the mess. We let the gentleman and his family move more central and we took their seats. It just didn’t seem like a good look to have such major leaks, knowing people from all over would be in attendance.

I’m generally an optimist, but I didn’t expect a win for the All-Stars. The talent was exciting to witness from Atletico Madrid, but I was disappointed with the MLS play. I get it, it’s a money draw for MLS, and our very own community won huge with all the events and the $30,000 (eMLS and Skills Challenge winnings) to the Orlando City Foundation, but beyond the community events and involvement, it just felt like an easy way for MLS to make a quick buck. I get it, the league’s best players are coming out to put on a show and don’t want to pick up any major knocks or injuries that will hinder their performance for the regular season, but it felt boring. With the weather delay I was cursing myself at 11 p.m. for not leaving at halftime. It just felt like here’s this global stage to show the world what MLS can do, but year in and year out it feels more like an embarrassment.

Result: Loss.


In the end, I don’t want to say I regret attending the match, but I do regret spending the money to do so. How did your expectations match your reality? Do you agree or disagree with my take on things? Be sure to let me know in the comments!