Nine years and counting. It has been about nine years since I was first introduced to Orlando City SC and fell in love.
It was a random encounter through a random conversation with a friend that brought me to where am I today. “Where is that?” you may ask. This club is what I covet on the weekends, to watch and laugh, cry and cheer, to toast and roast. This club is now part of my life whether it wants to be or not. It is most certainly a love/hate relationship, but love always seems to win.
I have seen a number of very dear friends posting the last thing I wanted to see them post over the past few weeks, and as much as I understand, it still breaks my heart. Season ticket renewals are in full swing, so you can guess where this is going. Too often these past four or so weeks, I have had to message friends with whom I have watched this club for a very long time to say how sad I am to hear that they are not renewing. It is always sad to see friends leave, but sometimes life just deals you circumstances that force you have to make difficult decisions. My decision this year was pretty easy as to whether I was going to renew or not, and here is why.
Between Brian Rowe and Adam Grinwis in goal, and the rotating cast of characters that have heeded the call to man the ramparts and defend, no one can deny the dramatic improvements made by the squad in 2019, and what it means for 2020 and beyond. The Lions are poised to have their lowest goals-against number in the clubs MLS era, with the club’s best being the 56 in 2015. Lamine Sané and Robin Jansson have been dynamic and solid as the center back pairing. Joao Moutinho and Ruan have flashed absolute brilliance as outside backs and contribute all across the pitch. Alex De John, Kamal Miller, Kyle Smith and the rest of the boys have made valuable contributions as well as showing a versatility that I do not think I have seen this club display. It isn’t perfect, but it gives me hope.
Head Coach James O’Connor
I could write for days, and bring up so many quotes and sound bites, about just how much this man is now built into my permanent memories of this club, both as a player and now as the coach. He has taken a team that was not his, with contracts he did not help to negotiate, and turned the club into a contender. Making the playoffs or not, this club is going to be a dangerous presence in the Eastern Conference, and it will be due in large part to what JOC has brought back to the club professionally, tactically, and culturally. His candor during questioning, his energy on the sidelines, and the emotion he emotes that is unbelievably contagious is just what this club needed this season, and exactly what the club needs moving out from the shadow of the first five years.
Section 20 and The Wall
I sit with amazing people. Some I have known for years, others i have known for a season. I wouldn’t trade the folks around me for anything. They are fantastic to sit with, cheer with, cry with, yell with, and debate with. It also helps that they put up with my game day shenanigans, which we will not discuss here. I also have the pleasure of being just a few seats away from the Wall, staring at even more friends and family. The energy is always buzzing, never-ending, and wildly contagious. On the rare occasions when I get to sneak over and join them in the Wall, it is always with open arms, and some really sweaty hugs from those who have been dancing, yelling, and singing. The collective mindset is truly infectious, while at the same time comforting. It is a relationship that I do not want to easily give up.
There is more — so much more — but I think I will save it for now. It was an easy decision for me to renew my season tickets. It is a non-trivial decision though, as it is much more than just a monetary investment. Continuing season tickets is an absolute investment in the club financially, spiritually, and emotionally, and one that I will continue to make at this time. The club is making things right, and it is going to take a little time, and I am more than willing to take a few more laps on Space Mountain before I am done.
Wait, who am I kidding? Like the captain of a ship, I’ll go down to watery depths with this team. As long as I am able.