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State of The Mane Land: A Look Back at 2019 and Ahead to 2020

As the calendar turns to 2020, let’s take a last look over our shoulders at the year that was.

SOCCER: OCT 06 MLS - Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy New Year once again to all of our faithful longtime readers, and those who have recently stumbled across our site. We here at The Mane Land have just completed our fifth calendar year at SB Nation, and, as always, there’s a lot for us to look back and reflect on from the previous 365 days.

In some ways 2019 was our best year. We broke more news than ever before. It’s not as important to me that we’re the first to bring you the latest news as it is that we are accurate in what we report, and the track record of our sources has been excellent, which allows us to be accurate as well as timely. Kudos to the TML staff for developing and maintaining their lasting relationships.

Every year it’s a challenge to bring our readers the best coverage of Orlando’s teams that we can. This isn’t anyone’s main gig and so we donate as much of our time as we are able. But 2019 was particularly challenging. We were able to add five staff members during the last calendar year, but four of them have already moved on and two of them did so rather quickly. Big thanks to Jenn Glasheen, who joined us last February. Jenn is the last of our class of 2019 still standing, and has become kind of the heart of our staff, as well as bringing a unique voice-of-the-fan aspect to her writing. I also want to thank Jen Warren and Andrew Sharp for their significant contributions in 2019, although both have since left us. I particularly miss Andrew’s columns, as he did some pretty amazing and exhaustive research.

Our staff is fairly small now for what our goals are and, to compound the problem, those who have been with us a long time have had growing commitments in their personal lives, which prevent them from being able to jump in and contribute at their previous levels. It pains me not to be able to bring you more content, more analysis, more in-depth coverage...more of everything, really. I appreciate every one of our staff members and what they bring.

I especially have to call out Sean Rollins, who drove from Melbourne to Montverde for OCB’s home games to provide our readers with excellent coverage of the club’s developmental side in USL League One. I’m happy that Sean can save about 30 minutes of driving with OCB’s move to Heritage Park in 2020. You should definitely give him your clicks because he’s earned them and because Orlando’s developmental team is going to start producing more fruit in the coming years.

We added coverage of the MASL’s Orlando SeaWolves, which began in late 2018 but stretched into the spring of 2019. On a personal note, I moved from Southeast Orlando to Sanford, so that trip became untenable for me and I was forced to cover more matches via stream than I wanted to, as we just didn’t have available bodies to attend their games. We can’t cover every match, but we do try.

We also had some big events to cover in 2019, including a USMNT Concacaf Nations League game at Exploria Stadium as well as the 2019 MLS All-Star Game. I personally felt bad that we couldn’t give the MLS Homegrown Game and All-Star Skills Challenge the same attention. OCB’s return pulled much of Sean’s attention away from the first team and the Pride this year. More teams and fewer staff writers is a bad combination!

We said goodbye to longtime writer and editor Scott Crumbly in 2019. Scott had been with us since 2015 — almost from the very beginning. Work commitments and a new marriage claimed him from us and we’re both happy for him on a personal level and sad to see one of our longest tenured staff members go.

David Rohe continued to co-host the Mane Land PawedCast with me throughout 2019 and I’m glad he was there. With less time on my hands (I was busy looking for work and doing some freelance projects from March to June and then largely trying to make up for the lost revenue), we had fewer guests but we did manage to get Kamal Miller, Gordy Gurson, Brian Rowe, Marc Skinner, Paul Tenorio, and Joanna Boyles. I promised a year ago to do better on that front a year ago and I failed you. I’ll try to find more time to pull in more guests this season. Dave and I are still interested in trying to pull off a “live” episode of the PawedCast where listeners can come out and see us record and ask questions in person. Maybe that will happen in 2020. Who knows?

As always, I’m indebted to and thankful for editor Marcus Mitchell, who helps me edit the copy here and occasionally jumps in and helps with social media posts. None of us are perfect but we ain’t bad, usually. Big thanks to senior columnists Scott Carnevale for his continued dedication in covering the Pride and the USMNT.

I also want to give a shout-out to writers Guilherme Torres, Ben Miller, our bearded guy, and Alek Pierce. Thanks for all you do for this place and for your unique voices. I need to again give a special shout to reader Jack McAwesome, who (for the second year) volunteered to step in and provide Orlando Pride player grades in 2019 and helped with some of our season in review ratings as well. Work commitments kept him from being able to do grades down the season’s final stretch but we’re grateful for what he could provide and I still wish we could snap him up as a full-time staffer.

To truly make our site fulfill the vision I have for it, we just need more folks who want to be a part of it. It has been a special place to me and, hopefully, the other staff as well. Our Slack channel is a great place to exchange information, crack wise and share gallows humor when the teams aren’t playing well (like in 2019), and provide each other with ideas for stories. It’s long been my favorite place on the internet.

I say this every year, but if you like to talk soccer (especially online with your friends), you might also like to write about it and we’ll gladly provide you a platform. It’s something everyone can do. You don’t need to be a professional writer. We have editors who can fix the style and grammar stuff. If you’re even a little bit interested, just give it a try. Here’s how you can:

Our staff members have lots of real jobs. A couple of us actually do write for a living but we also have a school librarian, an athletic trainer, a teacher, a laser scientist, and others on staff who aren’t professional writers. And we don’t just need writers. We’re always looking for photographers, folks who like to create YouTube videos, graphic artists, and others. We welcome you to give it a shot.

In closing, I’d like to once again thank every one of our fantastic TML readers, especially those who take the time to leave us feedback in the comments section and have discussions that make this more a community than a website. You continue to make us one of SB Nation’s most popular MLS sites and we are thankful you choose to spend your time here. Please continue to provide feedback in the comments section at the bottom of our stories. Your ideas are always welcome. Let us know what we’re doing well and what you’d like to see more of. What can you live without? What can’t you live without?

Thanks for putting up with all that we were forced to write about in 2019 as all four of our professional soccer teams missed the postseason. We hope to bring you much happier content in 2020 and more moments of glory. We’ll have fun either way because, hey, it’s soccer.

Michael Citro
Managing Editor