Earlier today, The Mane Land released a bracket for the search for the fans’ favorite player, as selected by our readers and social media followers. The 64-player bracket was released at noon, but before it came out The Mane Land staff took a crack at predicting the way that the fans will vote. Many of the predictions were close to one another, and Kaká is predicated to go very far.
Here are the answers to the all-important questions:
Who will be in the Final Four?
Scott Carnevale: Cristian Higuita, Kaká, Nani, Dom Dwyer.
Sean Rollins: Kaká, Dom Dwyer, Adrian Winter, Cristian Higuita. I think there are too many people who weren’t around during the USL era to appreciate the incredible popularity of Jamie Watson.
Dave Rohe: Kaká, Winter, Dennis Chin, Dom.
Michael Citro: Kaká, Nani, Ruan and Winter. I think chalk holds at the top of the bracket. Orlando fans have assigned some weird cult hero status to Winter despite him scoring just five times and playing only 22 games here. I always liked him but the level of adoration he receives baffles me.
Ruan is really popular on the current team and can pull the upset because a lot of Lions fans (maybe even some of those who sang to him at the airport) have forgotten Dwyer delivered a championship to Orlando and have seemingly turned on him for the unpardonable sin of having one down year.
Marcus Mitchell: Kaká and Nani should both be able to make it to the Final Four. The two are the most talented players in Orlando City history and active on social media as well. I think Higuita and Ruan will advance as well, although their paths are less certain.
Elliot Evans: Kaká, Nani, Kevin Molino, Higuita.
Who will be TML readers’ favorite Lion?
Dave: Winter, because they are going to Boaty McBoatface it.
Michael: Kaká. He’s insanely popular.
Marcus: Kaká for sure. He was the face of the franchise once it joined MLS, retired with the club, and is still incredibly popular with fans.
What match-up(s), in any round, are you most looking forward to, and why?
Scott: The bottom half of Nani’s bracket will be interesting. There are a lot of USL guys there and it will be fun to see which way fans go. Jamie Watson vs. Ant Pulis could be close and so will the winner of Watson/Pulis vs. Dennis Chin in the next round.
Sean: Yoshimar Yotún vs Benji Michel. Yoshi was really good and popular but Benji is Homegrown.
Dave: Antonio Nocerino vs. Uri Rosell. It’s early, and I expect it to be close. I also think that their levels of support are close, and both earned the love of the fans with their play.
Michael: A potential third-round match-up between Yoshi Yotún and Dennis Chin. In fact I am eager to see how the USL era Lions can stand up to the MLS guys. Do the fans show recency bias? Do they rate the MLS guys disproportionately higher? I’m interested to find out.
Marcus: In the first round, super sub Julio Baptista takes on Darwin Cerén from the USL days in a great match-up. Elsewhere, Mauricio Pereyra faces former USL Lion Erik Ustruck and Will Johnson squares off against the popular Mohamed El-Munir.
As for later in the tournament, it will be interesting to see how match-ups between old school players and new school players go. In particular, Ruan could face the likes of Miguel Gallardo and Lewis Neal early on. It will also be interesting to see how Dwyer, who is both old school and new school, does in this tournament.
Elliot: Molino vs. Winter should be an interesting battle of nostalgia. Both seem to be remembered by fans for very specific moments rather than their performances over time.
Are you expecting any upsets?
Scott: Uri Rosell could not only top Nocerino but also Cyle Larin in the next round.
Sean: I think Uri Rosell might top Antonio Nocerino.
Dave: El-Munir over Will Johnson.
Michael: I think Dwyer and Cyle Larin could face upsets after fan sentiment has turned against them somewhat. Winter will go further than his performance would seem to warrant. And some of the higher seeded USL guys could fall earlier than they should.
Marcus: Keep an eye on the 7 seeds in this tournament. Lewis Neal, Jamie Watson, Luke Boden, and Antonio Nocerino should all advance past the first round. Nocerino in particular could make a deep run with an opening match against fellow defensive midfielder Uri Rosell and then a likely second round match-up against Larin, who had a rough exit from the club.
Elliot: I think Higuita will beat Larin.
What will be the biggest margin of victory?
Scott: I think all 1 vs. 16 match-ups are close to unanimous votes.
Sean: Kaká vs Justin Meram.
Dave: Kaká over Meram.
Michael: Kaká will beat Justin Meram by a million. Winter will probably destroy MPG nearly as badly.
Marcus: Kaká beating Justin Meram is the easy pick here but Adrian Winter could have a very lopsided win in the first round against Matias Perez-Garcia.
Elliot: Not sure on this one.