I know that everyone is wondering if recent Orlando City successes are merely a mirage or if it’s something real and tangible that supporters can believe in. I see it in the social media posts, and I hear it in the questions on the podcast. I even had a fellow supporter in Tallahassee express his trepidation about the recent unbeaten run not even two nights ago.
I understand this feeling — the sense that if things are going well, surely there’s a bad turn just around the corner, and your heart will be broken again, as it has been so many times over the past five years.
But, I’m here to tell you it’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to feel a sense of optimism, and I’m here to tell you it’s okay to believe. The reason you should believe is the same reason you may not have believed in the past...the Orlando City front office. I know we’re talking about the group that missed on picking the right young Designated Players upon entering the league. I know they went through coaches like I do the selections on a tasty beer flight. And I know that it seems like they don’t have the deep pockets of other clubs, but that doesn’t matter anymore.
On Sept. 13, 2018, Luiz Muzzi took over the role as VP of Soccer Operations, and he brought with him Ricardo Moreira as the new Director of Scouting. I can’t emphasize the importance of that change in the front office enough. Yes, it was after this that Orlando City made the latest coaching change, but that is to be expected when someone new in the general manager’s role is brought on board. Muzzi had previously worked with Óscar Pareja, and knew what type of coach he would be getting when he brought in the Colombian. For his part, Pareja knew what to expect from Muzzi and Moreira. Once the band was back together, it was just going to take some time.
Many of the players who have had a positive impact for the Lions this year are products of the new management. Antonio Carlos, Mauricio Pereyra, Júnior Urso, Pedro Gallese, and more. So far in 2020, Pareja has taken Orlando City to the final of the MLS is Back Tournament, and has the Lions sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference just past the halfway point of the regular season. The club has a seven-game unbeaten streak, and is playing some of the most cohesive, beautiful soccer we’ve seen from the Lions in the MLS era. The players have bought in, and it is showing in the results.
Despite all the mistakes the front office made over the years, it seems that the club has finally learned from those mistakes and the future looks bright. The best thing that ownership can do is get the right people in place, and let them do their jobs. That is what is happening in Orlando.
Now I want you to think about Moreira scouting the players that Muzzi and Pareja want, and then those players implementing the very beautiful and effective brand of soccer that Pareja espouses. It’s okay, you can smile.