It’s been a while since I’ve written this column and it feels good to be back at it. 2020 is the worst timeline, and this could easily be “The Bad, the Bad, and the Ugly,” but I like to think I’m a generally positive person, so I’m not going to do that. I might not be Ted Lasso levels of positive, but I’m still a positive person. Let’s look at what got me going this week.
After the draw against Nashville in Phase 1 of the MLS “regular” season restart Orlando City is sitting at 4-2-3 and 15 points. It’s honestly about as good a restart as anyone could hope for from the revamped Lions. There were questions if Orlando City’s newfound form would make it out of the MLS is Back Tournament bubble. I’m happy to report that after four matches the Lions have been able to maintain the new identity under Óscar Pareja. We should also remember that this is match four out of five matches in 15 days, and Pareja has had to rotate the lineup in ways he didn’t during the tournament. There are still two more matches in Phase 1, and the results of those will impact the Lions’ post season chances.
As of writing this, 12 Pride players have been loaned abroad. For those counting at home, that is — let me check my math — a lot of players. If I’m to be entirely fair, it’s not a completely bad thing, as it gets these players playing time ahead of international competitions, and ahead of whatever the 2021 NWSL season will look like. The bad comes in when you look at the potential product being put on national television by both the NWSL and the Pride. While the Pride still have Marta, Sydney Leroux, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, and eventually Alex Morgan, don’t expect to know many of the other players who will line up for these NWSL “friendlies.” I’m not entirely sure what to call these matches, so I’m going with friendlies since they have no real stakes attached. This might mean that some people tuning in for the first time are not going to see a great or maybe even a good product from Orlando. I’m not actually worried about the NWSL or the Pride going away, but it’s not the best foot forward one would hope for on national television.
Soccer has always had its share of corruption and ugliness. There are too many jokes about the epic levels of corruption that constitute FIFA (see the Last Week Tonight w John Oliver segments here, here, and here), let alone the ugliness of racism seen in the supporters groups of clubs throughout Europe. Now, we have a prime example of how that ugliness can be just under the surface of a club in MLS. Dell Loy Hansen, the billionaire owner of Real Salt Lake, the Utah Royals, and the Real Monarchs, is selling his stake in the clubs. Hansen was personally offended when the players decided not to play the match last week due to the ongoing racial injustice in this country. As reported by both our sister SBNation site RSL Soapbox, and The Athletic, Hansen has a history of racist comments over the years. Thanks to Hansen’s hubris, his comments led to more attention being paid to his clubs and how he ran them, resulting in him having to sell the clubs willingly. I say willingly, since he might have been forced out by MLS or simply run out of town by supporters with torches and pitchforks if he hadn’t. The toxic atmosphere he instituted in the organization will continue to come to light as more and more people on the inside share their stories. The entire thing is ugly, though I for one am glad that it has come into the light, and that Real Salt Lake, the Utah Royals, and the Real Monarchs will almost certainly be better off for his departure.
That will do it for today. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.