We’re almost a month into 2021 and I must say that it feels like it has flown by. That is, of course, a complete turnaround from the interminable length of each month, week, and day of 2020. It’s refreshing, isn’t it?
If the normal sense of time passing continues, the MLS and NWSL seasons will be upon us in no time. That got me thinking about what I am looking forward to once the players in purple return to Orlando.
Full, Uninterrupted Seasons
I know that there is still a pandemic going on and I don’t want to jinx anything. Fortunately, I don’t believe in that type of thing. Yes, we got to see plenty of Orlando City matches last year, but it was still a shortened season, and because of that, the matches came fast and furious — so much so that it resulted in more injuries and more tired legs than usual. It will be nice to see what this club can do with another off-season together, and a normal schedule.
Then there’s the Orlando Pride. With less than a handful of matches in 2020, we never got to see what the Marc Skinner project could look like. Now, with two drafts and a preseason, we’ll finally get to see it. Or at least the beginning of it. At this point, I’ll take whatever I can when it comes to the Pride.
We saw what Óscar Pareja was able to do last year with some of Orlando City’s young talent and I want to see what the second year of that looks like. Chris Mueller had his best season ever and I hope he can continue that form. Daryl Dike was a revelation as a rookie, and with draft pick Derek Dodson on board, we could see the two push each other to be better. Andrés Perea, Joey DeZart, and Benji Michel all have room to improve as well. The Lions haven’t made a lot of moves this off-season, but that is because most players are returning and Pareja feels good about the players he has.
With the Orlando Pride, we don’t know what is there entirely, but there were some glimpses of what Skinner wants to do with his system. There are plenty of new players to coach up and an entire team to bring together. There is only one way for the Pride to go, and that is up.
I’m going to go out on a big limb here and say that not only will Orlando City make the playoffs, but so will the Orlando Pride. The Lions should be able to build upon their 2020 success and I feel that making the playoffs should be an expectation, not a hope. When it comes to the Pride, the NWSL has only so many clubs, and with the right breaks for the Pride and an expanded playoff field of six teams, anything can happen. This will be Skinner’s first real season with players he’s chosen, and I feel good about their chances.
I know that a lot of that might seem too positive after the year we just went through, but it’s what I’m feeling at the moment. I’d like to hear your thoughts on my takes, and also anything you’re looking forward to this year.