For those of you that may be new to Major League Soccer (MLS) or soccer in general. You may be asking yourself, "Why should I support Orlando City?'' Trust me, I’ve asked myself that same question in the past.
So a little about me and how I became a fan of Orlando. I played soccer for about 8 years but never really enjoyed watching it. I know that is very ironic seeing that now I'm trying to convince others to watch soccer. But anyways my sister was a fan of the Orlando Pride, the women’s team here in Orlando, and she showed me some of their games. After a couple of weeks of watching the Pride I then decided to watch the Orlando lions, the men’s team, and I absolutely fell in love. I fell in love, not only with the team but the underdog story they represent.
When I first watched an Orlando game, they were strongly on rock bottom in the standings. This however didn’t deter me from supporting and loving the team. The team’s quality was not there at first but the spirit has been there since the very beginning. Over the years Orlando went through a lot of ups and an extremely high number of downs.
Orlando city's first major event that I witnessed was actually on my birthday. Orlando faced NYCFC in the U.S. Open Cup. After a late minute equalizer by NYCFC the game was forced into a penalty shootout. Penalties were going to be taken on the opposite side of the supporter section (the wall). The wall was having none of it and proceeded to sprint to the other side of the stadium, and with that the iconic running of the wall was cemented into Orlando's history. The passion and spirit was clear not only by the players, but by the supporters and the entire city. I felt that love and passion for a city that I have never been to.
After eastern conference standings of 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, and 11th from 2015-2019, 2020 was where everything changed. After only being able to play 2 games before the shutdown Orlando's season as well as everyone’s season seemed to be over. This however was proved to be incorrect when the MLS announced the MLS Is Back Tournament. The Tournament was to be held in Orlando in what was referred to as the bubble. They were required to quarantine in Orlando for the rest of the season which bonded the players. Orlando was predicted to fall short as they have normally done in the past, but they shocked the whole MLS when they made it all the way to the finals.
After the MLS is back tournament Orlando kept up their consistency which led them to their first ever playoff game. This was a truly momentous occasion for all the fans. After another crazy game against NYCFC the game ultimately went to another penalty shootout. Our starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese (el pulpo) was already on a yellow card at the start of the penalty shootout. When the penalty shootout was seemingly finished after el Pulpo made an incredible stop, my family members and I jumped for joy. This all came crashing down after a VAR (Video assistant referee) check caught el pulpo off of his line when he made the save. This resulted in the craziest and most stressful 15 minutes of my entire career watching and playing soccer. El pulpo received a yellow card, and since he was already on a yellow card he was sent off. The refereeing crew honestly had no idea what to do. They tried to have Orlando sub on their back up goalkeeper, which was illegal, because you can't make subs during a penalty shootout. After all of the confusion one man was up for the task, Rodrigo Schlegel. Schlegel was in fact not a goalkeeper, he was a centre back. For anyone reading this that doesn't really know the game, goalkeepers and defenders actually aren't the same position, I know that’s surprising. But in all actuality, our defender decided to put the entire team on his back and step into goal to try to win the penalty shootout. I thought all hope was lost, but then a miracle happened. Schlegel saved the penalty!! Orlando advanced in the playoffs. The excitement and extreme joy that I felt, and my whole family felt finally having a winning team was amazing. Orlando still has their ups and their downs but here in 2021 we are sitting strongly in 2nd place, and we are looking good to win the MLS Cup.