As the calendar has switched to December, it is now the time of year where young and old alike finish compiling their holiday wish lists. In the spirit of the season, we here at The Mane Land have compiled our ultimate Orlando City holiday wish list to share with you in the hopes that the jolly man from the North Pole — or at least Orlando City’s front office staff — might deliver right in time for the holidays! So, let’s take a look at the top items on our wish list this year.
Team chemistry, player development, scheduling, and roster construction are all variables that are crucial to a team’s success on the field during a season. The underlying thread to all of those variables is the health of the individual players. One could argue that if a player is not fit or is constantly rehabbing from injury that the downstream effects of that time missed will affect player cohesiveness, team chemistry, and individual development, and can lead to further fatigue when it comes to player rotation during a congested regular-season schedule.
In the 2022 campaign, the Lions were able to achieve a certain degree of success, such as setting several club records, earning a third consecutive trip to the MLS Cup playoffs, and bringing home the club’s first MLS-era trophy by winning the U.S. Open Cup in the face of dealing with major adversity throughout the season on the injury front. Both center backs lost significant time due to injuries at different parts of the season, the team lost its backup goalkeeper for over a month to jaw surgery, and Alexandre Pato was lost to a knee injury prior to the home stretch of the season.
With that said, it was a no-brainer to list the health of the squad as the top item on our holiday wish list. Whether that be Robin Jansson returning to good form and health following foot surgery or wishing for as few knocks as possible in the upcoming season, the health of the 2023 squad will go a long way to determine next season’s success.
When new club owners the Wilf Family took over the Lions, fans and pundits alike were put on notice that the pocketbook would be opening up to improve the club. With recent roster moves this off-season, including losing starting left back Joao Mouthino and re-signing captain Mauricio Pereyra to a Targeted Allocation Money contract rather than as a Designated Player, if there was ever a time to make it rain, this would certainly be the off-season to do it.
Spending to upgrade the roster with a third DP, adding an additional left back, as well as improving roster depth throughout could be the difference maker needed to push the Lions over the top in the 2023 MLS season as well as in the Concacaf Champions League and U.S. Open Cup. Don’t put us on the naughty list just yet for sounding greedy, but this year’s holiday wish list isn’t just asking for the dollars to be spent on the roster but also on the fan experience as a whole. Upgrading Exploria Stadium when it comes to the gameday experience that so many of us know and love will only continue to cement the Lions’ status as a fixture of downtown Orlando.
No holiday wish list could be complete without wishing for happiness. These past few seasons since the MLS is Back Tournament called Central Florida home have provided the fans of Orlando City countless memories. Whether it is hearing the incredibly welcoming chants from the supporters section any time the visiting keeper kicks off, the countless game- and sometimes season-defining moments of joy the death, or the community at large of fans from all walks of life that this club has brought together, happiness will be the gift that keeps giving.
These are just a few of important items on our OCSC holiday wish list. Before we drop this letter in the mail, I am curious to know what would you add to our wish list this year?