It just feels different for Orlando City as a new season begins. When the lads hit the pitch Saturday afternoon to face rival Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium there are new expectations and that is good.
Last season was different for everyone but Orlando City gave a fan base a reason to believe. Their performance in the Disney bubble provided hope for a challenging season ahead. Oscar Pareja was a conductor who orchestrated a new style and energy to a team who needed to change from previous seasons of letdowns. The Lions roared through a season and advanced to the MLS Playoffs for the first time. Rodrigo Schlegel became a hero for his goalie play in penalties vs NYCFC. And despite the loss to New England, Orlando City sent a message to the league that they were no longer a team hoping to move up in the league. They were now a team that would contend in the Eastern Conference.
Despite few off-season changes, the team has been busy. Daryl Dike is in England but many key players are back including: Nani, Chris Mueller, Mauricio Pereya, Benji Michel, Ruan and goalie Pedro Gallese. They added international star Alexandre Pato, an international star, that still has something left.
Orlando City fans have loved this team and embraced it through good and challenging times. Crowds shrunk in recent seasons because the performance wasn't there. Last season, the Lions put out an effort that would have led to large crowds at Exploria Stadium. But COVID restrictions kept fans away and even late in the season crowds were limited.
But now, as fans begin to get back inside for matches, there is a chance to recapture the magic(pun intended) that has been and when all things click, Exploria Stadium is a palace to soak in. The team has done its part the last two seasons and Orlando City looks poised for a big journey ahead. Lion supporters can now once again see, tough, feel and fall in love again with this team. Let it reign purple as the Lions and its fan base fall in love again.
Now the Friday notes:
Does anyone still use an old fashioned alarm clock to wake any more?....The news that Michael Jordan will be the one introducing the late Kobe Bryant for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is must watch TV and will be very emotional...I don't know if Wendell Carter Jr. can become an all-star but he plays hard for the Magic and I like that...I still think a 20-strikeout game is more exciting than a perfect game or no-hitter but it's still special to get that final out and watch the celebration...The NFL, NBA and NHL all have their officials explain the call after replay, MLB needs to follow this. Transparency is important and not that hard to do...What is the difference between cold brew and iced coffee?...The analytics website www.fivethirtyeight.com gives Orlando City a 58% chance to make the playoffs and a 3% chance to win the MLS Cup. Alexandre Pato will be the Newcomer of the Year and get double digit goals and the Lions will finish 4th in the Eastern Conference...I used to love bumper cars at the carnival that came to town but thinking back and realizing how dangerous it likely was and that the ride was assembled by a group of guys who maybe didn't put safety as a priority...Julian Edelman may not be a Hall of Famer but I want him if I have one drive to win the game as one of my receivers...Whatever happened to the barefoot kicker in college?...Without even knowing it, I think I am in the transfer portal...
Final thought: An elephant eats up to 300 pounds of food a day.
Photo Credit: Orlando City SC