Whilst the world continues to social distance, I thought it might be fun to take a little trip down memory lane and reflect on some seriously significant moments in the history of Orlando City Soccer Club. It's important during these uncertain and troubling times to try and keep positive, so I thought this would be a nice way to do that. Let me know what you think of the list, and if there are any significant moments that you think should have made the cut. Stay safe everyone, no matter where you are. We'll get through this.💜
-please note that this list is in no particular order.
1. Orlando is finally granted MLS!
A long and tumultuous journey with much lobbying of the self confessed Soccer Don (Don Garner's Twitter handle, weird right?) eventually culminated with OCSC being announced as the MLS' latest franchise in 2013. This was a huge moment for the club. The team had delivered incredible amounts of success on the field in USL, which had really helped to establish a firm soccer fan base in the city of Orlando. MLS was the next big step in imprinting Orlando City on the football map.
2. The Pulse tribute
Pulse. A tragic event that the city of Orlando and the greater central Florida area will never forget. Many will have known and lost people to the tragedy, myself included. Brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and colleagues. But if there was one silver lining to this awful, unspeakable tragedy it was the community reaction. And the tribute at Exploria Stadium serves not only as an eternal tribute to the beautiful people we lost that night, but also as an everlasting reminder of how love conquers all. And that is a message that truly reflects the spirit of this club. The way people gathered around and provided support to those in need following the tragedy is something for us all to cherish.
3. Inaugural match against Pigeon FC #FillTheBowl
The 8th March 2015 is a date that will go down in history as Orlando City's first game in Major League Soccer. The Lions finished the game with 10 man as Aurélien Collin received his marching orders late in the game. An NYCFC side containing former FC Barcelona and Valencia superstar David Villa had threatened from the off, and in all honesty looked good for the win when Mix Diskerud gave the visitors the lead on 76'. Especially after the sending off of Collin. I'm explaining this game to you like you haven't seen it a thous times on YouTube since, but it's fine. We've all seen what came next a thousand times. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Orlando's own superstar DP who needs absolutely no introduction. Ricardo Kaká. Kaká stepped up for a free-kick on 91' and sent Camping World Stadium in to raptures. Magnífico.
4. Opening goal at Orlando City Stadium
The opening goal at Orlando City Stadium was such an historic moment to me. It represented the dawning of a new era, and was a perfect way to get the 2017 season underway. There were more than a few hearts in mouths as Kaká went down early on. It was a hammer blow to the team. On in his place came Giles Barnes, formerly of Derby County. If I'm being brutally honest and forthwith, his introduction was hard for me to bare. As a lifelong Nottingham Forest supporter, seeing a player so synonymous with their arch rivals pull on the famous purple conjoured mixed emotions for me. But credit where it's due, the Englishman produced a peach of a ball for Cyle Larin to rise and make history. Barnes jinxed away down the left hand side, before clipping an inch perfect ball to the back stick where the Canadian was on hand to send a thumping header in to the back of Sean Johnson's net. The Lions opened Orlando City Stadium by sending Villa, Pirlo et al packing. It was the perfect debut.
5. Kaká signs
If truth be told, there isn't a whole lot to say about this. The man needs no introduction, and the profound impact he had on this club is there for all to see. Orlando had been announced as the MLS's latest addition, and they needed a big name to really put the club on the map. And they don't come much bigger than Brazilian World Cup Ricardo Kaká. The former AC Milan and Real Madrid play maker was arguably one of the biggest names to ever play in MLS. And his arrival certainly did a lot to whip up interest with over 62,000 packing into Camping World Stadium on opening day vs NYCFC.
6. Running of the wall
What can I say about this? That US Open Cup quarter final was a cracking game in its own right. Just when the Lions looked home and hosed the Pigeons snatched a draw and forced the game into extra time and penalties. What happened next represented the very spirit of this club and the city of Orlando. It would have been very easy for those supporters to stay where they were and just accept whatever fate bestowed itself on the Lions. I was sat in my apartment in Nottingham, in the small hours of the morning. I began rubbing my eyes, not just because I was tired. But because I could not believe what I was seeing. The event brought new meaning to the term ‘12th man’. The running of the wall won us that shootout, and no one will convince me otherwise.
7. Montréal Impact 0-3 Orlando City, 2019
This is honestly one of my favourite ever Orlando City games. It represented the complete away performance for me. Montréal is a difficult place to go and play at the beast of times. The conditions and the partisan crowd can be difficult to manage, and they have players offensively who can hurt you. The Lions executed the perfect game plan. They were compact and solid defensively, and devastatingly ruthless on the counter attack. Orlando City's third goal that day, scored by Will Johnson reflected their performance perfectly. It had everything. Neat inter play, movement, co-ordination, a peach of a cross and a thumping header from the Wild Man. C'est magnifique.
8. 2013 USL Pro Championship
Winning silverware is always a major moment in any clubs history, regardless of the context it was done in. This win, however, really solidified the idea that this club was ready for MLS. They followed up their 2011 win with an enthralling 7-4 win over the Charlotte Eagles in their Championship game. A few months later, the Lions were announced as the 21st MLS franchise. We did it the hard way. Creating history and really earning your spot in MLS is so much more gratifying and rewarding than just being given it. Hi Inter Fort Lauderdale.
9. Orlando City 1-0 Newcastle United, 2011
This game might seem like something of a strange inclusion to some. But the result does bear some significance. Orlando as a club were still very much in their infancy at this point. This win was probably the most significant in their history at this point. In a scrimmage. A friendly game for the visitors. Newcastle went on to finish 5th in the Premier League that season under Alan Pardew's tutelage. They were a good side. And whilst this result may seem unimportant to some, it showed the team could compete with teams who possessed far more resources than themselves. Which is a component that will have undoubtedly helped them to win that USL Pro Championship in 2011.
10. Nani signs
Another hugely important signing for Orlando City came in the form of their second big name DP signing. Luis Nani, Manchester United legend and most recently of Sporting Lisbon. Now, if I'm being honest I had reservations about this signing. Nani always came across as arrogant to me in his days at Manchester United. But I soon realised the error of my ways. Sir Alex Ferguson's United were arrogant, it was something deep routed in the culture of arguably the world's biggest club. But that level arrogance is earned, and not necessarily a criticism. It says 'we know how to wing, and we will win'. Something than Nani has gone out of his way to try and instil in this team. Before the game in New Jersey against the Red Bulls, Nani called a players only meeting. He told reporters he felt it important to ensure the team understood the importance of togetherness in achieving their objectives. Money cannot buy that sort of leadership. And his stats last season speak for themselves. And without any real break between the European and MLS seasons. I believe he will further prove himself as one of the most important players in MLS when the action eventually gets back underway.
That's it for this list. Let me know what you think via the usual channels! And keep safe! 💜