Commentary: In an unprecedented year, Orlando City finally did something equally unprecedented


This one goes out to all the fans that have been watching Orlando City soccer since 2011. Or since the Church Street MLS expansion announcement in 2013. Or since the opening game in a packed out Citrus Bowl in 2015. Or since anytime between now and then.

This one goes out to the fans that have been watching since Orlando City was dominating the lower-league soccer scene for four seasons. And to the fans that have equally been watching the club struggle to grasp the top-flight soccer scene for five seasons.

This one goes out to all of the fans that have been there through the ups and the downs. Through the two month saga of Armando Carneiro’s brief tenure that disrupted the soccer operations. Through four soccer chiefs in five seasons. Through four coaches in six seasons. Through Adrian Heath‘s firing. And Jason Kreis‘ firing. And James O’Connor‘s firing. Through the six-game winning streak in 2018 and the subsequent 19 losses in 23 games that followed. Through the worst defensive season in league history.

This one goes out to all of the fans that bought Carlos Rivas jerseys. Or Bryan Rochez jerseys. Or Josue Colman jerseys. Or Brek Shea. Or Sacha Kljestan. Or Justin Meram. Or Tommy Redding. Or Dom Dwyer. Or Tyler Turner. Or Devron Garcia. Or Darwin Ceren. Or Amobi Okugo. Or anybody else who didn’t last long enough to live up to expectations.

This one goes out to all of the fans that had to watch New York City FC be the better of the two expansion teams since 2015. And watch Adrian Heath’s three-year plan finally come to fruition with Minnesota United. And watch Atlanta United win an MLS Cup in their second season. And then wait four seasons before Orlando City finally beat their rivals to the north.

To everybody that fits into those categories above, this one is for you: Orlando City is finally going to the playoffs.

In an unprecedented year, the Lions did an unprecedented thing.

2020 has been anything but normal, the schedule is anything but balanced, and the overall circumstances are anything but favorable. But none of that mattered. The goal was still the same, and the Lions have been as hungry as ever.

Oscar Pareja (and Luiz Muzzi, to credit) has changed the culture at the club. The mindset has never been stronger, and the soccer has never been better.

Orlando City is in the midst of a 12-game winning streak (twice as long as the previous record run for the club) after Sunday night’s 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena.

If there was ever time to get at Exploria Stadium, in person, screaming loud and proud for 90 plus minutes, this would be the time for it — but circumstance beyond soccer have ruined this moment, at least for the majority of fans who can’t be in the stadium this season.

But the reason to celebrate stays the same. From home, from the stadium (socially distance, of course), from across the country, and even across the globe, Orlando City fans finally get to celebrate an achievement that every other club in MLS (minus FC Cincinnati and this season’s two expansion teams) has gleefully reached.

The pandemic doesn’t change it. The distance doesn’t change it. And the circumstances don’t change it. Orlando City is playoff bound in 2020 for the first time ever.

Yet the best part is, as the players will tell you: the work isn’t done. There’s plenty more soccer to come.

For more coverage, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer

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