Back from Orlando — City, That Is

No, I didn’t just do another composite image here of Orlando City Stadium (becoming known as The Fortress, for its level of fan support for Orlando City SC); I took this photo myself last Saturday, prior to kickoff, when I was down in Orlando with my husband for our annual trip to watch the team at home.  It was a heck of a walk between where I parked and the new stadium; but the walk was worth it in the end (and I easily made my step goal for the day).  Beautiful sight lines from almost anywhere inside; lovely neighbors around me to watch the game and root for our guys in purple — and LOUD!!!  The stadium has sold out every home game to date, and probably will sell most tickets easily for the year (one reason I went in April instead of for the home opener:  I couldn’t get a ticket for a decent price).

Photo taken before the game got started. At game time itself — I didn’t take any photos during the game — those terraces were almost completely filled. The bottom five rows are designated safe zones for our smoke-effects people, who set off “pyro” at the beginning of the game and after every home goal, and the whole section is safe for standing, just like it used to be in classic European fandom (a rare thing in most top-level European leagues outside of Germany now).  The canopies over each seating area not only keep rain off most of the seats — they also drive sound onto the pitch, adding to the intimidation factor for the opposition and spurring the home crew onwards.

And when the Ruckus and the Iron Lion Firm in the safe-standing terraces on the north end (hopefully to be named the Phil Rawlins End, if I can influence the club at all) get it on — which is any game at home — well, if you’ll excuse the vulgarity, shit gets serious in there.  The rest of the stands take up the chant quickly, and the house gets very intimidating for the opposition side.  Fans around the world are known as the 12th man on the team, and that’s certainly true for Orlando City.  Proof:  we were playing LA Galaxy on Saturday.  It took them until the 83rd minute to tie us, but they finally broke through Joe Bendik’s goalkeeping and our back line.  We didn’t get discouraged — if anything, the chanting turned louder, the drumming came close to breaking drumheads, and Cyle Larin responded in the 91st minute with the goal that put us ahead for good.

These seats are on the west side of the stadium, and are a permanent memorial to the victims of the Pulse shooting last year on South Orange Avenue.  They are part of the block set aside for season-ticket holders — in a sense, the dead will always have a guaranteed seat at a home game.

A most satisfactory win — and Orlando City’s now 4-1, and 2nd in the MLS Eastern Conference.  (We were 1st for a few hours, until Columbus Crew won their game; they edged us out by one point in the standings.  (The winning team gets 3 points in the standings, the loser 0, and a drawn game gives 1 point to each team.  The top six teams in each conference at the end of the season go into the playoffs for the MLS Cup; the overall point leader among all MLS teams wins the Supporters’ Shield, a special award given by the fans themselves.)


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