Sunday, July 15, 2018
Sports

Thriving Orlando City one of MLS' gems (w/video)

ORLANDO — Julie didn't seem to mind that she was standing in the middle of the road, wiping away tears while hundreds of people marched past her, singing and chanting in a massive cloud of purple smoke. To her, they weren't strangers.

"They're family," she said. "We've been through so much. This team has helped bring the city together."

With the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub shooting permanently burned into their daily lives, Orlando residents have been longing for something to cheer about.

"We've been waiting for this day to celebrate," said Julie, who declined to give her last name. "We needed this."

At that, she turned and pointed to where the crowd was headed. Joined in a chorus of song, flags waving, hundreds deep, outside the gates of the city's sparkling new soccer shrine.

Orlando City's season opener on this gorgeous Sunday in early March is also the unveiling of team's new home. After several years playing in the Citrus Bowl, the team moved downtown, just a couple blocks from the Amway Center, where the NBA's Magic plays.

"The fact that it's so close to downtown makes it feel more a part of the city," Julie said.

Constructed specifically for soccer and privately financed, Orlando City Stadium looks like it was plucked out of West London and dropped here. With the low, slanted roof line covering most of the seats and adding to the festive atmosphere, you'd half expect Arsenal or Everton to come charging out of the tunnel. And with a capacity just over 25,000, it's Major League Soccer's largest soccer-specific arena.

It also features the league's only safe-standing supporters section — a standing-room-only area at the north end of the stadium that can hold up to 6,000 of the team's most passionate fans.

When asked if she'll be standing and chanting for the match, Julie smiled. Dressed in peppy shades of purple and gold, including Orlando City's stylish home jersey, she admitted she doesn't know the first thing about soccer.

"Nope. Nothing," she said. "But I'm excited to learn. I plan to be at every game."

Julie isn't the only one. The team's 18,000 season tickets per game sold out in September. That type of fan loyalty was a driving force behind the team leaving USL PRO and being awarded an expansion spot with MLS in 2013.

"The team and its ownership have shown a deep commitment to this city," MLS commissioner Don Garber said before the home opener. "Everything management has done has been smart from the beginning. The branding, the marketing and the connection to the fans."

A glimpse of that connection is visible in Section 12, where 49 rainbow-colored seats honor the 49 victims from the Pulse shooting.

As for the game, the fans got what they came for. A hard-fought match — the calling card of Orlando coach Jason Kreis' teams — and a 1-0 victory. The goal came four minutes after the team's star, Kaka, was replaced because of an injury. Keeping with the theme of the day, something special came from it, as Kaka's replacement, Giles Barnes, sent a curling cross in front of the NYCFC goal where it was deftly headed home by the team's young striker, Cyle Larin.

To say the stadium erupted is a bit of an understatement.

On this day of pride for the Lions, it was nothing short of a deafening roar from the sold-out crowd awash in brilliant Orlando City purple. Just what this family needed.

 
Comments
Rays journal: Wilson Ramos will miss All-Star Game

Rays journal: Wilson Ramos will miss All-Star Game

MINNEAPOLIS — C Wilson Ramos had been so looking forward to starting Tuesday's All-Star Game in Washington, where he played seven seasons and, depending on the latest rumor, could be returning via trade.But he lost that opportunity Saturday, wi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays’ Blake Snell: This is how a Star is born

Rays’ Blake Snell: This is how a Star is born

MINNEAPOLIS — Blake Snell didn't know where he was headed at this time last year.Having made a couple of unimpressive starts after rejoining the Rays following a six-week demotion to Triple A he earned with a brutal beginning to what was suppos...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Sunday, July 15

TODAYAutosIndyCar: Honda Indy Toronto3:30 p.m.NBCSNBaseballPhillies at Marlins1 p.m.FSFYankees at Indians1 p.m.TBSRays at Twins2 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMFutures All-Star Game4 p.m.MLBCyclingStage 96:30 a.m.NBCSNGolfPGA Europe: Scottish Open10 a.m.GolfPGA ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays roar back to blast Twins 19-6

Rays roar back to blast Twins 19-6

MINNEAPOLIS – There was a time late Saturday afternoon when things actually looked bad for the Rays in what turned out to be a very good day, a 19-6 victory that ensured a winning record at the All-Star break.Tampa Bay had given back an early l...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Twins game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Twins game

As offensively challenged as the Rays have been much of this season, Saturday was the fifth time in their past 11 games they have scored eight or more runs. The reality check: All against the Marlins, Mets, Tigers and Twins.OF Carlos Gomez hasn't had...
Updated: 6 hours ago
UPDATE: Rays C Wilson Ramos out of All-Star Game due to hamstring injury

UPDATE: Rays C Wilson Ramos out of All-Star Game due to hamstring injury

UPDATE. 6:45: Ramos said he will not be able to play in the All-Star Game and will be removed from the active roster but still plans to attend and take part in the festivities.He also said he "probably" will end up on the DL, which will cause the Ray...
Updated: 9 hours ago
He’s back: Djokovic tops Nadal to reach 5th Wimbledon final

He’s back: Djokovic tops Nadal to reach 5th Wimbledon final

LONDON — From the way Novak Djokovic repeatedly smacked his racket against his shoe after one miss, to the shouts directed at himself and his coach after others, it was clear how much he wanted to prove he’s past the roughest patch of his career. Djo...
Published: 07/14/18
Kerber beats Williams 6-3, 6-3 to win 1st Wimbledon title

Kerber beats Williams 6-3, 6-3 to win 1st Wimbledon title

LONDON — Angelique Kerber won her first Wimbledon championship by stopping Serena Williams’ bid for a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title. Kerber played cleanly as can be, covering the court so well and picking her spots for big shots, in a 6-3, 6-...
Published: 07/14/18
For starters: Rays at Twins, looking to Archer for help

For starters: Rays at Twins, looking to Archer for help

UPDATE, 12:27: Cash said  Archer should be "pretty close to full go" pitch-count wise, as they him to have a good start. …Robertson is "in a little bit of a funk" at the plate, specifically in pitch recognition, Cash said, as he is 0-for-h...
Published: 07/14/18
Where to watch the World Cup final in Tampa Bay

Where to watch the World Cup final in Tampa Bay

After 62 matches, there's only two teams standing in the World Cup. France and Croatia will face off Sunday at 11 a.m. Do you need a place to kick back, relax and watch all the final action … but not in your home? We've got you c...
Published: 07/14/18