Standing in the tunnel, waiting to take the field, the players of Orlando City are gearing up for their first game in the MLS. There are so many emotions running through their hearts and minds; fear, excitement, anxiety. As the adrenaline rushes through their bodies, they walk out onto the pitch to the sound of 62,000 fans cheering them on.
This is what happened last year when the city of Orlando filled the Citrus Bowl for the team’s season opener against New York City FC. The record sellout made Orlando City’s MLS debut second only to the LA Galaxy, who debuted at 69,255 people in 1996. The sellout also surpassed the Citrus Bowl record for soccer match attendance, a record set during the 1994 World Cup.
In that first game, Orlando City maintained possession throughout most of the fixture, but they were unable to breakthrough and score. In the 75th minute, NYCFC player Mix Diskerud managed to find the back of the net off a corner kick by David Villa. Tensions in the stands grew high as Orlando City tried to find that equalizer. In the final moments of the game, Kaká’s free kick went in for a goal. The crowds erupted in cheers.
“I was very happy when I saw it go in,” Kaká said after that first match. “It was a good moment.”
“It was absolutely incredible,” Head Coach Adrian Heath said. “Something I’ll remember forever.”
The success of that first game left a lasting impression on the city and the club. Throughout the season, fans continued to pour out, with the average game attendance at around 33,000. Playing in Orlando became feared throughout the league, as Orlando City drew one of the largest and loudest group of supporters in the country. And it all started with that first game. It was an experience that the city would be talking about for a long time.
This season, Orlando City will seek to fill the bowl one final time on their March 6th opener against Real Salt Lake. This will be Orlando City’s last home opener in the Citrus Bowl, so, whether you experienced the magic last year or you’re coming for the first time, don’t miss your chance to be a part of history and #FillTheBowlAgain.