I’ll never forget my first Orlando City match. It was against the Chicago Fire in the inaugural MLS season. It was pouring rain, and the game got delayed numerous times due to weather, but it was my first MLS game and my friends and I weren’t leaving. We didn’t leave Camping World Stadium until around midnight-- and neither did the supporters section. I had never seen a group of sports fans stay through such conditions to support their team. I was impressed.
Once I got my job with the team, my first match was the home opener for Orlando City at the start of the 2016 season against Real Salt Lake. 60,000 fans filled Camping World Stadium. I had been to NFL games, MLB games, but I had never seen anything like that. The whole place had an energy you couldn’t touch. When the Lions came back in the last minute of stoppage time to score two goals and earn a draw, that energy exploded. I felt connected to those 60,000 people in a way I never had before.
A few weeks later, I watched those same fans break the NWSL attendance record with over 23,000 fans coming out to Camping World Stadium. That was the start of our journey-- a journey that players, staff, and fans alike had been a part of and had anticipated.
These are the moments that we savor as a club. These are the moments that we live for. As fans, as staff, as players-- these are the moments that we truly come together.
Now, the city of Orlando has an opportunity to have another one of these special moments. The Orlando Pride home opener on April 22nd would once again break the NWSL attendance record if it sold out.
These fans have proven time and time again that they are the best soccer fans in the United States. I didn’t understand it when I saw The Wall pounding on the drums through the pouring rain against Chicago two years ago. But now, I have been adopted by this family and I have seen what they can do-- what we can do.
People didn’t think that Orlando City could sell out Camping World Stadium in 2015 when they made their MLS debut-- these fans proved them wrong. They didn’t think they could duplicate that in 2016-- these fans proved them wrong. They didn’t think they could break the NWSL attendance record set by Portland, one of the best soccer cities in the country-- these fans proved them wrong.
Let’s prove them wrong again.