Oh, what a night
This was something special:
The Wall, it seems, is not a physical place. It’s wherever the Orlando City faithful decide it is. And in Wednesday night’s rousing Open Cup quarterfinal win over New York City FC, it was right behind Adam Grinwis.
James O’Connor said after the match he’d never seen anything like it. That’s because there isn’t anything like it in world soccer.
Orlando City forced its way into existence and then into MLS on the strength of the Orlando community, the idea that a city of people from more backgrounds and more places than just about any other in America could come together to find an identity in the beautiful game, an identity that is distinctly Orlando. People from all parts of the world move to Orlando every day. This club unites all of them.
I just look at our broadcast team. I’m from Jersey. Jenny’s from Texas. Miguel’s from Mexico. Paul’s from England. The lion and the letters on that badge are what brings us together.
I was going to claim that Wednesday night’s win was the biggest in club history, but my boss went ahead and did it for me:
In my humble opinion, tonight was the most important moment of the history of the MLS era of the club. Thanks fans! That run at concourse tho... I will never forget @OrlandoCitySC— Alex Leitao (@alexleitao) July 11, 2019
Orlando City are in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals for the first time ever. The individual performances of this run have been sublime—Sacha Kljestan bossing around Memphis, Benji Michel’s unforgettable first professional goal in extra time against New England, Nani roasting poor Sebastian Ibeagha over and over again on Wednesday night. The entire squad has stepped up to deliver the club the opportunity to add its first trophy of the MLS era.
But I think I’m personally happiest for goalkeeper Adam Grinwis. Brian Rowe has locked down the starting job in league play, but O’Connor has opted to use Grinwis as his Cup keeper, and the young Michigan native has delivered. Grinwis’ first half save from the NYCFC game ranked #3 on the SportsCenter Top 10, but he delivered crucial, game-changing stops against both Memphis and New England as well.
The look on his face after the final stop against NYCFC said it all:
I mean, that’s the sort of stuff we watch sports for, isn’t it? A good kid trains his butt off for a year and a half and so many years before even arriving here to land at this exact moment.
O’Connor really did put it best after the game: “I think we’ve created a little bit of history. I think we won the biggest game in the Club’s history…just immensely proud of the supporters as well. They kept pushing and driving and singing and chanting and then at the end even when the penalties is on the far end…to just not accept it and come all the way around and get behind the goal, what a special memory for the football club. Just an incredible memory for all of us here tonight.”
Indeed. Bring on Atlanta.
Orlando City didn’t leave it long to make some more news, adding Brazilian winger Robinho from Columbus in exchange for $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. Robinho took on Orlando just a couple weeks back and very nearly scored on a hellacious bicycle kick, only to be denied by Brian Rowe:
I imagine that turned some heads in the Orlando City front office. Robinho has been on the radar for a while, though—he was signed to Columbus by Gregg Berhalter before he left for the USMNT job, and Berhalter’s top scout at the time was Ricardo Moreira, who now heads up scouting for Orlando City.
Robinho’s end product hasn’t been there for the Crew, but he’s an iron man who can play just about every game and provide defensive actions from a forward position along with some playmaking ability. Due to injuries and international duty decimating the Crew’s offensive talent, combined with disappointing returns from DP Pedro Santos, Robinho was often forced to take tons of low-percentage shots as the only real creator in the attack. That won’t be an issue for him here next to Nani and Chris Mueller.
All in all, it’s a low-risk signing that provides depth in the attack for Orlando’s 2019 playoff push. A nice move to start the summer.
Rapinoe lays down the challenge
I mentioned this on this week’s edition of OC Soccercast that, despite my inclination to cheer for the underdog, the United States women’s national team won me over during the FIFA Women’s World Cup on the strength of their sheer unstoppable awesomeness.
Megan Rapinoe was at the forefront throughout the tournament, using the platform she earned to advocate for equal pay, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s sports. Rapinoe is a genuine role model in a world starved for them.
I particularly enjoyed her words at the team’s victory parade in New York City. The whole seven minute speech is worth watching, but here’s the best part:
"We have to love more, hate less."— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 10, 2019
Listen to Megan Rapinoe's powerful speech at the Women's World Cup parade. pic.twitter.com/G3QdfGO8D3
The key now is to make sure the platform for Rapinoe, Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan, and others doesn’t go away just because the World Cup is over. Every player on the USWNT is on an NWSL roster. The league is right in our backyard and features the best women’s soccer on the planet.
If you were at all caught up in the emotion and the drama of this World Cup, and if you’re reading this it’s hard to imagine you weren’t, it doesn’t have to end! The NWSL is mid-season right now and runs through October. Support and enjoy it!
Questions, comments, concerns? Evan is on Twitter at @EvanLWeston.