It seems cliché to say that a better script could not have been written for the USL Pro Championship match between Orlando and Harrisburg on Saturday night, but what else can you really say? Orlando's captain and the league's best keeper, Miguel Gallardo, was sent off in the 48th minute on a red card leaving back-up keeper, Sean Kelley, to defend the net in the biggest match of his life. Orlando scored what seemed to be the game winning goal in the 89th minute only for Harrisburg to score on their final corner attempt of stoppage time. Harrisburg scored quickly into the overtime session only for Orlando to get a let penalty kick opportunity to tie the match and send it to a shoot-out. Back-up keeper Kelley for Orlando blocks the first two attempts, Orlando skies two attempts over the net before Devorn Jorsling took his "in-and-win" kick and capitalized giving Orlando the title. Celebration ensued both on the field and in the stands as the Citrus Bowl, with its biggest crowd of the season of 11,220, soaking up every minute. The match was broadcast live on Fox Soccer and, having seen it on television, the crowd and atmosphere translated great for the viewing audience. Needless to say, many of the fans partied the night away and woke-up the next morning with a bit of a hangover. Was it the alcohol or the fact that the season was over? Orlando was in its inaugural season and had picked up thousands of new fans along the way. The hardcore soccer fanatics know there's life after the end of City's season, but what is a fringe fan suppose to do until next season? Consider this our hangover remedy list for new Orlando City fans.
We were blown away by the amount of press and feedback we received on our Orlando to MLS article last week, clearly our hometown has the fan base to support a professional team, but what should they do in the off-season? Just as USL Pro, NASL, and MLS are winding down their seasons, the rest of the soccer world is beginning theirs. We are a little biased towards the English Premier League, and you should be too, it is the easiest foreign league for US fans to follow. As "The Newb" has pointed out for us before, the amount of resources available to follow EPL are tremendous; multiple television stations, multiple matches each weekend, mobile apps, and our Monday Morning Keeper of course. Picking a team can be difficult, but for those Orlando City fans looking to find a team to stand behind might we suggest Stoke City? Orlando's President, Phil Rawlins, is a board member for Stoke City so you know who he is following in the off-season. "The Potters" as they are known by their fans have had some success recently, managing to make it to the Football Association final last season and finishing in the middle of the pact in the league last season. Stoke made some big moves before the trading deadline last week, acquiring striker Peter Crouch and others in an effort to push towards the top half of the table this season. By supporting Stoke City you are supporting Orlando City since cash into either club will help them grow and acquire better players. If you need any more proof of the connection between the squads, check out the Orlando City link right on the Stoke homepage; classy move by the club. By the way Stoke host Liverpool this Saturday at 10am on Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv and there are several more matches for the Potters that will be broadcast in the US this season. Lastly, if you are in Orlando you might want to take a trip down to the Florida Mall and check out United World Soccer's new store to pick-up a Stoke City jersey (no plug here, they just have the best selection in the city).
Still looking for more of a hangover cure? Why not start following the US Men's National Team now instead of just during the World Cup? It's an exciting time for the USMNT with new coach Jurgen Klinsmann experimenting with different players and line-ups to find new talent and extract more from the trusted veterans. Bringing Klinsmann on as coach has been something that has been floating around the hallways at US Soccer for well over a decade and now we have a chance to see what the former German National Team head coach can do. Florida is a frequent stop for USMNT friendly and cup matches. Case in point, the team will take part in a friendly against Honduras on October 8th in Miami and there's a good chance that another friendly could be scheduled in Tampa or Orlando over the winter or in the spring. Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup will kick-off in June for the US with matches through the summer months. Can't wait that long? The US takes on Belgium in a friendly this afternoon (Oct. 6th) at 2:30pm on ESPN and ESPN3. Don't forget about the US Women's National team as well who just missed out on winning the World Cup this past summer and already have a number of friendlies scheduled around the country in the coming months.
Our last suggestion is to look a little closer to home. In the case of Orlando fans, you can start following University of Central Florida matches for both the men's and women's teams. Both teams are just starting their seasons and play at the newly renovated UCF Soccer Complex right on campus. Both teams have been ranked nationally in previous season and the Men's team has gone undefeated in its first 5 matches on the season. There's no better way to help support soccer locally than to get out to your local high school and colleges and support the future stars of soccer in America.