No one can take away what Orlando City accomplished with their freshmen season in the City Beautiful; both a regular season and championship title in the USL PRO in front of league-leading attendance. As with anything new there's a tendency to look more at the positives than the negatives during that, "getting to know you" period (kind of like all my relationships in high school). Now that the Lions are drawing near the end of their Sophomore effort in the regular season I thought it would be great to compare their results so far to this same time (pre-playoffs) last season. Here's a look back at Orlando City from 2011's regular season campaign compared to 2012's effort so far. Will history repeat itself, who can only hope.
2011 - Orlando City wasted no time getting exposure as they were one of the original clubs, and the only from USL or NASL, to take part in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic where they went 2-2 in the tournament with wins over MLS sides Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union. They ran the table with their remaining pre-season friendlies against college and club teams going 5-0 leading into the regular season. The July pair of friendlies against Barclay's Premier League sides saw a split decision with a loss to the Bolton Wanderers but a win over Newcastle United in front over 10,000 in Orlando.
2012 - The Lions started the pre-season with draws against MLS sides Seattle, Philadelphia, and Toronto in February, but ended the Disney Pro Soccer Classic with two losses to go winless in their first five matches. Like 2011, the soft college schedule through the rest of the pre-season let Orlando pick-up six convincing wins before the regular season began. With just one July friendly, the Lions played hard against Stoke City but loss 1-0 in front of over 10,000 or roughly the same size crowd as the Newcastle match the previous season.
2011 - Orlando City suffered their first loss of the season in their very first USL PRO match on the road at Richmond and started out with 2-1-1 start mid-table in the standings. However, the Lions only loss two more times the entire season, at home to Antigua and on the road at Charleston. The captured the regular season title by finishing 15-3-6 which ensured vital home field advantage throughout the playoffs ultimately ending in the Lions winning the Championship at the Citrus Bowl last September. They finished the regular season 6 points ahead of second place Wilmington in the American Division and 11 points ahead of Rochester from the National Division.
2012 - Some wondered if the Lions could run the table and go undefeated in the regular season, which almost happened with their only loss being at Wilmington on June 2nd. With their last match schedule at home on August 17th, Orlando City is looking to finish 18-1-5 having already secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With all the teams playing in a single division this season, and with one match to play, the Lions currently are 18 points ahead of second place Rochester.
US Open Cup
2011 - Orlando City beat ASC New Stars in the first round of the tournament with a 4-0 victory at home followed up by a 0-1 win on the road against Charleston in the second round. Their third round match had them travel to FC Dallas, and although going up early in the first half and equalizing the game in stoppage time, they loss on a last second goal before the final whistle to end their US Open Cup run.
2012 - Being winners of the USL PRO in the previous season the Lions received a bye into the second round of the tournament where they destroyed KC Athletics 7-0 playing at the Seminole Soccer Complex. Again their third round match had them on the road against an MLS side, this time it was Sporting KC. Although the teams were even in the early part of the second half two quick goals by Sporting KC and a red card to Anthony Pulis sealed Orlando's fate in the 3-2 loss.
2011 - For their 12 regular season home matches, the Lions averaged 5,265 fans at the Florida Citrus Bowl, leading the league in attendance. However crowds of 7,604, 8,304, and 11,220 for the playoffs lifted the overall home average attendance to 6,020.
2012 - With one regular season match left, Orlando City is averaging 6,394 fans per match or roughly a 20% improvement over 2011. Assuming next Friday's match is on par with the season average and the three playoff matches draw similar attendance to last season, if not better, the Lions should come close to cracking a total season average of over 7,000 per match.