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Orlando City Packs Citrus Bowl For MLS Debut Against Fellow Expansion Club NYC FC

Orlando City Packs Citrus Bowl For MLS Debut Against Fellow Expansion Club NYC FC

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Garber called the Citrus Bowl crowd of more than 62,000 "unbelievable"
MLS expansion clubs Orlando City SC and NYC FC yesterday played "in front of an announced crowd of 62,510 at Citrus Bowl Stadium," marking "the second-highest attendance for an MLS inaugural game," behind only the Galaxy's 69,255 at the Rose Bowl in '96, according to Kyle Hightower of the AP. Orlando City's preseason Twitter campaign "led to a turnout and atmosphere that MLS Commissioner Don Garber called 'unbelievable.'" Garber: "It really gives you a bounce in your step after so many years to see 62,000 people here" (AP, 3/8). ESPN FC's Doug McIntyre wrote yesterday's match "must be regarded as an unqualified triumph" for Orlando City. The buzz around the city "was palpable in the days leading up to the match, and most of the overflow crowd showed up wearing the club's distinctive color scheme, which turned the Citrus Bowl into a sea of purple before the game kicked off." Garber: "I was told by the owner they thought they could've had 80,000 if they had enough seats." McIntyre wrote the show Orlando City "put on was as good" as any debut in MLS history. Not even the Sounders at their '09 opener did what Orlando City "was able to pull off." The trick now will be for Orlando City "to keep the momentum going, but there's no question they're off to an incredible start" (ESPNFC.com, 3/8). Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said, "There is so much momentum behind this team. Team management has been fantastic. Their social media, their communications and then their outreach is just superb." ESPN’s Adrian Healey said Orlando City Founder & President Phil Rawlins "was true to his word. He had a vision. It's been seven years in the making, this day" ("NYC FC-Orlando City SC," ESPN2, 3/8).

BUILT TO LAST? In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes what happened at the Citrus Bowl yesterday "was earth-shaking and groundbreaking: Central Florida transformed into International Soccer Central." There was "purple, purple everywhere -- as far as the eye could see" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Adelson writes the groundswell of support for Orlando City "has been anywhere from impressive to shocking." Orlando City bumper stickers "are everywhere," and team sweaters "dotted the whole town" yesterday. Orlando City MF Lewis Neal said, "It was an unbelievable experience. I've never seen anything like that before. It was something I'll never forget." But Adelson writes the "ultimate question" is whether the fervor around the team can "last." It is "hardly likely that 62,000 people will show up to the next home game," and it is "not even known yet if the new 20,000-seat stadium will be packed for every match" once it opens (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/9). In Orlando, Brian Schmitz writes a 1-1 tie "might not go over so well in other sports," but it "certainly beat a defeat spoiling an otherwise spectacular and historic grand opening at the Citrus Bowl." Schmitz asks whether the "honeymoon" will continue between the team and its fans. While yesterday's game "was standing room only," the question whether the fans will "fill the bowl again in two weeks" against the Whitecaps remains. Neal: "We're going to find out, I guess. We do well, we'll pull the crowds. But I think we have a great fan base win, lose or draw" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/9). ESPN's Taylor Twellman said of Orlando City's supporters, "The majority of these fans were here at 11:00 in the morning. This isn't your typical fan maybe just saying, ‘I'm going to come in, watch Kaká one game or two games and then move on.’ You're talking a real fan base here in Orlando" ("NYC FC-Orlando City SC," ESPN2, 3/8).

SEASON-SAVING SPECTACLE: ESPN's Twellman said of yesterday's match impacting MLS labor talks, "I think you're kidding yourself if you don't think today is a big reason why that CBA got done: 62,000 (fans), two new ownership groups, two new franchises. It's a good thing the owners and players got agreement at the 11th hour" ("NYC FC-Orlando City SC," ESPN2, 3/8).

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