Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What's a First Impression Worth in Orlando?

With a crowd of more than 60,000 people expected for Orlando's official MLS home opener on Saturday, MLS and soccer aficionados in the U.S. will take a deep breath and hope for a goal-producing affair.

This is the real first impression for the Orlando City SC Lions to make on casual sports fans in the Orlando metro area.  A 0-0 match would not be the optimal result and could be considered a loss in the public relations department.  A 1-0 loss to the visiting team, NYCFC, could be considered a loss on top of a loss.

With a crowd this large, the best result would be a thriller with the home team winning on a late goal to finish the game, 3-2.

There needs to be goals, period, end of sentence.

With a crowd this large, the expectation is great and a lot of fans are there just for the event status. Turning the casual fans into die hard fans is the responsibility for all MLS teams.  Casual fans can flip to die hards if they fall in love.  Falling in love with soccer usually only happens when goals are scored.

There's only one chance for a first impression.  Unless, first impressions count for every season.

The Montreal Impact did its part this year in front of more than 38,000 fans at Olympic Stadium in their first home game this season as they tied Mexican side, Pachuca, in the final minute, to make the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.  This unexpected wondrous result for Impact fans gets the juices flowing.  Now, an even larger crowd is expected to turn out for their semifinal aggregate home game at Olympic.

A few years ago, the Portland Timbers put on a great show in their first official home games in MLS.
(I wrote this for that article: 0-0 games and 1-0 games can be thrillers, but too many of them can drain even the most ardent of Soccer supporters.  To guarantee maximum mainstream success with U.S. sports fans, low scoring and uneventful games have to become the exception, not the norm.)

The best way to avoid a dull match is for Orlando to attack and show their home crowd that they have pride in getting shots on goal.  They may get burned a couple of times on counter plays, but it is up to them to establish the pace of the game.  Hopefully, this strategy has been talked about not only among Orlando coaches and players, but also by their front office staff and their marketing committees.

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