I remember back when the supporters for Orlando City were really ramping up. Before the Aztex moved to Orlando, we had a ragtag bunch of misfits–the Orlando Soccer Supporters Club–led by the team’s current Director of Communications, Adam Soucie, and myself. Last November, we met with Dan and Lori Conlee, who were forming their own supporters’ group, initially named Orlando City Supporters.
As Adam moved into the team office, leaving his day job and his side jobs with the Tuskers and Predators behind, I made the decision at the time that I simply did not have the werewithal to lead the supporters into the actual team era. So I handed Dan and Lori the keys.
As I get busy with my day job–in which I’m dealing with a shift in the way we do things–and start ramping up my other side pursuits of PA announcing (I am doing varsity football for the first time this year) and writing recaps for Golden Road, the prime fan site of The Price is Right, I am pondering how I want to approach Reeves’ Army in the future.
When I came up with the name, it was a proposal for a name for what ultimately became The Ruckus. As they took the naming elsewhere, I used it for this blog. But with the tensions rising between The Ruckus and the Iron Lion Firm, I can’t help but feel disheartened. We cannot have several supporters groups all doing different things.
In 2012, we have the chance to build on an insanely great 2011. And I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure that we do. To ensure success in 2012, we, the supporters, have some work to do.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, WE MUST LEARN TO WORK TOGETHER.
We don’t have to have a monolithic supporters’ group in order to show unified support. The two best organic supporters’ groups in MLS–Timbers Army and Section 8 Chicago–are both subdivided in some fashion. Timbers Army appears as a single group before the Independent Supporters’ Council, but is subdivided into several subgroups which go either by stadium section or geographic area. Section 8 is a governing body of sorts which coordinates many independent supporters’ groups.
The gameday environment will be at its best if we all stand as one in the South End. Not only does this mean The Ruckus and Iron Lion Firm coming to some sort of peace, but also Los Guerrilloz and Rhythm Section joining us in the South End. My hope is that they will claim sections of the South End for their own and intermix their cultures with ours for the betterment of our team. It would be excellent for us to use each other’s chants as a gigantic group. It’ll just sound much better (and louder) than the four of us each doing our own thing.
SECONDLY, WE MUST REACH OUT TO NON-ALIGNED SEASON TICKET HOLDERS AND CASUAL FANS.
If my calculations are correct bywhat I’ve gleaned from team news reports and Twitter notes, if we’re not over 1,000 season ticket holders, we’re close. Thing is, the 100s South End holds over 4,000 seats. The three center sections (119, 120 and 121) hold 508, 580 and 580 fans, respectively. We need to fill them so we can amp up the intensity of our support.
I know not every season ticket holder in the supporters’ section is actually in the supporters’ groups. And by now, all supporters’ group members should have reupped on their season tickets. We need to get in contact to those who have season tickets, and those who are interested in attending games, to get them involved in our level of support.
In addition, we need to foster the creation of other supporters’ groups. I know Orlando has the capacity for more groups. We can find groups to take charge of the other South End sections and lead the cheering in our area. I will admit, I have considered doing this myself, but I have made no concrete plans yet, owing to my currently busy schedule.
THIRD, WE MUST TAKE OUR OUTREACH ON THE ROAD.
The Ruckus made good road trips to Richmond and Charleston, and the Iron Lions sent fans to our U.S. Open Cup match in Dallas. And Orlando City’s presence has been felt not only throughout USL Pro, but all over the soccer world.
With a little more planning and lead time, I think we can do even better.
I think we can organize, in addition to at least one major road trip, planting small away trips to each of the Lions’ away games. I would love to see representation of our fans at every single USL Pro game we play.
And it doesn’t end there.
I have an idea: the Orlando City Mean 18. Let’s put at least one fan in every single Major League Soccer venue for one game each. Let’s make our support seen everywhere.
Then, at the end of the 2012 season, let’s get a contingent together and send a major representation to the 2012 MLS Cup. My idea: a show of force that The Don absolutely cannot ignore.
This is what the Sons of Ben did at the 2007 MLS Cup. Philadelphia was awarded Team #16 only a couple months later, coming out of virtually nowhere. Of course, they only had to go a couple hours down I-95 that year. So this will be a much more difficult undertaking for us no matter where it is. If we’re going to do this, we need to begin making plans now.
If we fill even half a section of whatever venue is selected for the 2012 MLS Cup, we will make a major impression.
This is primarily food for thought for the coming year. We did extremely well in 2011, considering we got started in November. Next season began on September 4. How are you preparing for 2012?