Gamers will remember a certain meme from a few years back when Illidan Stormrage proclaimed, "You are not prepared!"
I should have paid a little more attention to that because his words proved true for me yesterday in the twin exhibition games at Eastern Florida State College featuring OCB and the Orlando Pride. I have been basking in all the good weather we have been having for the past couple of months to the extent of not giving much credence to forecasts of rainshowers throughout the afternoon in Melbourne.
I drove out to Titan Soccer complex on the EFSC campus, and arrived a little before noon to find nearly a dozen food trucks set up to serve lunch, and I met up with Tom Traxxler of United World Soccer and Len Santiago of Orlando City almost right away. We spoke briefly about Friday night's match that the MLS side had against NYCFC, and Tom reminded me that NYCFC plays a tough pressure style that keeps a lot of visiting clubs on their heels most of the night as we saw with Orlando City on Friday. I had to concede my frustration with Orlando City's lack of consistent pressure on NYCFC for 90 minutes was not giving due credit to the opposing side, and upon further reflection I find it even enhances my appreciation of the team's ability to disrupt NYCFC's frequent build-ups and prevent them from being able to score. I stand by my assessment of Joe Bendik's quality goaltending and the confidence it inspires in me going forward, and I hope that Coach Heath and the rest of the staff can use the lessons learned from the strength of NYCFC's attacks to help our lads be even better prepared to defend that style in coming matches.
I added a little to my Orlando City wardrobe by picking up some socks and a t-shirt for Orlando Pride, though I am still a bit frustrated at Nike and the NWSL for not having any official kits availble yet for fans. I also met a father and daughter that were at the preseason tailgate on Church Street a few weeks ago, and we were all quite eager to see both OCB and Orlando Pride in action for the first time.
I visited the Aji Peruvian food truck for lunch, and had a lovely dish of Arroz Chaufa de Pollo (Peruvian chicken and fried rice), to which I added a small side of some delicious spicy creamy sauce, a bit like a Peruvian horseradish or wasabi. It gave the dish a lovely little kick and just the right amount of heat to make it very tasty indeed!
But just after lunch the skies darkened a bit and the rain began to move in. This is where my lack of preparation became apparent. Being a sports fan in Florida, a few years ago I bought a wonderful set of head-to-toe waterproof raingear that has served me well through many college football games and soccer matches alike, as well as a couple of outdoor concerts. It does a fantastic job of keeing myself and my electronics dry even in torrential downpours, but it can't help much when it is hanging up in the closet at home and I am halfway across the state out in the elements. Orlando City was selling ponchos for a reasonable $6.00 and I bought one, and for a while it did a passable good job in keeping me and my phone and other gear dry.
The start of the OCB match was delayed a few minutes, but by 1:15pm they were ready to get under way and the match started. I sat with my friends from the preseason tailgate until the first half of the OCB match ended in a scoreless draw. The rain was not too bad during the first half of this match, and by the end it had nearly ended completely. At the start of halftime they announced an abbreviated break to get the second half under way more quickly, but almost as soon as that announcement came, Mother Nature announced that she was on a different timetable with an ominous flash of lightning and a low rumble of thunder in the distance.
The PA announced that the match was being delayed for inclement weather, and it suggested to everyone that we return to our vehicles and wait to see when play would resume. I've lived in Florida long enough to realize that lightning is nothing to snub your nose at, so I followed the rest of the crowd back to the parking lot and jumped in my car to see what would happen. Then I made a mistake that proved detrimental to the rest of my day. I consulted my Weather Channel app on my phone. The app predicted a 100% of thunderstorms and rain for the next three hours, and about the time I got that news I saw that a lot of other people were starting to pull out of the parking lot. I gave it a few more minutes thought, and after seeing another flash of lightning not terribly far away, I made the decision to abort the rest of the day and make my way back to Orlando.
Of course, predictably, almost as soon as I got home and checked social media I saw that the Orlando Pride match was under way, and it wasn't long before Alex Morgan became the first Orlando Pride player in the history of the club to register a goal. Before it was all over she scored three more and the Pride also got scores from Kristen Edmonds, Monica Hickmann Alves, and Allie Wisner to earn a commanding 8 - 0 result. It's almost unfair to expect a college team to keep a roster like Orlando Pride in check. It would be about like asking your local high school team to stop Lionel Messi, Neymar, and the rest of Barcelona from scoring goals.
So unfortunately I was not prepared as I should have been and didn't stick around to see the action unfold. But I am glad for the sake of the college and the two Orlando City clubs that the matches were able to be played and the players got some much needed minutes on the pitch. I think Orlando City has made a great decision to partner with EFSC and use the Titan Soccer Complex for the OCB matches. The field looked like it was in great condition even with all the rain, and while I saw plenty of players slide and tumble during the first half of the OCB match, the turf appeared to hold well and maintain its integrity. The location is also quite convenient, just off of Wickham Road in Melbourne, and the pitch has nice sideline areas and covered benches for the teams, as well as sturdy but intimate grandstands for sideline fans and the supporter groups alike. I think fans who purchase OCB Season Tickets will find it a great place to tailgate and view the games, and I hope the association with the club will prove a nice boon for the college as well.
So let my mistake be a learning experience for you--never discount the possibility of rain with a match in Florida! Be sure to bring your all-weather gear so you don't have to fret about the condition of your mobile devices when you head out for a game. I'm looking forward to seeing the Pride in action in person soon, and I'll be out at the Citrus Bowl on April 23 if I can't manage to make it to any other preseason matches.