Each week, we explore the ever-expanding narrative in the history of Orlando City Soccer Club. Each fan, player, coach, and front office employee has grown the story engrained in the heart and soul of the purple and gold badge, and each time the club takes the field, the story grows.
Let's all face it, even today, we miss Inchy sometimes. He was dynamite on the sideline, he loved Orlando City, & he poured purple into our veins. Heath is the reason we wear purple each week, & we owe him a debt of gratitude for that. I fully expect to see signs and gestures of appreciation for our former master and crafter before and after the match, but between the first and last whistles, he is still the enemy.
On Saturday night, Adrian Heath will be leading a hungry contingent of players, including Orlando City great Kevin Molino, into the house he helped design and make a reality. Heath's staff also has something to prove. Ian Fuller served as one of Heath's assistants since 2011, while Mark Watson served as an Orlando City coach from 2014 until 2016. Both coaches spent multiple years with Heath in Orlando and will be high on the emotion of a return alongside their manager. It is also worth mentioning that Harrison Heath, Adrian's son and former Orlando City midfielder, will also be on the sideline.
The house this group of former Lions will be entering will not be the same they once knew. Orlando City is in many ways a club reborn. A single player is all that remains of the inaugural Orlando City MLS squad, Cristian Higuita. Some signs even point to him not being an integral part of the core team this season. Instead, the group of players we will see on Saturday is now fully Jason Kreis' vision. He has hand-picked each of these players to serve a purpose for the club going forward, washing away the cruft and distractions in the process. This is, for the first time since 2015, a club put forth by a single man.
In Week 1's draw verses DC United, this new pack of Lions displayed their heart to overcome despite challenging circumstances. Each player kept pressing and fighting until a result was stolen for the fans and for the pride in the purple and gold badge they wear. Mohamed El Monir's impressive defensive play late in the game is the best example of this renewed tenacity. Despite being four paces behind in a breakaway sprint, he caught up to a DC United player in the middle of an unopposed run and forced a bold stop in the box. He gassed everything to make a play despite being down a goal and a teammate.
These players aren't going to give up easily. And they certainly aren't going to let a few visitors from the club's past change that. Saturday's match pre-game will be an emotional reminder of who we were as a club, but for 90 minutes, every player will show us who we are now. Yes, Jason Kreis will never be our first, because you always remember your first. However, he is the club’s clear and definitive leader, and his players have made it very clear with their actions that they will be following him onward and upward, not into the club’s past memories.