SeaWolves, Lions, Apollos, and Solar Bears all played at home ... and all made way for the rodeo this weekend.
One word for the sports weekend here in the Orlando area this past Saturday.
Or nuts. Maybe a word to use would have been “clone”, as it you’d need to do it to yourself at least once (or twice) to take in everything that was going down in professional sports on Saturday, March 16. Here was the schedule:
Montreal Impact at Orlando City (MLS soccer), 4 p.m.
Idaho Steelheads at Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL hockey, Amway Center), 7 p.m.
Kansas City Comets at Orlando SeaWolves (MASL in door soccer, Silver Spurs Arena — hey, we got in on the action!), 7 p.m.
The Orlando Magic were on the road. Probably a good place for them.
Arizona HotShots at Orlando Apollos (AAF football, UCF’s Spectrum Stadium), 8 p.m.
The best you could have done was make two of them, starting at Orlando City Stadium early in the day, when Mother Nature couldn’t make up her mind between warm and sunny and cloudy and breezy, and then chosen your nighttime activity between hockey (like three blocks from soccer), south to Kissimmee or east to UCF.
Here’s a little something about each of those teams:
Orlando City — still disappointing a dwindling fan base after losing 3-1 to Montreal Saturday. Losing like that on the road is just … bad. At least the Lions keep it interesting. In their season opener against New York, they trailed 2-0, looked hopeless, then scored twice late to steal a tie that felt like a win. The following week in Chicago, Orlando held a 1-0 lead and were up a man due to a Chicago red card earlier … and the Fire didn’t care, scoring a goal on quite literally the final play of the game to turn a road victory (“three points on the road in the MLS is like gold” said a commentator who had the Orlando win already salted away) into a tie that felt like a loss in which you’d bet your house.
Coach James O’Connor and the OCSC front office overhauled the lineup in the offseason, and if it doesn’t jell soon, the novelty of the world’s most popular game will wear off at a time the team had the chance to own this pro sports market with the Magic at a pretty low spot. Stay tuned.
Orlando Solar Bears — a niche sport with a niche following in this town. I grew up in the Northeast so hockey’s in my blood, I enjoy the free-flowing action, and it doesn’t hurt to be in a building with ice when it gets pretty warm down here. The team is playing very well, as they took a 6-2 win Saturday over Idaho and played Tuesday night for a series win against the Western Conference’s second-best team.
Saturday also had a local feel to it, as members of fire/rescue and police teams went at it early in the day in the Solar Bears’ annual Guns ‘N Hoses charity hockey game. Jared and Jordy Fisher, brothers who work for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, helped lead the Central Florida Enforcers (cops team) to the title.
Orlando SeaWolves — the name is kind of a misnomer because this team plays right here in Osceola County at the Silver Spurs, though they train and practice at a couple of Orlando locations.
The team has four weekends of games left, with three home games remaining, starting next Friday against Kansas City. The SeaWolves are locked in a playoff-spot fight with them and the St. Louis Ambush, who have become a fun rival after a series of games this year.
The game is fast-paced and action packed, but few have turned out locally to see them, which is a shame. I thought that Orlando City fans to the north would come down and watch live soccer during the MLS offseason, but the impression I got from many of those folks after the home opener in November was, “Kissimmee’s so far away, it might as well be on Mars, I’ll watch the game online,” and haven’t been back. Their loss.
Orlando Apollos — Now we get to football, American style, although played in the spring, when the NFL stars are soothing their war wounds. Many second leagues have come and gone, lacking fans or finances — and, sometimes, talented players, like the XFL years ago.
Granted, every bit of Alliance of American Football I’ve watched has been on a Saturday night instead of a Sunday afternoon, so it takes getting used to, but the product has been solid, and it doesn’t hurt that Orlando’s the best team in the league, despite a 22-17 loss to Arizona on Saturday.
It’s still a collection of players you’ve heard little about or did but not lately — I saw Apollo’s QB Garrett Gilbert play at SMU and he was a train wreck — but a coaching collection that includes Steve Spurrier, Dennis Erickson, Mike Singletary, Mike Martz and Rick Neuheisel will make a lot of football junkies take notice.
It’s going to take a while to get fans to buy in, but spring football will eventually work. It may not be the AAF, but people will watch football from after the Super Bowl to before the Hall of Fame Game.
This weekend’s schedule is not as crazy as last week’s — Orlando City’s in New York and the Apollos in Atlanta today, the Solar Bears are home tonight but then embark on a five-game road trip, and the SeaWolves are in Baltimore and Harrisburg (Pa.) this weekend.
That leaves you plenty of time to check out the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo this weekend at the Silver Spurs, the professional rodeo circuit’s All-Star Game. A full rundown of the event and some of the stars you’ll see competing appears on Page 9 of this paper …
… The NCAA men’s basketball tournament starts in earnest tonight. As St. Patrick’s Day just past, here’s an Irish prayer for your brackets …
“May the scores rise up to meet you,
May the upsets be all what you picked,
May the possession arrow point toward your team,
And may your point guard hold the ball in victory.”
Amen. Go Knights! Go Gators! Go ‘Noles! Go Blue Devils!