Fast starts and hard falls: Orlando Magic, Orlando City, Orlando Pride suffer the same fate

ORLANDO, FL - AUGUST 25: Orlando Pride forward Marta (10) during the soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the Chicago Red Stars on August 25, 2018 at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando FL. (Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - AUGUST 25: Orlando Pride forward Marta (10) during the soccer match between the Orlando Pride and the Chicago Red Stars on August 25, 2018 at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando FL. (Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic, Orlando City and Orlando Pride teams have all suffered eerily similar seasons of hope and disappointment.

The Orlando Pride were in second place on June 27 heading into a game with the struggling Houston Dash at Orlando City Stadium.

The team was rightfully a bit miffed with the decline in attendance at Orlando City Stadium. They made the Playoffs in the NWSL the year before and had a roster chock full of star players in Alex Morgan and Marta chief among them.

The team, for the record, was still among the top teams in attendance in the league, but they were struggling to get the attention that perhaps the team had earned. They had seen a slight decrease from the previous year to that point.

Things quickly fell apart from that moment on.

A dominant first-half performance against Houston quickly gave away as the Dash scored two goals late in the second half to steal the win. That marquee matchup with the North Carolina Courage (still the best team in the league) did not go much better. At home, the Pride struggled again, losing 3-0.

The week of home games that seemed like they might solidify the Pride as one of the best teams in the NWSL, turned out to be the one that toppled them all the way out of the Playoff race.

Orlando won just two of its next eight games, including losing the team’s last three matches.

Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Red Stars proved to be the final nail in the coffin. The defeat — a disappointing 3-1 loss where Alex Morgan’s goal came all too late — eliminated the Pride from the Playoffs.

Postgame press conferences apologizing to supporters for the poor effort all were too late. It appears coach Tom Sermanni is on the hot seat with such a talented team failing to make a dent in the small league and several key players could see the end of their time in Orlando.

It would be a tragic story if it were not so familiar.

Back on May 13, Orlando City had won six games in a row and was sitting atop the Eastern Conference, or at least very close. That is when their rival Atlanta United arrived into town for a showdown between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

That game proved to be a watershed moment for the club. Atlanta United won the match 2-1, amid some controversy as fans pelted the field with debris following the game.

Orlando City has won just one game in the last 16 matches — and just one draw too. The Lions have gone from one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference to the worst. In that time, Orlando City fired coach Jason Kreis, hiring James O’Connor to try to clean up the mess.

With just nine games left and 10 points between them and the final Playoff spot, it would take a miracle to reach the MLS Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

This story would be tragic if it did not sound so familiar.

Because before either of Orlando’s soccer teams had these major flameouts. . . the Orlando Magic did it first.

Magic fans are well aware of the story. The team raced out to a surprising 8-4 start and were the talk of the league behind some unsustainable offensive output. But things certainly should not have unraveled the way they have.

Injuries played a role — like they have with Orlando City — but the team quickly fell to the bottom of the standings. Orlando was in the running for a top three Lottery selection to the very end of the season.

The team sank like a rock.

This offseason, the Magic continue to work to build their base. They hired a new coach and added a key player in the draft. But, of course, there is still a long way to go. There are few quick turnarounds in the NBA. Not like there can be in MLS or NWSL.

Still, the fact all three teams had such complete and full collapses in the same calendar year has left Orlando sports fans frustrated. There has not been a lot for professional sports fans in the City Beautiful to enjoy.

In other words, thank goodness for the UCF Knights’ undefeated national championship season.

Each team has its own questions to answer as each faces a major turning point. But they are all in the same spot. Trying to figure out how to make that difficult climb from outside the Playoff race and virtually from the bottom.

All three organizations have built up strong fan bases over time just waiting for a reason to cheer.

The Magic have been around for nearly 30 years and have had good attendance despite a rebuild that has had too many fits and starts during this franchise-long six-year Playoff drought.

Orlando City has a passionate fan base that shows up and makes its presence felt at every game. The team has been unable to deliver for them. And the honeymoon shine is wearing off — especially as some notably high-profile incidents have started turning some away. Many of those fans also support the Pride.

Ultimately, despite the strong fan bases — in different ways, Orlando City’s The Wall obviously has been far more visible and outspoken both as a matter of the sport’s fan culture and their involvement with the team — winning is ultimately what matters and drives success.

All three of Orlando’s major professional teams — the Orlando Solar Bears have made the Playoffs each of the past two years — are struggling to find their footing on the field. Despite what appears to be decent support.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

That is the big thing about Orlando. The city is hungry for a winner and something to support with all its passion and heart — from the rowdy fans in the Wall to families sitting throughout Orlando City Stadium or the Amway Center. Orlando City’s rise and wild success with its fan culture is proof of Orlando’s passion for sports.

The last year has been a frustrating one because of the city has grown in so many ways — and continues to do so. And they want teams that not only represent the passion for their city but bring a source of pride to the city.

That has been the struggle for these three teams.

Orlando fans will still show up and support. They have done so for the Magic through the rebuild — with the help, perhaps, of a strong push to sell tickets to tourists (this is Orlando, after all).

They have done so for Orlando City. With the 2019 MLS All-Star Game coming to town, Orlando will have a chance to showcase itself as a soccer capital in the south (a title they are increasingly sharing with Atlanta).

And they will do so for the Orlando Pride. Despite their struggles and the uncertainty about the team and some of its stars, the Pride remain a strong franchise within the NWSL in terms of attendance and fan support. It, of course, could be a whole lot better.

The 2009 Orlando Magic were so close... but so far. dark. Next

As could everything in the city. But sports fans will have to wait and suffer through another frustrating, disappointing season for their teams.