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Cover 05/08/2013

Orlando City Soccer's goal rush

The Brit, the Brazilian and their (not so?) crazy scheme to make Orlando soccer capital of the Southeast

Photo: Photo credit: Mark Thor/Orlando City Soccer, License: N/A

Photo credit: Mark Thor/Orlando City Soccer

Photo: Photo credit: Mark Thor/Orlando City Soccer, License: N/A

Photo credit: Mark Thor/Orlando City Soccer

“I think the city needs that,” Rawlins says. “The city deserves it.”

For Rawlins, it comes down to the sense of belonging that soccer offered him as a boy in Stoke-on-Trent. He wants to re-create that feeling here. Orlando City is, of course, a business venture – and with an MLS franchise, a very profitable one. There’s no denying that. But it’s equally naive to assume that’s all there is to it. This is a labor of both love and money.

Rawlins is entering the final leg of a marathon he’s been running for years. But for all of his drive, for all the energy he’s expended on behalf of his vision, for all the enthusiasm he’s elicited from his team’s supporters, so much has depended, and is dependent still, on forces beyond his control, subject to the whims of politicians and league officials and what Donald Rumsfeld once referred to as “unknown unknowns.”

It’s not so unlike that miserable season opener, drenched and delayed by an inescapable downpour that all but emptied the Citrus Bowl. If you’re inclined to read anything into that – a foreboding storm portending something ominous about the team’s future – consider this: Late that night, after two long rain delays, with almost no one watching, the Lions beat the Rhinos 3-1.

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