ORLANDO, Fla. – After just two seasons, Orlando City will say goodbye to Camping World Stadium (f.k.a. the Citrus Bowl) on Sunday, with their final game at the venue, against D.C. United (4 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE) ahead of opening their own purpose-built stadium in 2017.
The Lions managed to pack a huge amount of excitement and emotion into their two-year tenure. Here are the top 10 memorable moments from their stay at the iconic Orlando venue.
100, And Counting: Last-minute dramatics have been an Orlando specialty in 2016, but the 100th minute? That was the time on the clock when Brazilian star Kaká – who else? – stepped up to convert a game-winning penalty in the thrilling 3-2 win over Toronto on June 25. In many ways it summed up the team’s roller-coaster ride this year, turning on the style at key moments but proving fallible in defense.
The Rain Game: If ever an occasion summed up the fans – and management’s – commitment to the cause, it was the much-delayed clash with Chicago at the then-Citrus Bowl on August 29 last year. Thunderstorms caused three hold-ups and the 1-1 draw didn’t finish until 12:10 a.m., but thousands stayed to the end, and were joined by president Phil Rawlins and his suite guests, who decamped to the Wall for the final stages.
Molino Saluted: The loss of livewire midfielder Kevin Molino for much of the 2015 campaign was keenly felt, but it drew an emotional tribute from Kaká after the skipper’s goal in the 4-0 demolition of Los Angeles Galaxy. After scoring, the great Brazilian ran to the bench to don a No.18 Molino shirt, and he proudly paraded it for the 40,000 crowd, who went suitably nuts.
Newcomers Wreck Reigning Champs, Redux: If Orlando had a signature victory in 2016, it arrived on April 3 when visiting Portland ran into a City buzzsaw and were routed 4-1. It was the second successive year the reigning MLS Cup champions rolled into town and were completely out-played in front of a raucous and appreciative crowd, highlighted by a Brek Shea thunderbolt that lit up the stadium.
Newcomers Wreck Reigning Champs, Original: City were still without a home win (and Molino – see No. 8) when they entertained the Galaxy in mid-May and served up a stunning performance in front of their third biggest crowd of the season. It was crowned by one of the great team goals from Eric Avila that was nominated in the league’s Goal of the Year awards, and drew plaudits from Los Angeles head coach Bruce Arena.
Fill The Bowl II: Starting the 2016 campaign proved to be deja vu for the Lions as a massive 60,147 packed the Citrus Bowl for the 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake. The huge marketing effort to fill the stadium again paid off big-time as the city demonstrated its commitment to the purple-hued cause, and it got a suitably dramatic flourish. With 93 minutes on the clock, Real Salt Lake led 2-0, but late, late goals from Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter ensured an uber-memorable finale.
King Inchy: The moment that solidified the fans’ devotion to original head coach Adrian Heath arrived against New York Red Bulls on July 18 last year. "Inchy" was furious at a series of decisions – including a red card for Larin that was later rescinded – and was sent packing for his protests in the 74th minute. As supporters cheered him off, he turned to the stadium with a double arm pump – and brought everyone to their feet in lung-roaring approval.
Playoff Fervor: Orlando hasn’t had a playoff game to date, but the final home match of 2015 came close, a showdown with New York City that the team had to have to stay alive. A whopping 43,179 – the club’s second-highest attendance of the year – turned out and ensured a suitably strident backdrop for a thrilling game that saw the Lions hit back from 1-0 down to win with a brace from undoubted Rookie of the Year Larin.
Pulse Victims Honored: The horror of the Pulse Nightclub killings was still fresh in the Orlando air on June 18 when City played San Jose. It turned into one of the most poignant and emotional tributes in the aftermath of the national tragedy. The team became the focus for a city-wide outpouring of grief and salutations for the victims, including special pre-game ceremonies and a stoppage of play in the 49th minute. A country wept for all involved.
Bowled Over: The top moment for the Lions’ Citrus Bowl/Camping World Stadium tenure could only be the original Fill The Bowl game on March 8, 2015, Orlando’s league opener and the hugely emotional realization of an eight-year odyssey to reach Major League level. It felt like the whole city turned out to support their team and the record 62,510 debut crowd made it an “I was there” memory to crown them all, a sporting symphony in purple.