Ahead of our meeting with Orlando City this week, we caught up with a man with a foot in both sides to give a unique perspective on what lies ahead for the Gunners.
A gooner since birth, Taylor Williams is also the founder of the official UK supporters club Orlando City and follows both teams with passion no matter which side of the Atlantic they play.
And with his two loves facing off for the very first time, we spoke to Taylor to find out who our opponents are, along with some tips for fans visiting Exploria Stadium.
First of all Taylor, why are you supporting Arsenal?
I’m from Stevenage so I’m in Arsenal territory. My dad used to be a season ticket holder, so I would come down every once in a while, and I was treated to the best Arsenal teams and players in my life.
My favorite memory is the 2002 FA Cup final against Chelsea in Cardiff. I went with my dad at the last minute and we managed to get tickets.
So how did your love for Orlando City begin?
My family has been vacationing in Orlando for over 30 years and had a vacation villa there so it’s like a second home. I’ve been lucky enough to travel there 15 or more times. I remember watching our very first MLS game against NYCFC in what is now known as Camping World Stadium in 2015 and from there I was hooked.
There’s a great quote from Dennis Bergkamp about why you choose a football club: it’s not the history or the trophies, you support it because you’ve found a place where you belong. This quote is so moving that it explains why I am Orlando City – a familiarity with the destination. Arsenal is my number one and always will be, but my passion for Orlando City is neck and neck.
How did Orlando City UK start?
We started in 2016 after the club’s first season in MLS, and we came only out of passion for the team. I opened a Twitter account and just posted some music at the start to talk about how the team was playing, and it snowballed. We have become an officially affiliated fan club with over 60 UK members and over 4,000 Twitter followers. He’s my baby and he’s grown bigger than I ever imagined.
Why should Arsenal fans choose Orlando as their MLS team?
Picking Orlando is like a microcosm for the league as a whole – you’ll always be entertained, both good and bad. It’s only been in the last two years that we’ve mastered a solid defense, but before that we’ve been involved in some of the craziest games you could think of. On Twitter, we were nicknamed the Cardiac Cats because we had a reputation for having stoppage time goals and late drama.
Major League Soccer is such an entertaining league. It’s not the standard of the top leagues in the world, but if you want to watch good football with famous names from the past mixed with young talent, watch MLS.
How has this season been so far?
It was strange. Our off-season has seen a lot of transitions and key pieces need to be replaced, so despite going 21 games into a 34-game season, we’re still feeling our way. We are in a play-off position despite not being at our best, but we are struggling to get fit and find consistency this season.
What should Arsenal expect?
Arsenal’s game comes amidst a busy schedule. We’ve reached the semi-finals of the US Open Cup tournament, so we’ll be playing eight games in July alone, a lot for a roster that isn’t the biggest. That said, I expect us to face a fairly strong team as these games don’t happen too often and there is a great promotional angle to play with Europe’s top teams.
Who are the dangerous ones to watch out for?
Our best player is Pedro Gallese, our ball and Peru international captain. He has been at the club since 2020 and has really been a game-changer. They call him El Pulpo, which means The Octopus in Spanish, and when you watch him play, you’ll know why. He’s capable of making some of the most nimble saves I’ve seen.
Facundo Torres has been our big signing this season. He is 22 and is already a Uruguayan international, so he is destined for the top and I think he will play a role. Alexandre Pato has been a bit of a player this season to be able to start, but our coach Oscar Pareja doesn’t like to turn too much.
How is the stadium?
Exploria Stadium was built for our 2017 season so it is relatively new. Whether you’re standing or sitting, there’s no bad vantage point. We are famous for our standing section called The Wall which was the first of its kind in MLS and many teams have copied it since. This is our loudest area with drummers and pyrotechnics – there’s always something going on here.
The atmosphere on game days is completely different from that in the UK. There’s a lot going on before kick-off. There’s also the culture of tailgating, so I would suggest Arsenal fans arrive early enough before kick-off, soak it all up and you’ll have a great experience.
Who are you going to support?
I’m still trying to figure out who I’m rooting for as it’s my two teams – maybe Orlando City because it would mean more to us, but I can’t wait to see how it goes.
It should be a competitive game. I think Arsenal will win 3-1; I think Orlando City will score as we are in the middle of our season and keep things respectable, but I can see the quality of Arsenal talking about that. I’m really looking forward to it!
Learn more about the city of Orlando in the United Kingdom Where follow them on Twitter
Tickets for the game against Orlando City are still available, or if you can’t make it to Exploria Stadium, the game can be streamed live on Arsenal.com and the official app.
Copyright 2022 Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to proper credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.
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