This is quite the piece to pen for an Orlando City blog the day after getting smacked 3-0 at home by a direct rival, but here me out. This is a season to dream for Orlando City fans and it's time to start dreaming of a potential Supporter's Shield run this season.
I need to clarify that I am not saying I expect Orlando to win the Shield or dominate the league by any means. I picked Seattle to hoist the Shield in preseason and I feel pretty good one of the Sounders, Union or LAFC will steamroll their way to this trophy.
This Orlando City group is not all that far behind the Shield chase and could well contend for the most impressive honor MLS has to offer.
I have no qualms calling this the best Orlando City team I've ever seen. There's a real dynamism around the group I don't think I've ever seen, and the depth is sneaky impressive. From striker to goalkeeper, the Lions have real difference makers.
The signings in the offseason, Facundo Torres, César Araújo and Ercan Kara, all look to be very good MLS players. It's early in their MLS careers for all three, but as they've grown into the league and the team over the last nine games, it's clear all three can be game-changing talents.
We've seen a few times this year how elite Orlando City can be. The second half against Montreal, the second game against Chicago and the win in Columbus all showed what Orlando can be in 2022. The defense is as good as any in Major League Soccer, and when the attackers are clicking, they can be hard, near impossible, to slow down.
If there's one qualm I have with this Orlando team and potentially competing for a Supporter's Shield, it's that I don't know how it matches up with the elite teams in the league. The Lions have not faced particularly impressive teams through eight games, and when they have -- New York, LAFC -- it's gone poorly.
I don't know if Orlando City is quite in the S-tier of MLS contenders quite yet, but it feels good to have a team that's at least tangentially related to that group. If the pieces continue to grow together and improve into the summer months, Orlando could be a dangerous team across all fronts.