Coming out of the World Cup Break: No, this isn’t the 2018 Orlando Pride
Updated: Jan 1
Starting the second half on the National Women’s Soccer League from the World Cup break the Orlando Pride look to shake off the doldrums of starting this season without a win. Has this been a carryover from the end of the 2018 season which was rough goings for the Orlando Pride?
The team underachieved last year and played itself out of playoff contention as the Pride dropped points until the bitter end of the season. There was a cloud of general malaise hanging over the team which led to the parting of the ways with Coaches Tom Sermanni and Khano Smith. The organization also replaced the general manager which lead to a mostly stagnant off-season.
A new chapter in team history began with the appointment of a new general manager and the hire of Marc Skinner from Birmingham City Women’s FC, a club which has held firmly to fourth on the Women’s Super League table against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal.
Coach Skinner has a difficult task of instilling a new system in a three-week long preseason with a revolving door for his national team players. Orlando only had all of its players together in camp the Thursday before the first match. Compounding the challenge is the schedule of the fixtures to start the season.
The results haven’t come, but the performance on the pitch has progressively gotten better. The core players have demonstrated some of the ball and player movement Skinner is looking to instill in Orlando; however, the touch in the final third has still left the team lacking.
Beyond the results on the field, Orlando has evolved its organizational structure. First, the club appointed team-specific general manager, Erik Ustruck, who is focused on adding players Skinner hopes will increase the level of quality on the squad; such as, with the signing of Scottish international Claire Emslie while allowing the head coach to concentrate on tactics, player development, and game planning for opponents. In addition, the club has committed to the future of the Pride as the team announcement stated, “…first-ever customized, exclusive training facility…tailored to and used only by a women’s team.” While the future appears bright, currently all Orlando is looking for is the first win at Houston against the Dash. The last meeting was won by Houston on an early Kealia Ohai goal which stood up to get the three points.
The obvious key to victory for the Pride comes down to the fundamentals. Players have to find their finishing boots because the offense for Orlando has been awful. The only two goals scored by the team thus far have come from a center back on a set piece. Things haven’t worked out from the run of play. In regards to his side and the preparation for the match Marc Skinner said, “We’ve got to get to a point where we can play anybody. I’m happy with the progress, not the results I will say that, but we’re happy with the progress that the players are showing. If we can limit the mistakes and make the other team make more mistakes we’ll be in a good place.”
Even though signs are pointing to a season for a rebuild, the serious work for that won’t be done until after this year. Until then, the players on the roster will attempt to demonstrate to Skinner they belong in his long-term plans. No excuses on national team players being absent, the players remaining should show progress in their development and bloom. The real question is will this be enough to move Orlando up the standings in the league?