The Orlando Pride’s 3-2 victory over Sky Blue FC was a strange one for Australian midfielder Alanna Kennedy.
The normally-sound distributor had a rough first half. Early on, she waited in the middle third for a ball from Emily van Egmond to come to her, and while she waited, Imani Dorsey pounced and started the break that led to Sky Blue’s first goal of the evening.
Kennedy’s passing accuracy was at 50 percent (14 of 28 passes completed) for the first half.
In all, it wasn’t Kennedy’s finest 45 minutes of soccer and she felt the need to speak with coach Tom Sermanni after match – even after she was much-improved in the second half. She apologized for her poor performance in the first half.
“I had a game of two halves,” Kennedy said after Monday’s training session. “I think my first half was not at the level that I expect myself to play it. Really, the only thing that it comes down to it was poor execution on a few of my passes and I just think you just sometimes have those games where you’re not connecting a pass and then you try something different and you don’t connect that.”
By the end of the match, Kennedy’s passing accuracy climbed to 64.3 percent (22 of her 28 second half passes were successful).
“For me, the second half, I could either come out and do the same thing or completely change the way I was playing,” Kennedy said.
“For me, there was no other options but to come out and have a better half. I was happy with my second half, but I also know Tom really well and I know I have high expectations for myself and I know he does as well, so I did go up to him afterwards and apologize.
“He didn’t say anything, but I know when I’m disappointing him and so I just had a quick word with him at the end of the game and I guess it was pretty relieving that we won.”
Sermanni recounted the midfielder’s apology after Saturday’s match.
“She said, ‘I’m really sorry,’” Sermanni said. “She said, ‘I was terrible in that first half and I hate to disappoint you and the team.’”
He added, “It’s not an exact science, sometimes players have bad days.”
After Saturday’s match, Sermanni lamented – among other things – how frequently the Pride play the ball backwards.
“We move the ball backwards more than any other team in this league,” he said. “Sometimes, I think we’re a rugby team. You know, you have to pass it backwards in rugby, you can’t pass it forward, just for those people who are not familiar.”
Some of that falls on the shoulders of Kennedy.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure,” she said. “If I do, its easy for me to perform poorly. I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself. I just know what people expect from me and I have high expectations of myself as well.
“I do like to be on the ball and conduct the game and dictate the game.”
The Pride (5-3-4, 19 points) had two weeks away from NWSL competition before Saturday’s win and some players were away for international duty. Kennedy said their isn’t a lack of cohesion among the players, despite key contributors frequently missing training due to national team obligations.
“I feel as though we know each pretty well,” she said. “It obviously is a little bit disruptive and different players are feeling a little bit more sore than others, or tired, or heavy, whatever. I feel as though we know each other well enough to not let that sort of creep in and we can have different players start at different times depending on what Tom wants or needs.”