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Orlando Pride set for ‘all-or-nothing’ match against North Carolina Courage

Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni directs his players during a training session. (Jordan Culver/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni has already thought about what it’s going to take for the Pride to reach the playoffs with three matches remaining.

To him, nine points during the final three matches means the Pride are in. Seven would give them a solid chance.

His calculations leave no room for a loss, even though the Pride’s Saturday match is against a club that already has the top spot in the NWSL wrapped up. Orlando (8-7-6, 30 points) faces the North Carolina Courage (15-1-5, 50 points) at 7 p.m. Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park.

Sermanni said this season hasn’t gone as smoothly has he’d hoped, especially with such a talented roster, but the players are still committed to the task of making the playoffs.

“I’ve got no complaints at all – and never have – about our commitment,” Sermanni said. “Our commitment to the team. Our commitment to the club. Our commitment to each other. The way we turn up in training every day highlights that. We don’t have players turning up any days shrugging their shoulders and not wanting to be here. Everybody puts in a good shift in training.”

Sermanni has been searching for answers all season for what ails the Pride, who are coming off a 2-0 loss to the Portland Thorns.

The riddle of North Carolina has been solved just once this season. The Utah Royals managed to beat the Courage 1-0 thanks to a goal from Brittany Ratcliffe in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time. The Royals are the only club in the league the Courage haven’t been able to beat this season.

Kristen Edmonds, who has played multiple roles for the Pride this season, said Saturday’s game is an “all-or-nothing” match.

“It’s kind of like a fresh start for us,” Edmonds said. “It’s kind of like a three-game season. So if we start with this game and do well, it’ll just be positive moving forward.

“We have to do things we don’t want to do like make those long runs and get into those tackles and just kind of give everything you’ve got. We shouldn’t really be able to walk off the field at the end of the game.”

The Courage had little trouble trouncing the Pride during their last meeting, earning a 3-0 victory in Orlando City Stadium.  It was the Pride’s only three-goal loss this season.

Sermanni said a win over the Courage would be an enormous confidence boost for the team. The Pride are winless in their last three matches.

“We said at the start of the year that this is a tight league,” Sermanni said. “There’s not much in it between most of the teams, obviously apart from Carolina this year. We wouldn’t put it down as a successful year if we don’t get in the top four.”

Veteran defender Ali Krieger said the club has done its best to transfer the fight and fire it shows in training to match days. She added the club has trouble getting out of the discouraging spells that hit after strong runs of play aren’t finished with goals.

“We need a win,” Krieger said. “We have to win. These are like cup final games, the next three games. Every team is beatable. When we bring our best game, we’re difficult to beat. That needs to be this weekend. That’s our mentality.

“We want to be in the playoffs. This is important for us and we all understand that, but once again it’s about mentality and being willing to put yourself on the line and your body on the line and want to win for the team.”

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