SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando Pride captain Ashlyn Harris voiced her support for coach Marc Skinner despite the team entering the season finale Saturday with just four wins.
“I’m so tired of people always blaming it on the coaches,” Harris said. “I support Marc [Skinner] 100% and I support this club 100%. We need players stepping up to prove their worth and prove that they’re good enough to be at this professional level and that’s the message moving forward.”
During his first season as an NWSL coach, Skinner’s team has posted a 4-16-3 record on the season, ceding 51 goals while netting only 22 of their own. Skinner and Harris both acknowledge this has been a frustrating year, one that Skinner says has been the hardest of his career.
During the team’s 24 games this season, Skinner has been forced to field 14 different lineups. Between the losses and injuries and World Cup absences, however, Harris sees in him a style of coaching that she believes could set up the Pride for success in the future.
“I think he fits in really well with the club,” Harris said. “I think he’s incredible. I think this is the best I’ve ever felt in terms of being prepared for any opponent. He gives us all the tools we need to succeed.”
Outside of the team’s drastic roster upheaval, Harris believes that the lack of preseason affected Skinner’s ability to succeed this year. Skinner joined the team late, unable to make roster moves in the offseason or make any selections in the 2019 NWSL Draft.
Moving forward, Harris said that the team’s success next season will hinge on Skinner’s ability to acquire the correct personnel in the offseason.
“I think for him, this is Tom [Sermanni]’s team,” Harris said. “He came into this with no changes. He didn’t get to bring anyone but his own staff. I think his job will be based on what type of players he can get here. I think he needs to field a team that aligns with his ideals and ideas of how the game should be played.”
Harris repeated one of her long-standing criticisms of the team — the captain feels that her teammates’ mentality is “soft” as a whole. During a year when the team’s “heavy hitters” have been unavailable due to international duty, injury and illness, she specifically said the team’s depth hasn’t stepped up enough.
Moving forward, the captain challenged the players who remain with the Pride into the 2020 season to embrace a “massive cultural change” she believes will be necessary to move out of the last place slot in the league.
“We’re too good of a club to be at the bottom of the table,” Harris said. “I’m hopeful that things will move in the right direction in the off season. Marc’s got his job cut out for him. He’s gotta figure out what that culture shift will look like.”