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Australians report to Orlando Pride training, Brazilians back this week

It likely won’t take much time to get Alanna Kennedy back into the swing of things with the Orlando Pride.

The 23-year-old Australian midfielder reported to Pride training for the first time this year Tuesday morning after missing all of preseason camp and the first month of the season while competing with the Australian women’s national team.

She had a six-hour medical examination on Monday, woke up Tuesday and went straight to the Seminole Soccer Complex.

If she has her way, she’ll be on the pitch at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for Orlando’s home match against Seattle Reign FC, anchoring the Pride’s midfield.

“I’m sure I’ll catch up with [coach Tom Sermanni] a little bit more in depth after training today, but I’m ready to go when he is,” she said Tuesday. “I’m ready to go for the weekend, if he’ll have me.”

Kennedy scored four goals in 24 appearances (23 starts) for the Pride last season. She’s one of five international players who missed all or most of the Pride’s first four matches of the season, including Brazilians Marta, Mônica and Poliana and fellow Australian Emily van Egmond.

Van Egmond, a new addition to the club who was signed by the Pride in the offseason, was also at Tuesday’s training session.

“I’m just hoping to sort of sit back in there and be that link in the middle,” Kennedy said. “I enjoy playing in the middle in this team. We have a lot of great ball players on the field and I like to sort of possess the ball.”

“I’m just looking to play the role the team needs me [in], whatever that is.”

The three remaining international players are set to return to Orlando Pride (1-2-1, 4 points) training this week. The club is coming off its first win of the season, a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash. 

“I think it gives everybody a little boost when you get players coming back,” Sermanni said. “It obviously increases the level of training, the quality of training and the competition within the squad.

“What we just need to be careful of with the players coming back is making sure they’re feeling good and they’re feeling ready to start. It’s going to be later in the week before we kind of know where we’re at in relation to picking the starting team and the squad for this weekend.”

Sermanni said Kennedy is “one of the best, if not the best midfielder in this competition.”

She’s a player capable of winning balls in the air either in the middle third or on set pieces.

“Alanna, she contributed in numerous ways [last season], but I think particularly her quality on the ball, her comfort on the ball, her vision, her ability to pass and then she also gives a great goal threat, as well,” Sermanni said. “We’re looking forward to seeing all those things.”

To start the season, Kennedy and van Egmond competed at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. After that the Australian women’s national team was in Amman, Jordan, for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

“I think, if anything, I’ve played more matches over the offseason than anyone in the squad, having been in Australia playing in the W-League and just come off five games in a row,” Kennedy said. “I’m fit. It’s just a matter of keeping myself healthy. A lot of travel and a bit of jet lag. I definitely feel fit for a game.”

Sermanni said the club is fortunate both Australian players are still young. Van Egmond is 24 years old.

“They kind of bounce back and recover very quickly,” he said, adding the club will individually assess each player who is coming back after extended international duty.

“We’re preparing for a whole season. We’re not just preparing for one game.”

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