Marc Skinner didn’t hold back his disappointment after the Pride fell 2-1 on the road to the Washington Spirit Saturday night, ceding an early goal off a defensive blunder and falling to last spot in the NWSL standings.
During another game that Skinner said was plagued by “cheap” goals and poor defending, the loss grated on the coach, who said his team under-performed against an opponent it beat earlier this season.
“For me, I think they just didn’t execute the game plan well enough tonight,” Skinner said after the loss. “We told them how to beat Washington, we’d worked on it and they knew how to do it.”
Early in the season, mistakes along the backline plagued Orlando, with muffed passes and miscues between defenders leading to simple one-on-one opportunities for opponents. The Pride had squashed this issue in recent weeks, but repeated the mistake with the early mishandle by goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris that allowed the Spirit to take the lead in the opening 10 minutes of play.
Skinner said that repeated mistakes setting up goals throughout the season reflects the team’s lack of consistent quality in play. That quality has made the coach begin to turn his sights toward the offseason, as he looks to start the process of restructuring the roster for the next year.
“… Look, I’m going to work with every player that I have, that’s my job,” Skinner said. “But it’ll come to a point where we have to make decisions on who belongs to a team like Orlando.”
Skinner attributes the problems to a lack of consistency across the board. With the Pride facing three games in eight days, Skinner was forced to rotate his roster to rest players such as Claire Emslie, who he said he wished he could have started against the Spirit.
The combination of injury for Alex Morgan, suspension for Alanna Kennedy and personal absence for Chioma Ubogagu only added to the Pride’s depth problems.
“I’m asking the team to pick [the lineup] for me, I want them to pick the team for me by playing well,” Skinner said. “That’s the consistency I’m going to expect from Orlando players going forward or they will not be in this club. If you can’t be consistent and do the basics well so we can build the future, then you can’t build Orlando.”
Although this is Skinner’s first season with the Pride, he did not come onboard until after the NWSL Draft and considers the offseason roster management integral to the club’s future. Throughout the season, he has asked for patience while saying that the changes he is implementing will not be visible until his second season.
Now, as Skinner enters the final six-game stretch of the his first year leading the Pride riding the bottom rung of the National Women’s Soccer League table, his attention has begun to turn toward the future.
“The only answer I have is that there needs to be new players that come into Orlando that freshen it up and focus us to get us into the position that we want to be in,” Skinner said. “That’s my job — to make sure we identify the right players that need to come and help push Orlando forward.”