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Orlando Pride set for battle for second place against Seattle Reign

Orlando players Sydney Leroux (2) and Marta (10) greet fans before the Houston Dash at Orlando Pride NWSL soccer game at Orlando City Stadium on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Houston won the game 2-1. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni said his club’s focus is clear with six regular-season games remaining: Perform well and win games.

It’s a simple concept, but easier said than done. The Pride are in third place in the NWSL, but at times have struggled to live up to the promise of their loaded roster.

Of course, other times, things go fine and the Pride look every bit like the NWSL title contenders Sermanni envisioned at the start of the season.

“I wish could explain it,” Sermanni said. “If I could explain it, I’d fix it quicker. I just think when I look at the Houston game [they lost 3-1 on the road] and other games, we end up dominating games for spells, but we then give away goals. This league is tight and if you’re chasing games, it’s really, really difficult.

“We seem to often this year put ourselves in positions where we’re chasing games or not getting away from teams to just give us that little bit of leeway. Sometimes it just happens. I really wish I had a specific answer that I could say, ‘Bang, this is the cure.’ It’s probably down to quite a few factors.

“One is scoring goals when we’re ahead. [Another is] being really switched on defensively with our concentration when there are spells in the game when we’re sort of under pressure. If we can do those two things right, we know we can win games.”

The Pride (8-6-4, 28 points) take on the second-place Seattle Reign (8-4-5, 29 points) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Orlando City Stadium.

“It’s a game that we must go out there to win,” Sermanni said. “It’s a game against a very good team. There’s not much  between top and bottom in this league, but there’s even less  between the teams that are from second to sixth or seventh.

“Seattle’s got a team that’s very experienced. Players that are used to success. High-quality international players. This will be, again, another real test for us.”

Sermanni stopped short of saying Saturday’s match is the biggest of the season for the Pride.

“Arguably,” he said. “But probably then, the game after that becomes the biggest game. It’s one of those where if we get good results over the next two games, it really puts us in a fantastic spot. If we don’t, then every game after that because really, really critical.”

Edmonds nabs Goal of the Week

Kristen Edmonds’ game-winning chip over Utah Royals goalkeeper Abby Smith earned her NWSL Goal of the Week honors. Edmonds is the fifth Pride player this season to score the NWSL’s Goal of the Week.

Edmonds said her goal wasn’t in the Pride’s top-three goals scored this season. She said the race for top goal – so far – comes down to Alanna Kennedy’s blast from near the midway line against the Washington Spirit, Sydney Leroux’s diving header against the Chicago Red Stars and Christine Nairn’s left-footed blast from distance against the Portland Thorns.

Player availability

Forward and super sub Rachel Hill missed Wednesday’s training session with a groin injury. She is questionable for Saturday’s match.

Forward Alex Morgan and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris will miss this weekend’s match after getting called up by the U.S. women’s national team.

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