SANFORD, Fla. — The Orlando Pride weren’t idle during their first bye week.
By the time the Pride’s bye week came around, the team had played six matches. The rest of the league has since caught up to the amount of matches the Pride have played, but before the games of the past weekend, the Pride had played the most matches.
Orlando goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer said the bye week was a chance for the team to mentally reset after a winless (0-5-1, 1 point) start. It also gave the team a chance to watch its opponents play, she said.
“I think, from all perspectives, any chance you get to kind of have more time to prepare for a team, it’s beneficial,” Kopmeyer said.
She added, “And obviously, up until this point, we were probably one of the last teams to get a bye week, or pretty close to it.”
The Pride play the Utah Royals at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Rio Tinto Stadium. Orlando participated in a scrimmage during the bye week, which gave players who haven’t gotten too many minutes some playing experience, said defender Toni Pressley.
“Getting these players time on the field in game-like situations and having us all play together in a game situation has been very helpful,” Pressley said. “We’ve had more time to kind of work through Utah and see what we want to do, how we want to exploit them, what things we need to do to win.”
All eight of the Pride’s World Cup players have left for their respective national teams.
Coach Marc Skinner said he doesn’t see the departure of eight talented players – seven of them starters – as a negative. For him, it’s an opportunity for the team’s remaining players to shine.
“When do you ever get an opportunity to go and show that you can do it at the highest level? So, I hope they take their chances, because if they do, I’m happy to work with them and continue to work and make them better,” Skinner said.
“If I was never given an opportunity in coaching, I wouldn’t be standing here today. So, I hope they take the opportunity, rather than it being this negative that we haven’t got our World Cup players.”
Skinner said he’s seen improvement in the team — the rough start has been in terms of the Pride’s results.
“When you haven’t won a game for … it was the first five before that game [against the Portland Thorns], all of the sudden, you start [second-guessing] yourself,” Skinner said. “We shouldn’t do that. I’ll make sure the players don’t do that.”
The Pride’s morale is still high, Kopmeyer said.
“I think we all want to play,” she said. “At the end of the day, we want to right the ship. You know, we want to be out there. But we knew this was coming. We knew the timing of the bye week, so we’re taking it for as much as we can and using it for the extra prep.”
The Royals (3-1-1, 10 points) are in second place in the league. They’ve conceded a league-best three goals so far this season.
“I’ve said it all along, if we can stop the silly mistakes, then we’re in games,” Skinner said. “Even against Portland, we started so, so much better.”
“You know what has been nice about the bye week? To have a little time to prepare. When we hit the first week, we had three games [against] three different types of teams. Now, we’ve had a little bit of time to prepare and I want to see how the girls come up in the game and show us what they’ve learned.”
Players in training
Former NC State midfielder Taylor Porter and former Virginia defender Hana Kerner were both at Pride training Wednesday.
Porter started 85 matches – every match she was available for in college – for the Wolfpack. She scored six goals and tallied five assists in her collegiate career.
Kerner represented the United States at the U-18, U-19 and U-20 levels. She made 78 appearances (27 starts) for the Cavaliers during her college career.