SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner is the first person to admit the quality of play from the team needs to improve.
The Pride are winless through seven matches and have scored just two goals. They sit at the bottom of the NWSL and have given up a league-worst 15 goals.
Still, Skinner came away from the team’s last match – a 2-0 loss to the Utah Royals – with a feeling he was seeing the kind of fire that will carry the Pride into the future.
“The results are what they are,” Skinner said. “They’re not what we want or what we expect. But I saw the other day, against Utah, I saw the spirit of the team that would represent Pride in the future and the spirit of the players that we need at this club to ensure that we’re going to be that team in the future.”
The Pride (0-6-1, 1 point) host the North Carolina Courage (2-2-3, 9 points) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Courage were winless (0-2-2) in May. Still, the Courage crushed the Pride 5-0 earlier in the year and are the defending champions.
“They’re the championship team for a reason,” Skinner said. “They’ve won and they know how to win and they know how to come back from disappointing results.”
Centerback Morgan Reid, who is in her first season with the Pride after starting her pro career with the Courage, said at this point the two sides are familiar with each other’s tendencies. Saturday’s match is the third meeting, including a preseason match, between the two teams in 2019.
“I know that we haven’t won a ton of games and I think that it’s coming, and I think that [Skinner is] building a foundation to help us have success in the future and not just today,” Reid said.
World Cup players have departed from all of the teams in the league. Eight players, seven of them starters, are gone from Orlando. Reid said the team has struggled because it hasn’t had a lot of time to jell as a cohesive unit.
Forward Abby Elinsky said the group is working on finishing. She was blunt when asked what the team needs to work on the most and said, “Right now, we obviously need to score.”
“I think just looking to be dangerous is really important and going forward as much as possible,” she said. “I know when other teams do that, sometimes you just get lucky or something like that. I think just creating as many of those sorts of lucky – or just opportunities – in front of the goal as we can.”
Skinner has been adamant the Pride are close. Once the team finishes a few of the chances it has created, it’ll gain confidence in the direction it’s heading, he said.
“We’ve looked at it on video,” Skinner said. “We now need our forwards to be in the right places and be where it hurts. We have to be better in both boxes. We’ve agreed as a defensive unit and an attacking unit that once we tidy that up, we’re getting in positions to create chances. Now we need to take them. That’s where we’re going to be working really hard over the next block.”
He added there’s a sense of “player ownership” the Pride need. He wants to see players be willing to attack opponents rather than pass in order to keep possession.
“I think they took us quite literally when we first came in of we’re a possession-based positional team. But it’s not about that. It’s about fitting the need in the situation. If you create a 1-v-1, you must take that 1-v-1. I think the players are starting to twist around the belief of, ‘Oh, we’re good at that. We can do that.’
“I look at most goals conceded in the NWSL and most of them are defensive errors: poor play rather than brilliant attacking. That, for me, is we’ve got to earn the right to make the defenders defend poorly. I don’t think we’ve done that effectively enough yet. That’ll be a clear focus in our training and in our games over the next few.”
Orlando Pride vs North Carolina Courage, 7:30
Where: Orlando City Stadium
Watch: Live stream on Yahoo! Sports
The buzz: The Pride and the Courage are two struggling sides. … The Courage haven’t won a match since April 28, and the Pride haven’t won a match at all this season. The Courage are tied for first in the league with 13 goals scored. The Pride have scored just two goals — both scored by centerbacks. … The World Cup starts next week, so both teams are without their international stars. … Alex Morgan (USA), Ali Krieger (USA), Ashlyn Harris (USA), Alanna Kennedy (AUS), Emily Van Egmond (AUS), Marta (BRA), Camila (BRA), Shelina Zadorsky (CAN) are all gone for the Pride. … Abby Dahlkemper (USA), Crystal Dunn (USA), Jessica McDonald (USA), Samantha Mewis (USA), Stephanie Labbé (CAN), Debinha (BRA), Abby Erceg (NZL) are out for North Carolina. … The are no Pride players listed on the latest injury report, though midfielder Kristen Edmonds (knee) wasn’t present for the media portion of training on Friday. … Hailey Harbison (left knee) and Julie King (left thigh) are out for the Courage. Denise O’Sullivan (right thigh) and Peyton Perea (left thigh) are questionable.