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Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner says club has really good players but still sees room to strengthen roster

Orlando Pride new head coach Marc Skinner speaks during a press conference on Pride Media Day, on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel)

ORLANDO, Fla. — New Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner already has potential new players in mind who could strengthen the team during a World Cup year.

He’s also getting a better idea of what the squad he has is capable of accomplishing. The Pride opened preseason training on March 4 and have slowly been adding their international stars back to the team.

“I already know, if we could build an ideal team, what that would look like,” Skinner said Thursday during the Pride’s media day. “But, for me, now, we’ve got some really good players. Some players who’ve shown talents I never knew they had because I’ve not met them before.

“I think that to give them the time to show their qualities is what preseason’s about. We’re still through that process yet. Although we have our targets, we still make sure that we give everybody a fair chance to show that they can put the Pride jersey on and do us all proud.”

Skinner said the team held an in-house match last week and he was able to get an early insight into his players’ strengths.  

“We will play fixtures that will challenge the players in different ways,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to design around our preseason structure. We had an in-house — what you’d guys would call a scrimmage, we’d call a game – but we had an in-house game last week and it was the biggest eye opener I’ve ever had. So, I’ve got lots of things to work on, but lots of good things to work with.”

Skinner said he’s building a team that plays a “possession-, positional-based” style.

“While you’re in possession, it’s about moving and exploiting the spaces that the opposition leave,” Skinner said. “It’s quite technical, it’s quite tactical and it takes a little bit of time. That’s why it’ll take a little bit of time for the players to understand it. What most teams see is they see a formation, and they see this is how you play against that formation. What we want to do is manipulate the opposition into the formation we want to exploit, their spaces.

“We will look at simplifying the game when it needs to be simplified but possessing the ball. Trying to stay on the front foot and dictate games through possession of the ball and that takes time. But that’s what it will look like in the end.”

All of the Pride’s players who missed the start of preseason training to compete with their national teams are back in Central Florida.

“We are extremely experienced to have such star players,” Skinner said. “Players that have been experienced in various footballing capacities, but everybody’s part of this team and everybody has to play a part in this team. I think preseason is vital for me to see the characters that will support us, especially during the World Cup process and period.”

As of Thursday, Brazilian midfielder Camila was the only player missing from preseason training. Orlando Pride general manager Erik Ustruck confirmed Camila is in Brazil completing the process to get her green card.

“Camila’s actually very close,” Ustruck said. “She’s been in Brazil, back home, for the offseason and what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get her a green card. So, we’re awaiting her interview, which is actually [Thursday], so we expect to have her back by the weekend.”

The Pride’s full preseason schedule hasn’t been announced yet, but the team will play a preseason match against the NWSL champion North Carolina Courage on March 23. Orlando opens its regular season on April 14 at Orlando City Stadium against the Portland Thorns.

“The rest of the [preseason] fixtures will be designed around honing in the minutes we need to get us geared up to the start of the season,” Skinner said.

Ustruck said the match against the Courage will be a good gauge of where the Pride are as the team prepares for the regular season.

“OK, North Carolina is very successful in the NWSL,” Ustruck said. “What do we need to do to get to that level? Are we at that level? Are we above that level? Have we already exceeded that level? It gives us a good starting point for the regular season. Something to gauge our level.”

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