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Club interviews Orlando Pride head coach candidates

Orlando players Emily van Egmond (5), Toni Pressley (3), and Rachel Hill (15) walk onto the pitch 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)

The Orlando Pride are going through an offseason coaching change for the first time. 

The Pride, who entered the 2018 season with high expectations but missed the playoffs with an 8-10-6 (30 points) record, parted ways with head coach Tom Sermanni after the season ended. Orlando City SC GM Niki Budalić said the job has drawn high interest, and he’s narrowed the list down to about a dozen applicants.

“We’ve started the interview process,” Budalić said. “I would say we have a longer list right now. Hopefully, by next week we’ll have a shorter list and we’ll be in a position to make some decisions.”

Pride assistant coach Khano Smith and goalkeeper coach Lloyd Yaxley have been seen around the training ground at Sylvan Lake Park since the end of the season — most recently Monday during an Orlando City training session.

Budalić said no decisions have been made regarding the assistant coaches yet, but the club is happy with the Pride’s assistants. 

“We’re going through that right now,” Budalić said. “I think we’re happy with our assistant coaches. We feel like they’ve done a good job. I think they’re also looking at their futures, as well, and seeing what other opportunities there are for them. It’s something that we’ll work through. Once we hire the new coach, we’ll address that.” 

On Monday, Orlando announced it had exercised contract options on 10 of 20 players after the 2018 season. 

The club has retained the NWSL rights to players whose options have been exercised and extended qualifying offers for new deals for seven other players. The club still controls the rights to three Federation players. 

“One thing we wanted to do was make sure that we didn’t make any decisions exclusive over the new coach coming in,” Budalić said. “Essentially, we retained all the players we had. We extended all the options and extended new contract offers to players who were out of contract to give us the opportunity to continue those negotiations after the new coach is hired.

“Essentially, we’re in a situation where we’ve expressed the desire to keep all of our players, but with that, we have the flexibility to change the roster after the new coach comes in and makes the moves that he would like, or she would like, to bring in the players they want.” 

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