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Orlando Pride continue road swing with match against Utah Royals

Orlando Pride centerback Monica kicks at goal during the Seattle Reign at Orlando Pride NWSL game at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni has some experience to draw on when it comes to assessing his players’ fatigue levels.

There were spans last season when some of his international stars logged hundreds of match minutes over short periods of time. Players would leave for their national teams, play, then return and go right back to playing for the Pride.

That was the case last season right before the Pride went on a nine-match unbeaten run to close out the regular season.

“When we went on a winning run last year, our international players had all played in that [Tournament of Nations] and played in three games over a period of, what … eight or 10 days?” Sermanni recalled in a phone interview with Pro Soccer USA. “They came back and we had three games in a week.

“They finished playing on a Thursday and we played Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday after that. All of those players played nearly every minute of the international games and they played nearly every minute of those three games. They came through them well and that got us on a winning run.”

Fatigue isn’t what Sermanni is focused on during this three-match road swing.

The Pride play the second of three games away from Orlando City Stadium at 9 p.m. on Wednesday against the Utah Royals at Rio Tinto Stadium. They close out the road trip on Saturday at Providence Park against the Portland Thorns.  

“You’ve got to be careful not to just say, ‘We need to freshen up the squad,’ because that appears to be the modern-day way of thinking, if that makes sense,” Sermanni said. “It’s making the judgments. Sometimes that might be making changes to the squad. Sometimes that might be keeping the exact same team.”

Player maintenance is important, though. Brazilian centerback Mônica, who was solid in the club’s recent 2-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars, is listed as questionable in the latest NWSL injury report with an adductor strain she suffered in training on Sunday.

“She just felt a wee bit stiff after training,” Sermanni said. “She said she’s dealt with this before, she’s had it before. I’m confident she’s going to be OK.”  

Forward Alex Morgan, who didn’t play against the Red Stars, is not listed on this week’s injury report. 

The Pride are unbeaten in their last three matches after starting the season winless through their first three. The club’s international players are back in the mix, and domestic players like Chioma Ubogagu (three goals) have stepped up.

During the Pride’s first three matches, they gave up five goals, compared to just one goal over the last three.

Laughing, Sermanni added, “We’ve not been conceding goals, which is unusual for this team.”

Speaking seriously, “The fact is, everybody’s fit and everybody’s healthy and there’s unbelievable competition for spots. You know, we’ve got ourselves in a good position at the moment. Every game in this league is tough, even more so when you’re playing away from home.

The Pride don’t play in Orlando City Stadium again until May 23.

“Put it this way, I’ll be pleased when I’m on that plane in Portland, coming back home,” Sermanni said.

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