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Orlando Pride GM Erik Ustruck discusses coaching search, what’s next for team

Orlando Pride GM Erik Ustruck at the NWSL Draft in Chicago. (Jordan Culver-Pro Soccer USA)

CHICAGO — Orlando Pride general manager Erik Ustruck has had the Pride’s new head coach picked out for weeks. 

The Pride have been without a named head coach since the departure of Tom Sermanni in the middle of September after the conclusion of a rough season. Ustruck — who added the hire has been his responsibility — said he and the new, unnamed coach are on the same page in terms of what the Pride are looking to accomplish next season. 

He added he and the new coach speak “on a regular basis” and Ustruck can’t officially name the coach yet due to contractual issues. Pro Soccer USA on Tuesday confirmed via a league source the new coach will be Birmingham City Women FC manager Marc Skinner. 

“I’ve had lots of conversations with the players,” Ustruck told Pro Soccer USA. “The current roster right now, I think they lost hope at one point [last season]. I don’t think the locker room was ever lost, I don’t think there was any separation at any point, but I think what they need was something to motivate them every day, which is why I think the new coach brings an invaluable asset to the club. I think the new coach is going to be the person that pushes them every single day.”

Ustruck said the Pride’s new coach is excited about the roster that’s already in place and will be able to get the best out of them. 

Ustruck added a new assistant coach will be named “at a later date,” which is the same language he used to describe when the Pride’s new head coach will be named. Goalkeeper coach Lloyd Yaxley, who sat across from Ustruck at the Pride’s table at the NWSL draft, is still with the club and will remain the goalkeeper coach, Ustruck said. 

“Lloyd has been instrumental throughout this offseason in identifying the right players throughout the college system, throughout the college draft,” Ustruck said. “I think he’s very, very valuable to us, so Lloyd’s obviously going to be staying with us.”

John Grace is still the Pride’s head fitness coach. He’ll be working closely with the new head coach and the new assistant coach, Ustruck said. 

Ustruck said the Pride need to get “back to their winning ways” and that the new head coach will be able bring the group together. 

There is one roster situation the Pride are currently trying to work around. Star striker Sydney Leroux, who led the team last season with six goals, is expecting a baby girl. She still counts against the salary cap, Ustruck said. 

“I’m going back and forth with the league on this one,” he said. “The league claims to be working through the policy, so we’re just kind of waiting to see what the policy looks like, how that affects us and what we can do to get around it.” 

He also said there could be a couple more roster moves before the start of the NWSL season. 

“It’s a great challenge,” he said. “I’m excited about it I’ve been involved in some capacity throughout my time here with Orlando. I’m excited to be able to work and be an ambassador for the Pride. I’m excited to work alongside the new head coach, the existing coaching staff we have in place. All the players, I would say we have a lot of power. We’re sitting in a very unique position and we have just so much talent. I’m excited to see where we can take this.”

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