The Orlando Pride have done some impressive things during their five-match unbeaten streak.
It started with the club’s first win of the 2018 season and now includes franchise-first wins over the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars. Draws against the Utah Royals (at altitude in Rio Tinto Stadium) and the Seattle Reign (currently No. 2 in the NWSL) mean the Pride have secured at least a point in every match since a 2-1 loss to the Thorns a month ago.
There has been plenty to celebrate, and veteran goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris is looking for more.
The Pride (3-2-3, 12 points) have their sights set on an NWSL title, not five matches without a loss eight matches into the season.
“We should be winning games, do you know what I mean?” Harris said. “It’s not anything, ‘Oh my God, we won a few games.’ We should be winning games. We should have been winning games from the beginning. We can’t now, all of the sudden, be happy we won a few road games against hard opponents. We play North Carolina here coming up, who haven’t even lost a game yet.”
The club isn’t done building yet, Harris said. The Pride are still finding their way in the attack – new forward Sydney Leroux has yet to score a goal – and new players are still defining their roles after the return of the club’s international stars at the end of April.
“I think [coach] Tom [Sermanni] has a really tough decision,” Harris said. “He’s got to start figuring out what people to put out there and who’s jelling the best and there’s a lot of selection here with this group. Honestly, we’ve got to win.”
Harris added, “We’ve got to keep winning,” and repeated it twice.
“We have no other choice but to continue to progress and get points.”
The Pride opened the season 0-2-1 but have recently found their way behind solid collective defending. They’ve conceded seven goals through eight matches and just two over their last five.
Last season through eight games, the Pride gave up 11 goals.
“I just hope it keeps up,” Sermanni said. “That’s the key thing.”
“I think what we’re doing is defending very much better as a team. We talked about this last season and Season 1, we’ve a very open team and in this league that can lead to a lot of dangers. I think what we’ve done is really tightened up as a group and that started from our forwards.
“I thought our three strikers, particularly in the Portland game and the Chicago game, they were outstanding. They set the standard for the rest of the team.”
Pride players earn weekly honors
Midfielder Christine Nairn’s long-distance strike against the Portland Thorns earned her a nod on SportsCenter’s Top 10 and on Tuesday it was named the NWSL’s Goal of the Week.
Nairn said she’s just happy the club got its first win over Portland.
“During warmups I was hitting them way over in the stands,” she said. “Hitting people in the stands. Tom’s given me the to kind of go on and just kind of take any shot that I think is a half-chance. That’s exactly what that was and, fortunately, it went in.”
Seramnni said he thought the ball was going to go over the crossbar before it dipped at the last second.
“Not bad for a mis-hit,” Sermanni said with a laugh.
“No, I mean she’s capable of doing that kind of thing. It’s funny, we spoke to her before the game, particularly Khano [Smith], my assistant coach, and said, ‘Look, if you get within range’ — because she’s got an absolutely wonderful left foot — ‘if you get within range, have a go for goal.’”
In the same game, with the Pride clinging to a 2-1 lead, Harris had a crucial save in the 52nd minute to deny Tobin Heath an equalizer.
It came right after Harris had a brutal collision with the Thorns’ Lindsey Horan.
“It’s like I’ve always said, the difference between good and great goalkeepers is you have one chance to make a game-changing save and if you can do that to keep your team in, that’s just doing your job.”