The Orlando Pride have been in “must-win” mode for their last few games.
The results just haven’t been there. The Pride (8-8-6, 30 points) are winless in their last four games and have fallen to fifth on the NWSL table and out of the playoffs. Saturday’s home match against the fourth-place Chicago Red Stars (7-4-10, 31 points) is a chance to get back into fourth place, but only a win can vault the Pride back into the playoff picture.
It’s a stress-inducing position to be in, and it’s a position goalkeeper and captain Ashlyn Harris said the club put itself in.
And there’s little joy the Pride can glean from their current situation.
“Is it fun right now? No. It’s not fun, but this is the game,” Harris said. “This is the harsh part and reality of when you’re not winning, things aren’t that fun. Soccer is about winning. It’s about trophies. It’s about doing well. When you’re on the other end of it, it’s draining.
“We’ve got to pull ourselves out. We’ve got to pull ourselves out of the mud right now. We’ve got to get a win. We’re just taking one game at a time.”
Saturday’s match – the Pride’s final home match of the season – has the potential to impact the Pride’s offseason, Harris said. Orlando made the playoffs last season the strength of a late-season surge and has the potential to miss the playoffs this season due to a late slump.
“I don’t know what direction the club is going to go in after this season,” Harris said after she was asked if missing the playoffs would mean a rebuild for the club. “It’s probably going to be determined by this game. I think the great thing about football is, when you win and we go into the playoffs and have a good run, no one cares how shitty the season was. No one talks about that.
“If this team doesn’t make the playoffs, there’s got to be questions answered. That’s from the players and the staff because we absolutely have the caliber of players to have a winning team. We just haven’t put the pieces together just yet. I think in parts you’ve seen greatness throughout the season, but parts won’t win championships.”
Coach Tom Sermanni, who at times has been at a loss for words regarding what’s ailing his club, said the importance of Saturday’s match is clear.
“Call it a playoff game, cup game – whatever you want to call it, it’s a game we have to win,” Sermanni said. “Simple as that.”
Sermanni has been searching all season for answers for his club’s inconsistency. The Pride own two victories over the Red Stars this season. Both were by multiple goals and both were in Chicago.
Since beating Chicago 5-2 on May 26, the Pride are 4-5-3 (15 points).
“You can put down a lot of factors,” Sermanni said. “If you want to put it in simplistic terms, we probably haven’t scored as many goals as we needed to have scored, given the chances that we’ve created. That’s No. 1.”
“We’ve conceded what I would consider to be, at this level and [with] the caliber of players that we have, poor goals under circumstances that haven’t been what I’d call ‘extreme pressure.’ That kind of seeps away at the confidence a little bit.
“So those are the two basic things that have gone wrong. To rectify them this weekend is, as individuals, go out and play with the confidence that I’ve seen in our players before and playing with the confidence in themselves and playing with the confidence in their teammates. If we can do that, then we can turn the recent results around.”
Leroux in concussion protocol
Pride striker Sydney Leroux, who on Sunday returned to match action for the Pride after missing weeks with an undisclosed illness, is in concussion protocol. She went down in the 85th minute of the Pride’s 3-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage and was subbed off. She is day-to-day.