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Orlando Pride know return of international stars means competition for starting spots

When the Orlando Pride’s international stars return, the club will have a sudden infusion of five talented potential starters.

At the very least, it’s practically a given Brazilian star Marta will be back in the starting XI once she and fellow Brazilians Mônica and Poliana return from Women’s World Cup qualifying in Chile. Marta and Poliana both started the Pride’s season opener, and Mônica came on as a sub for Poliana.

Australians Emily van Egmond and Alanna Kennedy haven’t reported to the club yet, but Kennedy made 24 starts for the Pride last season.

All five will be back in Orlando next week. 

Coach Tom Sermanni has tinkered with his starting XI throughout the start of the season – due to injuries and players being unavailable due to international duty – but members of the club who’ve seen playing time know once the international players come back, the competition for match minutes is on.

While the international players have been gone, midfielder Kirsten Edmonds has gotten two starts. Edmonds has been with the club since its inaugural season in 2016. She was the Pride’s top goal-scorer in that first season with six goals.

“That competition is kind of what makes it fun,” Edmonds said. “You’re always working toward something and you never have the chance to get complacent, which is, you know, at this level, really important. It’ll help us in games and as the season moves on.”

Edmonds has proven she can play just about anywhere on the pitch. She knows there will be competition once the internationals are back, but she’s confident she’ll find a place on the field on match day.

“I mean, don’t stick me in the goal,” she joked.

She added, “It’s nice that I can fight for more than one spot because I’m more versatile, but nothing comes easy and everyone’s fighting for everything.”

Of course, before the international players come back, the Pride (0-2-1, 1 point) have a match against the Houston Dash (0-1-2, 2 points) at home on Sunday.

Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris has started in all three of the Pride’s matches this season, despite missing training time while with the U.S. women’s national team.  She has no doubt the Pride will be able to get back on track once the internationals are back.

“You saw that last season,” she said. “As soon as we got full strength, the rest was history. We’ve got to get these players moving quickly and get them understanding how we want to play. Because we have different personnel than last year, we’re actually playing quite differently.

“It’s going to take some adjustment, especially in the midfield, with how we want to play and what our identity is and those types of things. They’re going to have to hit the ground running and get caught up really quickly.”

In the meantime, securing a point against the Dash is important.

“It’s difficult right now because we’re not at full strength,” she said. “That’s not an excuse, it’s a reality. I think the players who are stepping in are doing the best they can, but it’s hard to fill Marta’s shoes. It’s hard to fill Alanna’s shoes. There’s a lot of missing pieces that are valuable pieces in our starting XI. But we’ve got to make do at this point.”

The competition once the internationals return is going to improve the club, Harris said.

“A lot of people are going to start fighting for spots,” she said. “That’s going to be a true test of character, too. That’s a whole different ball game. Now that all of these players are coming in, what is that going to shake up?”

“That’s the game. No one’s comfortable here. People know we have great players and you’re not guaranteed any thing at any moment. At the end of the day, Tom wants to win and he’s going to put the best players out there. You’re going to see in the next few weeks, a completely different lineup.”

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