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Orlando Pride look to end recent home slump with match against Washington Spirit

Orlando player Rachel Hill (left) battles North Carolina Kaleigh Kurtz (31) for the ball during the North Carolina Courage at Orlando Pride NWSL game at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

ORLANDO, Fla. — For Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger, it’s crunch time.

The veteran leader acknowledged there’s a lack of cohesion among players on the team, which has led to back-to-back home losses for the Pride.

Seeing that lack of cohesion is the first step to fixing it, she said. It must be fixed if the third-place Pride (6-5-4, 22 points) are to make a playoff push. Orlando closes out a three-game home stand at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Washington Spirit (2-9-4, 10 points).

“Every game matters, and we need points and we need to stay in the position we’re in, if not get to No. 2,” she said. “Obviously, No. 1 is far out of reach. Our focus now is, ‘OK how can we stay in the No. 2 position and get a home-field advantage for the semifinal game in the playoffs. That is our focus.”

Krieger said one of the core values the club established in preseason training was trust. That value is being put to the test as the Pride try to fix issues while maintaining a spot in the playoff picture.

“Belief in each other, that we’re going to do what’s best for the team, both on and off the field,” she said. “Trust the player on the ball to make the right decision and make each other look good on the field. We need to share the ball and we need to continue to stick to the plan and what’s expected of us both on and off the field.”

The match is a chance for the Pride to turn around a poor run of form at home. The club hasn’t had much trouble stealing points on the road, but it’s just 2-3-2 (8 points) at home.

“There’s a few things,” coach Tom Sermanni said. “I think it’s us as a coaching staff need to focus on making sure we get our tactics right. We make sure we get our selection right. Make sure we get the balance of the team right. That’s for us.

“For players, individually, it’s performance. They’ve got to turn up and perform and give, for starters, maximum effort. If we do that individually and get things worked out collectively, we’ve got a formidable team, but we need to get all of those things together.”

The Spirit are winless in their last six matches and haven’t scored a goal since May 27. Still, because of their poor home form, the Pride are not overlooking Washington. Last week, Orlando dropped matches against the Houston Dash and the league-leading North Carolina Courage. Both matches were played at Orlando City Stadium.

“I think every single game at home is an opportunity,” striker Sydney Leroux said. “It is frustrating. I think you’re a level up at home. It was unfortunate, I think the Houston one was a bigger loss for us, points-wise. It’s unfortunate but all we can do now is look forward and prepare for the next couple games.”

Luckily, the Pride are trying to fix issues while they’re still in the playoff hunt.

“We know we’re in a good spot right now,” Krieger said. “We have to keep that. I think that’s motivation within ourselves. And also [we have to] take responsibility. We’re experienced enough to get the job done. We just have to go out and do it.

“Our coaches aren’t going to be able to do it. We have to do it. We have to figure it out. It’s time to step up. It’s time to get the job done and stop pointing fingers and blaming other people and really step out there and worry about your individual performance that can help the team.”

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