CARY, N.C. — First-year Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner received some words of encouragement from across the pond after the Pride’s season-opening 2-0 loss to the Portland Thorns.
His former players from Birmingham City Women reached out to reassure him his new club is headed in the right direction.
“Just going, ‘Remember the process, because they are so much better than we were when we first started over there,’” Skinner recalled Tuesday during an interview with Pro Soccer USA. “And so, remember the process, even when all the naysayers say you can’t do it, you just remember the process and then, at the end will come the results.”
Since the start of preseason training, Skinner has said the Pride will stick to one style of play. He’ll get another chance to test his team against one of the best in the league when the Pride (0-1-0, 0 points) face the North Carolina Courage (0-0-1, 1 points) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
A change working in the Pride’s favor is Australian international Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond made the trip to North Carolina after both missed the season opener due to an illness. They trained with with rest of the club Tuesday afternoon.
“They’re better,” he said of Kennedy and van Egmond. “They’re better. They’re tough Aussie girls and they’ve got that fighting spirit. It was like a little virus. It didn’t wipe them off their feet, but they weren’t able to breathe effectively enough to play a game. They’re feeling better. Another day’s rest, recuperation, I’m sure they’re be raring to go.
“They were really gutted to miss the first game. We need their characters in there. We need them in and around the team. Two really, really good players and so anyone would miss them.”
Last season, the Pride changed shape and tactics after losses, more so toward the end of the season as the team tried to find a winning combination as it fought to stay above the playoff line.
Skinner said he has no intention of “ripping up the script.” The Courage are just the second team in a gantlet of three the Pride face to start the season. After Wednesday’s match, Orlando will travel to play Reign FC in Tacoma.
“Regardless of whether it’s better or not, we’re going to do that,” Skinner said with a smile when asked if the Pride were going to stick with his new style.
“We’ve got a way of playing. But again, and I think we’ve discussed this before, people are obsessed with formations. Obsessed with shapes. It’s a shape to get the ball back and then a shape to manipulate the opposition.
“What these players have to realize is what numbers need to be in what spaces at what time. That’s the formation at that point. From a static point of view, from a defending point of view, we’ll have a shape. But no, it’s about adapting, not changing. Adapting to the situations, to the threats they have, to the strengths we have against their threats. If we can do that, we’ll be effective in every game.”
The Pride lost to the Courage 4-0 in a preseason friendly.
“We’ve got an idea of how we want to play against them and how we want to dictate the game against them,” Skinner said. “Again, very, very difficult team, especially on their own pitch. But that’s why we’re here. That’s the challenge. We’ll try some things. We’ll speak, in reference to the players, to see how they feel about it because they have to perform it.”
Players and Skinner all voiced disappointment in the team’s performance after Sunday’s match.
“You’re going to have to take losses where it really hurts in order to get the details right,” he said. “Because you know if you don’t have the details, it hurts. That’s human nature to get that better.”
After battling through three 2018 playoff teams to open the season, the Pride get the Utah Royals, who were in fifth place last season. It means the Pride have the tall task of adapting their new style of play against the toughest teams in the league.
“Let’s be really honest,” Skinner said. “I don’t think there’s enough honesty in coaching. If they don’t do it, they won’t get the victories or results they deserve. They have to perform and you have to challenge yourself against the best if you want to be the best. That’s the only thing I’ve ever known is that if you want to be the best, it’s more about mentality than it is about anything else.
“You can’t smash-and-grab through a season. That’s what we’ve got to build: a longevity where the players are accountable to themselves and to each other. That’s when you’ll get real success.”