ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner isn’t just installing a new system of play for his team.
The Pride rolled to a 5-0 preseason victory over Puerto Rico Sol FC on Sunday in Orlando City Stadium. Skinner’s system was on display during the friendly, but he said that system is a product of the overall culture he’s trying to implement.
“Not one person has said anything bad about [Skinner],” said left back Carson Pickett, who scored a goal during Sunday’s friendly. “It’s been all positive. I think just in the locker room it starts from above and I think if you have good chemistry with your coaching staff and give it to the players, I think that’s going to be the best thing for us this year.
“The chemistry off the field always creates wins on the field, in my opinion. We’re already all friends, to be honest, more than last year and I think we’re closer. Doing coffee runs and stuff together. I think things like that bring you closer and it definitely starts from above.”
Orlando opens its fourth NWSL season on Sunday against the Portland Thorns. It’s the first match in a series of challenges lined up for the Pride — Orlando’s first three games of the season are against 2018 playoff teams — and Skinner has been at the helm since January.
Since opening preseason training, Skinner has preached patience and said things won’t be perfect from the start of the regular season.
“One sign, just one of the many signs, look at Rachel Hill,” he said. “From last year, she was stuck out on the wing. She was told to do this and told to do that. She’s one of the brightest young players I’ve ever seen. She’s so intelligent. She’s physically very, very good, she’s agile. I think I’m seeing, that’s just one sign of the growth. I think you’ve just got to let them do it.”
Hill had a goal and an assist in the Pride’s preseason finale. She preceded that performance with a hat trick in six minutes in a friendly against the University of South Florida.
“Look, guys, I’m not saying we just go, ‘Let’s go on the field and let’s have a runabout.’ We don’t do that, of course,” Skinner said. “We have, tactically, concepts that we work toward – I won’t tell you what those are, you’ll hopefully see them throughout the season, but you can see the growth of the players.
“You know what else? I care for them. So, when they go out on the field, I want the best for them.”
Skinner had compliments for the team after Sunday’s friendly, but added it took too long for the team to adjust in the first half of the scrimmage. The Pride scored just one goal in the first half, and that came thanks to a penalty kick.
The Pride eventually took over the match, scoring four goals over the final 45 minutes of the match.
Speaking to reporters gathered postgame, Skinner said, “If I want the best for you in your career, I’m sure you’re going to smile every day when you walk into work. That’s what this is. This is going to be something – they play for a living. These girls play football for a living. If you have a career where you can play, you’ve done something right in life, surely.
“They can play, rather than just turn up to work, mentality – turn up play. That’s what they’re doing and I’m hoping they’re enjoying it. I think they’re showing it, but there’s so many more challenges to come. There’s loads of negatives to come and positives, so not too high when you win, and not too low when you lose.”