SANFORD, Fla. — New Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner is still in the process of learning about his new team.
He’ll get a lot more insight into its progress and potential this weekend.
The Pride take on the North Carolina Courage during a preseason friendly at 1 p.m. on Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The Courage are the reigning NWSL champions and Pride GM Erik Ustruck said the friendly will be a good opportunity for the team to gauge its level.
“I think I need to learn what North Carolina are like,” Skinner said. “But also, how my team play. We’ve played a couple of behind closed doors friendlies and I’ve really impressed with what I’ve seen.
“What they’ve taken on in two weeks is a phenomenal leap. But I know with our style, it goes back and forth, so we just need to make sure we focus on what we can manage, what we can keep doing and, hopefully, we see that against North Carolina.”
Skinner said the team’s first closed-door friendly was a game among Pride players. The second friendly was against a boys team, he said. He added the game against the boys team was productive because he got to see how the Pride play against physicality.
“I was really, really pleased,” Skinner said Wednesday. “So, we clipped about 13 minutes of the game yesterday to see the qualities that we had in there and I was really, really … the jump in such a short period of time was exceptional. But it’s maintaining that. I think if we can maintain that, it will be exciting to watch.”
Skinner said he just about done with the formal one-on-one conversations he wanted to have with all of the members of the team. He said he’s laying the foundations for the future and that he “couldn’t ask for a better response” from Orlando players in buying in to his system.
“Look, from what I’ve seen so far – I won’t rest until it happens – but I’m sure that we can make it a team to watch in the future,” he said.
Skinner’s been working with his full team since the Pride’s international stars returned to training. Brazilian midfielder Camila returned to training Wednesday morning.
Skinner said he’s been impressed with the team’s international players, especially with their willingness to accept a new system.
“I just think they see the game a little stage ahead,” Skinner said. “Because of their experiences, when they’re tasked with making decisions, it’s a little bit crisper. They understand what’s going to happen before it happens. It’s almost like foresight. What that gives to us is the ability for the rest of the players to move off and learn from that.”
Plus, Skinner doesn’t want anyone to forget about the team’s younger players.
“For me, it’s all about the whole, whole team,” he said. “We will in the future name a leadership team. We will have a representation of everybody from every kind of age group within the team. Their understanding, their ability – from what I saw on video last year, it didn’t do them justice.
“Their learning ability, which is all I ever ask a player to give me, has been exceptional. I’d like to give them a lot of credit. Every single younger player that’s been in that we’ve worked with has taken on the ideas that we want, and that’s all I can ever ask as a coach.”