SANFORD, Fla. — Veteran Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris knows there will be some growing pains for the team under new head coach Marc Skinner.
The Pride (0-2-1, 1 points) are coming off a rough opening week that included matches against three 2018 NWSL playoff teams. The three games didn’t yield the results the Pride wanted, but Harris said she’s seen growth in the team.
Orlando hosts the Utah Royals (1-0-0, 3 points) on Saturday. The Royals finished last season in fifth place, two points away from the fourth-place Chicago Red Stars.
“It’s getting better and better and better,” Harris said. “I’m excited for a new challenge and a new test this weekend against [Utah]. We’ve put together some good minutes. You know, I think at most, maybe a 45-minute half. But I think we have to put together a full 90-minute game — 90-plus — of good soccer that we can be proud of and we can walk away and, you know, be excited about and continue to grow and move forward.”
The Pride earned their first point of the season during the weekend with a 1-1 draw with Reign FC in Tacoma, Wash.
Skinner said his assessment of the team after its first week is positive. After each match, he’s said the team has shown growth – that includes after its 5-0 thumping at the hands of the North Carolina Courage.
“As long as I can see progression and performance, then I can see that we’re doing the right things,” Skinner said.
The new word of choice for Skinner is “discipline.”
“I think that’s the word I’m going to be using for the next few weeks,” Skinner said with a smile. “Get your discipline. Sort out that, and then your attacking can come from there. I think this team has the ability to be flamboyant and very creative, but you can’t just do that in a game.
“You can’t build your castle on sand. That’s what we’ve got to be able to do — solidify our foundations and then move forward with flowing, attacking football. But you need to do the first parts first.”
The Pride have just one goal through three matches this season, and that came from a bicycle kick from centerback Alanna Kennedy. Despite having some of the best attacking players in the women’s game – including Alex Morgan and Marta – Skinner has stressed a balanced approach.
“I think they want to attack all the time, which is so good. It’s brilliant,” Skinner said. “You can’t just – unless you can score every time, if they can guarantee me to score every time, I’ll play one at the back and we’ll just go and attack.”
He added, “I don’t want games to be 4-4. You know, that’s a little bit of a game where the control in the game’s not really there. Once our girls understand that, we’ll be in a much better place.”
The Pride have given up a league-high eight goals so far this season. They’re also the only side that’s played three matches so far.
“I think we’ve come into a structure and a team where it needs to go back to basics on some things and then what you’ll do is you’ll see a little bit later on the success of that,” Skinner said.
Kennedy said the vibe around the team was positive and productive after the first week, even after the two losses to start the season.
“We’ve always stuck together as a team, but I think there’s something different this year in the spirit of our team — that just sort of, you know, I feel as though no matter what we face, we’ll stick together because of the culture that we’ve now built around the team,” Kennedy said.