SANFORD, Fla. — During the first day of Orlando Pride preseason training, new coach Marc Skinner could clearly be heard shouting, “Connections!”
Skinner said he’s laying the foundation for success during the 2019 season. It started with the work the team put in Monday morning.
“Connect to each other,” he said. “Love playing with each other. Love being around each other. I think once they saw that, they just made automatic decisions. I think we neglect that as humans. We can make them choose what they do, rather than us having to tell them what to do. That’s what we tried to work on today.”
It was Skinner’s first opportunity to work with his new team after being hired from English Women’s Super League side Birmingham City Women FC during the offseason. NWSL teams across the nation opened preseason training camps Monday.
“The most amazing feeling,” Skinner said. “I thought it’d be this special when I first got the job, but to see the energy of the players, I kind of knew when I came to America that we’d have the energy. Now, it’s almost that I need to refine the energy and channel it in the right direction, but I couldn’t ask for a better work ethic from the group today.
“You can just see that they’re buzzing. It’s one of them moments that makes me smile. I think I’ll digest that this afternoon, as well.”
New assistant coach Carl Green was also at Monday’s training session.
Skinner said he hasn’t had a chance to speak with every player on the team yet – many haven’t reported to training camp yet due to national team duty – but “over the next two weeks” he plans to sit down with everyone.
With so much international talent on the roster, it’s likely the Pride will be in need of strong depth when the World Cup comes around this summer.
“I think we need to strengthen at some point,” Skinner said. “Those are the plans that we’re working through at the minute. We’re not just resting on our laurels.”
He added, “The one thing I won’t do is I won’t make harsh decisions and rash decisions because a World Cup’s coming up. We’ll work with the people we have, and I’ll bring in the right people that will work with the philosophy that we have to make sure that we put it onto the field and make it right. I’m not just going to fill spaces.”
When asked directly if the Pride have plans to sign new players, Skinner said, “There will be.”
He mentioned the European market and said players are still under contract overseas.
“It’s hard,” Skinner said. “Their seasons are still going on, so if I have to wait for the right people, I’ll wait for the right people. Equally, we’re identifying talent within this country that we want to make sure that we can bring in. It’s an ongoing process and we’re going to continue to work that.”
U.S. women’s national team players Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan were called up for the SheBelieves Cup, as were Brazilian star Marta and England’s women’s national team standout Chioma Ubogagu.
Australian players Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond are with their national team for the Cup of Nations and Canadian centerback Shelina Zadorsky is with her national team for the Algarve Cup in Portugal.
For now, 17 players have reported to preseason training. The club also announced goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, defender Toni Pressley and forwards Camila, Rachel Hill and Danica Evans have all signed new contracts ahead of the 2019 season.
“By the time we get well into preseason, I’ll know everybody,” Skinner said.
The Pride open their 2019 regular season with a home match against the Portland Thorns on April 14.
Preseason roster unveiled
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (NYR), Haley Kopmeyer, Lainey Burdett (NRI)
DEFENDERS (7): Alika Keene (NRI), Alanna Kennedy (NYR), Ali Krieger, Carson Pickett, Toni Pressley, Kim Reynolds (NRI), Shelina Zadorsky (NYR)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kristen Edmonds, Emily van Egmond (NYR), Dani Weatherholt, Erin Greening (CDP), Marisa Viggiano (CDP), Joanna Boyles (NRI), Bridget Callahan (NRI), Abby Elinsky (NRI)
FORWARDS (7): Danica Evans, Rachel Hill, Sydney Leroux, Camila Martins Pereira (NYR), Alex Morgan (NYR), Chioma Ubogagu (NYR), Marta Vieira da Silva (NYR)
- NYR – Not yet reported to training
- CDP – College draft pick
- NRI – Non-roster invitee