SANFORD, Fla. — The Orlando Pride opened preseason training without a group of talented international players.
The Pride opened preseason on Monday with 17 players in camp. First-year head coach Marc Skinner – who Orlando Pride GM Erik Ustruck said could get the most out of the Pride’s players – was unfazed by the missing players and said he’s ready to work with whoever is training with the team.
Two of the players who missed the start of camp for international duty — Marta and Chioma Ubogagu — have already returned. Alanna Kennedy, Emily van Egmond, Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan are expected to return next week, as is midfielder Camila, who as of Wednesday was still in Brazil, a club spokeswoman told Pro Soccer USA.
Plus, Kristen Edmonds and Dani Weatherholt are nursing hip and hamstring injuries, respectively, that have limited the work they’ve been able to do.
Skinner said while the team will likely strengthen its roster at some point, he’s prepared to work the players who are at the Seminole Soccer Complex, the Pride’s primary training ground.
“Is that an excuse? Is that a reason?” Skinner responded when asked about absent players at the start of preseason training.
“For me, I’m going to work with the players that are here regardless. At Birmingham, we did the same. We had kids, my goalkeeper was 17 when she came into the first team. She’ll go on to be an England international, I’m sure. It’s just working with the people and getting the best out of them.
“I said when I first came in, ‘The name of today might not be the name of tomorrow.’ So, who is the name of tomorrow? It could be that person that puts everything in on that training field and that’s my job. Work with them. Whoever’s here gets worked with. If somebody’s taken out for injury, I’m ready to replace them with somebody that’s ready to work. No excuses. It’s not just for one player here, I’m in for everyone.”
Plus, it’s likely those players will be gone again this summer leading up to and during the Women’s World Cup in France.
“I think we just need to all stay prepared,” defender Toni Pressley said. “We all need to be focused and ready to learn because we are going to be missing these players during season, so I think if we’re ready and we’re prepared and we’re ready to step up and take on those roles, we’ll be fine.”
The Pride’s situation isn’t so different from the start of preseason last year. Nine players missed a good portion of the team’s preseason training in 2018.
Defender Ali Krieger said getting players on the same page won’t be a problem.
“We’re all professionals,” Krieger said. “Obviously, being elite athletes, like we are, we’re able to apply whatever we need to apply immediately. I think that’s not going to be an issue. We’ve all been here at least a year, some three or four. That’s not going to be an issue for them to hop right in. They know what’s expected of them and they know the mentality and you know that you can get that out of them. So, that’s not going to be an issue at all. They’re going to step right in and it’s going to be like it always is.”