SANFORD, Fla. — The Orlando Pride’s final test of preseason training is filled with unknowns.
New coach Marc Skinner is still implementing his style and has been pleased with the team’s progress so far. Sunday, the Pride will face Liga PR Femenina side Puerto Rico Sol FC in a friendly. After that, there’s just one week between the Pride and a brutal start to the regular season.
The match, which kicks off at 5 p.m. in Orlando City Stadium, is open to the public. It’s the Pride’s third preseason friendly after a 4-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage and a 6-0 win over the University of South Florida.
“I’m hoping for a little bit of a different style, potentially,” Skinner said. “They’re a little bit unknown to me, if I’m being really honest, which is great. When we go into season, when we play Portland the first game, we’ll know what they do. We’ll prepare for what they do.
“In these games, you have to adapt to what you don’t know is going to happen. I think that will always been the telling factor between who wins things.”
Orlando opens its fourth NWSL season a with a home match against the Portland Thorns on April 14. Then they’ll hit the road to face the North Carolina Courage. After that, it’s a road match against Seattle Reign FC. All three teams were playoff teams last season and the Courage are the reigning NWSL champions.
Skinner said the Pride will be able to prepare for those opponents. Sunday’s match represents an opportunity to make in-game adjustments.
“I think that this opposition gives me the opportunity to react and see how they react to what we’re asking them to do. The unknown will probably be the best part for me.”
The Pride are still learning who they’ll be under Skinner. Goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer said it’s less about a culture shift and more about the team making sure it is making the most of its training sessions with Skinner and assistant coach Carl Green.
“I think we’ve always had a really good group of girls,” Kopmeyer said.
“A really good group of people and players. I think, though, a culture in the way that we approach training and the way that we embrace the ideas that are presented before us. The way that we kind of learn and study film and all of those things that sort of play into how we prepare ourselves as professionals.”
Part of Skinner’s approach during preseason training has included intense film study.
“I’ve always been someone who has really liked film,” Kopmeyer said. “I love that we have so many more options to watch, you know what I mean? We can watch our training footage. We can watch our game footage. There’s feedback. They’re open to us asking questions and they want us to learn every chance that we get.
“It’s been so helpful to see it before we even step on the field.”
The match will be the first opportunity for Pride fans to see Skinner’s philosophy in action.
“I’m happy with the distance they’ve traveled,” Skinner said of the team’s progress this preseason. “I really am. Again, the challenge will be when we come next week and are we ready to go? Are we ready to play a very, very good team in Portland? I’m hoping that we’ll be at that stage.
“If not, look, we’re going to get to that stage. It’s a long, long season. There’s lots of twists and turns. I’m happy with the preparation that we’ve had and I’m happy that we’re going to continue to do that day-in and day-out. We don’t just get into season and all of the sudden just coach for the games. We still look to improve.”