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Orlando Pride searching for answers after being eliminated from playoff contention

Orlando head coach Tom Sermanni waves to fans during the Chicago Red Stars at Orlando Pride NWSL soccer game at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, August 25, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

The Orlando Pride were eliminated from playoff contention Saturday night with a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars, and questions are swirling around Orlando’s NWSL side.

Pride coach Tom Sermanni all season has been looking for answers to what’s been ailing his star-studded group.

A question of team continuity has loomed over the Pride all season. Players have been in and out of the lineup due to injuries and national team duty, and Sermanni has repeatedly tinkered with the Pride’s starting XI and formation.

Against the Red Stars on Saturday, the Pride went back to a four-back formation after deploying a three-back formation in five consecutive matches.

Star forward Alex Morgan said the club was always adjusting to its opponent and that the team was “disjointed.”

“I just think that our style is adjusting to our opponent, and that’s really difficult because we don’t necessarily have that style that we can go out and have that presence and confidence and know that this is how we’re going to play every single game,” Morgan said.

“We’re changing formations this game after playing with a three-back the last couple games. We kind of went out there and hoped for the best. Obviously, I think we had the energy initially, but eventually they wore us down.”

Sermanni called out the effort of players and said aside from midfielder Dani Weatherholt and Brazilian forward Marta, he can’t say any player has played to the expectations of the coaching staff.

“Whether we feel that we have too many star players, I don’t know,” Sermanni said. “Whether we need more what I’d call ‘blue collar players’ on the team, I don’t know. Whether we’ve got the wrong combination of players, that’s just not working together, I don’t know. But we’re still having eight or nine of the same players from last year.”

Veteran defender Ali Krieger said off-the-field chemistry hasn’t been the issue for the Pride this season – it’s been about the product on the field. She added with the talent on the roster, it’s “unbelievable” the Pride aren’t in the playoff picture.

“On the field, I think it’s building those relationships each other, which I think… you know maybe we didn’t have the same lineup every game, which might have caused some problems with building relationships,” Krieger said. “And then some injuries, so then you have to switch out people or you’re resting people at different times during the season, so then you’re filling roles and things change.”

She added, “In the offseason and building into preseason next year, we need to build that chemistry on the field because that’s really important. As you can see, the top four teams, you can see that they have that. That’s something that I think we were lacking a bit and we can definitely fix. It’s fixable, which is good.”

Morgan said the issue comes down to both coaches and players.

“I mean, individually, I feel like I would love to see more on what I need to do right,” Morgan said, pausing and weighing her words while answering. “I still want to learn as a player, no matter the age I am or the experience I have. I think we have a lot of young players eager to learn on this team.

“I think we’ve all helped each other throughout this season, but I think we could all definitely look at ourselves, coaches included, and say, ‘What else can we possibly do?’ That’s me included. I do feel like I could ask more questions. I feel like I could get more feedback, so it goes both ways.”

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