Heading into a Saturday match against Seattle Reign FC, for the first time all season, it’s not a question of how many quality players the Orlando Pride have on the roster.
It’s a question of how many of the Pride’s quality players will see match minutes.
The Pride (1-2-1, 4 points) are coming off their first win of the season and finally have nearly all of their players available for selection this weekend. The only player who is still out for Orlando is midfielder Camila, who is still rehabbing a knee injury she suffered last season.
This week, Marta, Poliana, Mônica, Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond all returned from international duty. The quintet of players didn’t get too much time to train with the club – the Brazilians returned from international duty and trained Thursday and Friday. The Australians started training on Tuesday.
Still, striker Sydney Leroux, a starter in every game for the Pride so far this season, said the club has been able to reintegrate its international players. In van Egmond’s case, she’s getting used to a new club.
Kennedy with was with Orlando last season. The Brazilians were with the Pride for the club’s season-opening draw against Utah Royals FC.
“I think it’s pretty seamless,” Leroux said. “They’re all such great players that it’s easy for them to come in and be able to control their area of the pitch, so it’s really nice. You also have to learn how to play with people’s strengths.
“You just have to learn how everyone is. I think that’s the most difficult part. I think it’s been pretty easy and seamless, so I’m pretty excited.”
Van Egmond said the club has been welcoming since she arrived on Tuesday.
“Whatever the coach wants me to do, I’ll try and bring it,” she said. “Just enjoy my experience here in the NWSL. It’s probably the best league in the world right now for women’s football. Excited to be here. To link up with some of the players we have is going to be an awesome experience. Just can’t wait.”
Coach Tom Sermanni said he’d wait until later in the week before making a decision regarding which, if any, of his international players would be in his match-day 18.
“We have to make a sort of assessment on all the players that are coming back to how we’ll feel the where they’ll be at by this week end,” he said. “We’re preparing for a whole season, we’re not just preparing for one game.”
The infusion of international talent could be just what the Pride need. Orlando has scored just three goals through four matches. Two were scored by forward Chioma Ubogagu, while the other was scored by Marta from the penalty spot in the club’s season opener.
Plus, Kennedy was a key contributor for the club last season.
The Pride are getting key players back and their opponents will be without one of their best attackers. Forward Megan Rapinoe will miss a second consecutive game with a left hamstring injury. She was out last week for the Reign’s 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage. It was Seattle’s first loss of the season.
Seattle (2-1-0, 6 points) has conceded just two goals in three matches this season.
“[Reign coach] Vlatko [Andonovski], when he was with [FC Kansas City], did an excellent job in that area as well,” Sermanni said. “One thing that they will be is very well organized defensively. But I think, again, it’s about the quality of our play and the decision-making from our team. I think if we do that well, we’ve got enough players to cause problems for any defense.”