The Orlando Pride held on for a 1-0 road win over the Washington Spirit Saturday, extending the team’s road unbeaten streak to six matches. Here are three things we learned from the Pride victory.
There is room to improve
The Pride (6-3-5, 22 points) are in second place in the National Women’s Soccer League table behind powerhouse North Carolina (10-1-3, 33 points), with three teams tied for third with 19 points. It would be easy to slip below the NWSL four-team playoff line with just a few losses.
Orlando has found a variety of ways to win this season, but the Pride are struggling to put together a strong 90 minutes during which they live up to their potential.
The team got off to a strong start against Washington, with Alanna Kennedy’s impressive chip shot from just past midfield illustrating the Pride’s aggressive approach to the match.
There were other promising chances, with Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan both sparking runs that didn’t translate to goals but did keep Washington more focused on defending than scoring.
After the halftime break, Orlando lost its edge.
Washington was more aggressive and created more opportunities, challenging Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and the Orlando defense.
Pride coach Tom Sermanni said the team didn’t move fast enough and gave the ball away too often. It’s a familiar problem and one he’s trying to address.
“We’re very good when we’re good, but then we get into these habits and it causes problems. We’re not good at being bad. It’s just who we are. There’s no in-between. We’re either very, very good or we’re making mistakes and allowing teams back into the game.
“Second half, I think if we had made a couple of better decisions and better execution, we would have scored more and put the game away.”
Even when things are going well for the Pride, the club still has difficulty during some runs with too many goal-scoring threats trying to decide whether to pass or shoot. The coaching staff is working with players to improve those decisions made quickly under pressure.
Pride ready to come home
Orlando has played eight of its first 13 games on the road and Sermanni is ready for a stretch that features more matches at Orlando City Stadium.
The Pride have thrived outside of Orlando, going 4-2-2 on the road compared to 2-1-2 at home.
“I don’t have an answer for why the record’s better on the road,” he said. “It’s just timing. Just happens. But we do want to come home. We love our fans and their support. It will be good for us.”
Tough decisions loom for Sermanni
Camila was available for selection and listed on the bench the past two games.
The versatile defender who can line up almost anywhere except goalkeeper and can score goals has been out the entire 2018 season while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Defender Ali Krieger is expected back soon and forward Marta has been coming off the bench but should be at full strength soon following a calf injury.
Once they are 100 percent, Sermanni will have some difficult decisions setting his 18-woman game-day roster, starting lineup and subs.
“It’s definitely going to be very difficult, but it’s a good problem to have,” he said.
“We’ve got a full roster and we’re really fortunate to have a lot of talent. We want those problems, but it is going to increase the level of competition within the squad.”