SANFORD, Fla. — For Orlando Pride goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer, the team’s winless start has been frustrating, but not necessarily demoralizing.
The Pride are 0-3-1 (1 point) through four games heading into Sunday’s road match against the Houston Dash. Orlando hasn’t yet found its attacking rhythm under new coach Marc Skinner and has conceded more goals than any other team so far in the young 2019 NWSL season.
“There’s things that are getting a little better, getting a little better and we’re learning,” Kopmeyer said. “And the culture is shifting and moving, and the energy and the belief is high.”
Kopmeyer, who is now the Pride’s first-choice goalkeeper with Ashlyn Harris called up to the U.S. women’s national team, said there isn’t just one thing the Pride need to work on in order to see better results. Orlando has given up nine goals so far this season and has been shut out in three of four matches.
“To kind of have a little bit more composure each game, I think, is kind of the goal,” Kopmeyer said. “It’s not just a defensive effort. I think it’s a full-team effort. It’s little things like if we hold the ball better, we’re not going to have the ball in our end as much. If we can play and keep it on the ground and, you know, stay in possession, then our defenders aren’t running rampant the whole game.”
Still, Kopemeyer said she’s seen improvements in each game. The Pride’s USWNT players will miss Sunday’s match, but the other World Cup-bound players are still with the team.
The Pride are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Utah Royals. Skinner said he’s confident more positive results will come but, for now, he’s still looking for improved performances.
“They will come and then all of the sudden, you’ll forget about that start and you’ll forget about what happened and it’ll be part of the learning and building process,” Skinner said.
He added the team isn’t registering shots on target as effectively as it needs to.
“But if you look at the half-chances that would be shots on target that should be taken where it’s a slid ball straight through for a one-on-one, that’d be better than any shot from distance,” Skinner said. “But we’re not taking those at the moment. It’s just those connections that need to keep building, and then you’ll see all of the sudden they’ll get it and then it’ll just click.”
Skinner said so far, the team hasn’t deserved results because it hasn’t been consistent enough in its performances. He referenced his former club, FA WSL side Birmingham City Women, and said – as he has for a while – that it’ll take time and patience for the system and the culture he’s trying to install to fully take hold.
“Once you’re patient and you understand that and you support the process – fans are there to support the team through good and through bad,” Skinner said. “We’re here to build so we have so many good moments in the future. So, if the patience is there, you’ll see your team rise.”
Veteran midfielder Dani Weatherholt said the team is looking at Sunday’s match as another opportunity to grow.
“I feel like after we that first win, it’s going to be, like, pressure taken off ourselves,” Weatherholt said. “I think we’re only going to go up from there.”
Weatherholt is one of the players who will remain with the Pride after a group of international stars depart ahead of the World Cup. She said she hopes to be a leader for the younger players while others are gone.
“I always try to have a positive outlook on it, so I hope I get to influence them in that way” Weatherholt said.
“I think we need to have a complete game. I said it last year and I think, again, this year we came out, we didn’t start the way we wanted and as a result we were fighting the second half to try to get a result. When you’re trying to come back in a game, the other team’s trying to manage it. It’s a lot harder, so we need to start stronger so we have a better chance of winning.”