There’s a sense of urgency permeating the Orlando Pride locker room after three losses in four matches.
The Pride (7-6-4, 25 points) are in third place in the National Women’s Soccer League table and are still in playoff position, but their spot is precarious, at best. Nine points are all that separate second through seventh place in the league. The Portland Thorns are in fifth place with 23 points.
With a group of clubs vying for second, third and fourth place – the North Carolina Courage have first place pretty much wrapped up – the Pride don’t have much room for error.
Coach Tom Sermanni said the team isn’t necessarily worried about its performance, but ready to right the ship with seven matches left in the regular season. The Pride return to action at 7 p.m. on Saturday against the Utah Royals (5-5-6, 21 points) at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Both of the Pride’s previous matches against the Royals this season ended in draws.
“There’s an urgency for us to get things right,” Sermanni told Pro Soccer USA. “It’s just been one of those seasons, sometimes you have. Obviously, for a coach, it’s a worry, but not for players. Players just really need to focus on getting themselves ready and going out and playing. Basically, we just need to make things happen to keep in the mix.
“I think if you look around the league, outside of Carolina, everybody’s dropping points and picking up points and dropping point and picking up points. We’re no different than all the other chasing teams, in reality. It’s more a case of winning games. You can’t get too tied down about worry.”
The Pride’s defeat at the hands of the Houston Dash on Wednesday was marred by player frustration – Brazilian star Marta will miss Saturday’s match after she was shown the first red card of her career with the Pride – and missed chances.
Sermanni said in a previous interview there isn’t much the coaching staff can do in terms of its approach this late into the season. Before Friday’s training session, he said players – particularly ones as talented and experienced as the ones the Pride feature – should be able to work their way out of this slump without much input from the coaches.
“Ultimately, the job that we’ve got as coaches is obviously prepare the team, work out the tactics and work out the selection,” he said.
“Then, what happens next when they walk over that white line is really down to them. I think, if you look at the statistics from the games, particularly the two Houston games and the [game against the Washington Spirit], if you look at the statistics from those games, we’re a team that was a dominant team in the game.
“It’s not like we’re going out there and it’s been a real struggle and we’re not creating chances and we’re not dominating possession. We are. What we need to do now and what players need to do is then put those things into effect in such a way that we get the result.”
Other than Marta, the Pride should have their full roster available for Saturday’s match. Sermanni said right back Ali Krieger – who was rested on Wednesday – should be fit and available. The Pride’s injury report is clear of players.