When the Orlando Pride take on Sky Blue FC on Sunday, they’ll tangle with a team battling more than on-the-pitch issues.
Sky Blue hasn’t (0-13-3, three points) won a match all season and has a dismal minus-20 goal differential. Still, life off the pitch has reportedly been worse. A report by The Equalizer sketched out a grim picture for the club.
The article cited people affiliated with the team – some anonymous – that told a variety of stories about Sky Blue, ranging from poor facilities to dirty laundry to inadequate housing.
Pride coach Tom Sermanni said from a league perspective, he wants to see clubs being run as well as they can be.
“Obviously, they’ve had some issues there that as the league goes forward, that we need to resolve as a league and make our teams in this league the best that we can,” Sermanni said.
“It’s difficult. The owners are invested in the club. They’ve put a lot of their heart and their soul and their money in there. Like any competition or any organization or any team, whatever, as you move forward, you encounter different sets of problems.
“The problems that Sky Blue are having now, probably several teams have been encountering those in the early stages of the league and then the league has moved on from that.”
Sermanni said clubs like the Pride, the ones affiliated with MLS clubs, have it better in the NWSL.
“Of course we do,” Sermanni said. “Because we’ve got resources. It’s as simple as that. The MLS teams in the NWSL or North Carolina [with] a USL team, have got resources and organization behind them that’s a big organization. That’s an obvious help.”
Sermanni said if NWSL wants to call itself the best women’s league in the world, certain things need to be in place for all clubs to be in a position to succeed.
“The things we can do and the money we can spend on things isn’t there for the smaller organizations or the single-owner organizations,” Serammani said about being affiliated with Orlando City.
He added, “That’s understandable. No matter what the league is anywhere in the world, even an MLS that tries to have parity, there are clubs that have got more than other clubs. There are clubs that spend more money than other clubs. Clubs that have got better facilities, better whatever than other clubs. That always happens. What you need to do as an individual organization and as a league is continue to look at ways of how we can improve things.”
Centerback Shelina Zadorsky agreed with her coach. Zadorsky is in her first season with the Pride.
“I think you’ve just seen the success of clubs like Portland and our club and I think the infrastructure and the facilities and sharing resources and fan bases … I think that’s a positive thing,” Zadorsky said. “I think it is harder for the female clubs who stand alone to get as many fans and just keep up with the caliber of treatment these clubs linked with MLS teams are getting.”
The Pride (8-6-5, 29 points) are hunting for a playoff spot, which means they can’t overlook the struggling club. Veteran defender Ali Krieger said Orlando’s focus is on winning regardless of what struggles Sky Blue faces off the pitch.
The two teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Orlando City Stadium.
“It’s unfortunate for the team and their situation,” Krieger said. “Obviously, we want everyone to be successful in this league, just as a club, so we can keep surviving. But when we’re in it to when this thing and we need to make it to the playoffs, anything’s going to help to our advantage.
“Plus, because they haven’t won a game all season, that just kind of adds to our confidence and adds to our motivation to just focus on ourselves and make sure we win the game a take the three points.”
“It’s really unfortunate, what’s happening to them. Obviously, we may or may not see them next year, but right now this is our priority – to get three points and to win, no matter what teams are going through.”
Krieger added it is scary to see what’s happening with Sky Blue off the pitch.
“But it’s been that way there since Day 1,” she said. “I feel like each year, it hasn’t gotten better. In the six years we’ve had this league, I feel like Sky Blue has really struggled every year with something. Off the field, on the field, coaching – it was something different every year that they’ve really struggled with.
“It’s unfortunate to see because these teams need to be successful in order for the league to be successful. Just with the sponsorships, the organization, the ownership and things like that.
“It’s tough to see, but on the other side, maybe other owners or other sponsors or other teams want to join the league that can maybe do a better job than what they’re doing at Sky Blue, because something isn’t right. They have to kind of figure out what’s going wrong and try to fix it. If they can’t fix it and make certain standards, than we’ve got to move on and find a club that can handle it.”