The Orlando Pride’s lineup could change almost weekly at times this season.
At the very least, the starting XI that takes the pitch for the Pride on Saturday against the Washington Spirit won’t look anything like the lineup that faced the Utah Royals in the club’s season-opening draw.
The Pride’s Brazilian trio of Marta, Mônica and Poliana left Sunday to be with their national team for World Cup qualifying. The Copa América Femenina, South America’s Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, runs from April 4-22.
Plus, the club could be without star forward Alex Morgan, who is in concussion protocol after colliding with Royals’ goalkeeper Abby Smith.
The Pride (0-0-1, 1 point) take on the Washington Spirit (0-1-0, o points) on Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
“We don’t know what the situation will be with Alex,” coach Tom Sermanni said. “It’s a day-to-day thing. She could be out, she may not be. She may be OK by the weekend.”
He added, “We’re kind of sort in numbers right across the board. What we need to do is just figure out what we think is our best starting team and our best system. Partly that will be with the personnel we’ve got and part of it will be having a look at Washington and seeing where they can threaten us and where we can actually exploit them.”
The Pride’s attack changed a bit during its 1-1 draw with the Royals after Morgan left the pitch. Forward Chioma Ubogagu came on for Morgan, new striker Sydney Leroux took on more of a No. 9 role, staying central up top and Marta was the club’s No. 10.
Forward Rachel Hill, who scored three goals in her debut season in 2017, was also eventually subbed on to bolster the attack.
Sermanni said Hill could see an increased role, potentially as a starter, with Marta out and Morgan’s status in question. Marta and Morgan combined to score 22 goals last season.
Plus, there might be a formation change in store, Sermanni said. The club started Saturday’s match in a 4-3-3 formation with Marta, Morgan and Leroux rotating up top.
“It’s important that, as a team as a group, the formation doesn’t dictate everything. That we’re flexible enough to be able to switch from a 4-3-3 to whatever other system we feel is appropriate.”
Ubogagu said there are enough strong players on the Pride to withstand the loss of key players.
“I think we have a squad that’s very deep and I think if someone’s called upon, they can start,” she said. “Everyone’s mentality is they want to play as many minutes as they can but obviously [Sermanni] has to put 11 on the field, so it’s just embracing what role that is game to game.”
Hill played 17 minutes in the Pride’s opener.
“You always have to be ready for those moments and know that anything can happen,” she said. “It’s always unfortunate to lose a player, but I’m always ready for it so I’ll be good to go.”
Morgan at training
Morgan was present at the Pride’s training session, though she didn’t participate. She watched the session without sunglasses, Sermanni noted.
“That’s a good sign and she’s feeling a lot better,” Sermanni said. “But as they say, concussions are one of those strange things where, literally, it is day to day. We’ll give her another one of those tests, protocol tests today and see how she goes with that.”