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What we learned from the Orlando Pride’s 1-1 draw with Utah Royals FC

The Orlando Pride secured a 1-1 draw in their season opener against the Utah Royals in front of an announced crowd of 9,017 at Orlando City Stadium. Here are three takeaways from the match: 

Orlando has another soccer club that needs time to jell

Coach Tom Sermanni said it before the start of the season, and it’ll ring true for a while: This group will need some time to really come together.

Players are out for international duty. Three of the club’s Brazilian players won’t play in the club’s next match. There were five new starters on the pitch for the Pride.

“I just think we’re – which is to be expected – just a little bit rusty” Sermanni said after the match. He added the group was lacking some of the cohesion it had toward the end of last season.

“When you consider we had five new starters on the field tonight, when you consider we virtually, like most teams, had no preseason. I’m satisfied that we’ve come out and kept our run in the league going from last year and not losing the game.”

Particularly, when Leroux took on more of a central No. 9 role after forward Alex Morgan entered concussion protocol, passes to her were just a bit off. Players will have plenty of time to get to know her better. Her role will likely be huge with other attacking players expected to miss some time.

The attack isn’t the only area that needs some time to coalesce. The back line also had a couple of communication errors against the Royals.

“I think that we build on today’s performance,” Leroux said Saturday. “We have to get to know each other as players and our habits and stuff like that comes in time.”

Back line won’t continue making ‘unacceptable’ mistakes

The Pride’s conceded first on Saturday, and it wasn’t pretty. Midfielder Gunnhildur Jonsdottir came running free into the penalty area and scored likely one of the easiest goals she’ll get all season.

Center back Shelina Zadorsky called the goal unacceptable.

“Yeah, I think when you have a new squad, it’s the little hesitations of who’s picking up and who has that man,” Zadorsky said.

 “But there no excuses in the box. We’ve got to clean that up. But I think it’s a learning experience and to happen early on we’ve just go to learn from it. And I think communication will come, and taking ownership in the box is what we strive for.”

Still, things got better as the match wore on. The back line got involved in the attack and was able to get back quickly to stamp out chances Utah tried to create on the counter.

“I think generally we played pretty solidly at the back,” Sermanni said.

“In particular, as the game wore on, their attacks became more sporadic, I felt. The problem we have is when teams come and set up like they do, there’s always a chance that we’ll get caught out defensively because we try and play a little more expansively than some of the other teams. We get ourselves stretched at times. I thought generally we coped okay after the first goal.”

Depth in the attack will be tested early

With Marta – who really was the soul of Orlando’s attack Saturday night– out for the next game (international duty) and Alex Morgan’s status in question (concussion), Rachel Hill and Chioma Ubogagu will likely see increased minutes for the Pride.

Plus, how Leroux plays will be big.

The Pride next play against the Washington Spirit on Saturday at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

“It’s kind of us going away now and sitting down and penciling in what we think is our best starting XI in that game and what is our best formation,” Sermanni said.

“We’ll know a little bit more once we see Washington play this weekend, see what they’ve got. And then we’ll know a little bit more when we know how many fit players we have. Essentially, we don’t want to change the style of how we play, we don’t want to change the philosophy of how we play. It’ll be a case of looking at the personnel changes.”

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