If you're anything like Alex Morgan, then the Pride's last game of the season leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth. The loss to Kansas City capped off a month without wins, dropping Orlando near the bottom of the table as the club finished ninth out of 10 teams in its first NWSL season. Now that the inaugural season is in the books, questions are being brought up as to the future of the team.
The USWNT star striker was brought in from the Portland Thorns by Phil Rawlins under the pretense that he was going to make Orlando one of the best teams in the world. That's obviously not going to happen in just one season. After the Pride's final match against FC Kansas City, a frustrated-sounding Morgan gave some honest responses about her feelings about the club going forward, with an overarching theme of expecting more.
Morgan made it clear that, while she believes in this team, it is vital that going forward the front office and coaches sit down and evaluate some new talent and depth to further the consistency and cohesion of the team.
"We all know now how it feels to sit at the bottom of the table," Morgan said, "and we're just going to work really hard individually and expect the coaches to also continue to bring in quality players to continue to raise the level and get us much higher in the table next year."
Another major issue Morgan discussed was the difficulties playing on a turf field. This problem will go away with the opening of the club's new soccer-specific stadium downtown, which will have a natural grass playing surface. However, the club also faced an inconsistent season in terms of training locations. With Orlando City working on a new state-of-the-art training facility, the Pride will eventually inherit a standout facility in Lake Mary.
The Pride has many ways in which it must improve in the months coming before they take the field for their next season. Morgan was very candid after that final loss to FC Kansas City in what she feels must be done in this first full off-season for the club.
"I think we first need to reevaluate this first season, have honest conversations with the club and the president and the coaches, and brainstorm on how we can make this one of the best -- if not the best -- women's clubs in the world," she said. "That's our goal. That's the goal that Phil Rawlins told me before I signed on with this team -- before I got traded -- and that's what I'm expecting. I'm expecting it to continue to improve."
Morgan professed her faith in the club's ownership and coaching staff to make the necessary changes for the team to be successful on the field in 2017.
"I do think that it's going to be much better next year on the field," she said. "I expect that, at least."
And so Morgan and her Pride teammates closed the book on their inaugural NWSL season with mixed feelings.
"We have to look back on this year and say that we're not content with where we are now and of course we see it as a learning experience," Morgan said. "But I want to be really happy ending the season and, you know, I feel a little bitter on the field just because we didn't finish off strong. But I'm really optimistic for next year and I know that the club and the coaches are going to make the necessary changes to make this a playoff contention team."