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Orlando Pride Coach Tom Sermanni Aware of Challenges Ahead of Expansion Season

Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni is aware of the challenges his team will face in its inaugural season and is ready to take them head-on.

Orlando Pride via Facebook

Orlando knows a thing or two about facing the challenges of being an expansion franchise.

The Orlando Pride are just over a week away from making their NWSL debut in Portland against the Thorns, and even after a preseason schedule in which the team finished undefeated while outscoring their opponents 17-1, the Pride know their inaugural season will be nothing should of a battle.

Head coach Tom Sermanni wasn't trying to make excuses, but stressed just how tough things will be for his club this season and have already been throughout the preseason. After Saturday's friendly against FSU, Sermanni said:

"We knew from day one that it was going to be a challenge for us because firstly, not just being a new team but the fact that the preseason is really short. And the fact that our international players have been coming and going. In reality, we will not have a filled squad of player together until we actually get to Portland.

"We lose Monica on Tuesday, we lose Josee Belanger on Monday, and we won't see her again until we're actually in Portland. The U.S. players haven't had one session with the Australian players, so we've had a disruptive preseason as it is. So when you add that together with a whole new group of players, I think to say that we're going to be underdone is a realistic fact going into the start of the season.

"So we've got to be more sensible about that and realize we're not gonna be the finished product for some time."

Putting a brand new team together is tough. Giving them just over a month to prepare to play their first regular season game is tougher. And having some of the most key players spending very little time actually preparing with their teammates is even tougher. And that's exactly what the Pride have been dealing with this preseason.

National team stars Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris have been away for periods with the United States. The Australian women have come and gone, as well as the Canadians, and so on and so forth.

The Olympics in Brazil this summer are just another obstacle for the league and this club, though they will be taking three weeks off for the games.

"The thing is, is that when it goes into the Olympics, the national teams don't just want the players the three weeks of the Olympics, they want them three weeks ahead as well, so we're gonna have a disrupted year a€” all teams are going to have a disrupted year. And when we add that together with the fact that we're a new group of players coming together, there's probably going to be a little but of turmoil, a little bit messy, but that's football, that's sport. You deal with injuries, you deal with suspensions. You deal with all this stuff.

"So it's very important that while I'm saying that, I'm not saying it as an excuse."

Saturday's friendly, even if it was shortened to 32 minutes due to bad weather, was their first taste of the Citrus Bowl turf, which can present problems for team at any given time.

While Sermanni believe it shouldn't matter what surface his team is playing on, he says familiarity with the pitch is important heading into the season.

"The familiarity thing is a key. You know, you get used to your home ground and the more you can get on there and play the more comfortable you become with it. However, I'm kinda one of these guys that believe whatever you've got to play on, you've got to play on — whatever the conditions, whether it's a big field, small field, tough, grass.

"You've got to be prepared for anything, but it helps to be prepared on the ground in our home stadium."

The Pride can certainly take a tip or two from their male counterparts, Orlando City, who dealt with plenty of challenges during their expansion season in MLS, Sermanni feels his team is prepared to handle whatever comes their way.

"I think we've got a good, strong squad. We've got the bases of some really good, talented players, and we've got the experienced NWSL players around." he said. "So there's going to be some tough competition to get a starting spot on this team, and so when players leave, we've still got a strong squad.""

Whatever challenges they face, Sermanni's team will be ready and willing to meet them head on. Look for the Pride to open up the regular season April 17 in Portland.