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With Experience, Orlando Pride Find Cohesiveness

Nearing the end of the preseason, the Pride squad is coming together just as head coach Tom Sermanni planned.

Austin Warren, The Mane Land

“The cohesiveness between players and the comfort between players is important” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after Thursday’s training session.

This is the clear message from the Orlando Pride this preseason. Coming together and playing with and for each other has been a major focal point for Sermanni, who seems determined to advance his squad beyond what he described as a “chaotic” year in 2016.

It is certainly not lost on the experienced head coach that the successes of the club off the pitch need to be mirrored on it. As such, he has the club unified with the measured approach of building up to the regular season by building together first.

After the Pride’s match with Florida State, Sermanni said this week would be “really critical,” continuing that he would be looking for a balance between putting in the physical effort to get “up to speed and at the same time start to refine how we’re going to play technically.”

He would echo those sentiments again after Thursday’s training session, saying the club would “continue to up the tempo of how we play, continue to look at the cohesion of our team, [and] continue to work on our match fitness,” as the Pride have only a little over a week before kicking off the season in Portland.

And he’s not straying away from that philosophy heading into the match with the U.S. U-23 squad today at 2 p.m. either.

“We know it’s going to be a good test for us,” he said. “Our main thing in these games is to get our preparations right for Portland, to keep working on our match fitness, and to keep working on our team cohesion.”

While it may seem odd to wait until two weeks before the opening game of the season to start in on refining the technique of the club, Sermanni clearly feels that a fit, unified club is what is needed to wash away the bitter disappointment of last season’s results.

The question then becomes, how unified can the team be with a constant stream of departures for international duty?

While Sermanni did acknowledge some difficulties saying that it “disrupts our preparation,” he was quick to add that it was not as bad as last year.

But it may very well be those little disruptions that have led to the cohesiveness he so desperately wants to see in his team.

As the club has seen players enter and exit camp for international duty, the message of togetherness within the club has not waned. Throughout the club, there is a recognition of talent and a desire to bring out the best in each other.

It is something left back Steph Catley noticed immediately in her return to the club from Australia.

“Everyone wants to help each other grow…help each other be the best that we can be,” the Australian international said. “So, there’s a real positive vibe around.”

The turnover in availability has also created much-needed depth on the roster. With each player being pushed to be the best they can be and fitting within the structure of what the club hopes to accomplish throughout the preseason, it can only benefit the team during the year, as the unfortunate but inevitable injuries begin to crop up.

“The most important thing for a team like this, in a league like this, is to have depth. And I think we’ve got a lot of that this year,” said Catley.

Already trusting and knowing you rely on the player coming into the lineup is a real boon to any club and fits right into the culture and conditioning that Sermanni has been pushing for this preseason.

Experience and depth. Camaraderie and cohesiveness. Unity and focus. The Pride are ready.