It is safe to say that the Orlando Pride are off to a slow start. Orlando currently sits in eighth place with just one point from three games. Not only is Sky Blue the only team sitting lower in the table than Orlando, but the Pride also have the worst goal differential in the NWSL at -3. Ashlyn Harris has just eight saves through the first three games and a poor save percentage of just 62% to go along with it.
With such a poor start, there are three things to keep in mind regarding why this is not a sign of things to come.
Though still a young franchise, a look at the past will show that slow starts do not mean anything. In 2016, Orlando had its best start ever. Four wins in the first six games, including three shutouts, had fans thinking that this expansion team was going places. However, the Pride followed that up with three goalless losses, and won only two more games over the remainder of the season.
It was the exact opposite story a year ago. Winless through the first four games, and just one win in April and May combined, had fans worried about 2017. The Pride improved a little in the next two months but it was the second half of the season where Orlando came alive, going unbeaten in the final nine games of the season to make its first playoff appearance.
It takes time for new players to gain chemistry with each other. Christine Nairn, Shelina Zadorsky, and Sydney Leroux have fit in well with Orlando early on, but it is clear that the team needs a little more time together.
Injures and International Duty
No Marta. No Camila. No Poliana or Monica and no Alanna Kennedy or Emily van Egmond. That was this past weekend against Portland and has been the story of the season so far. Rachel Hill also missed last week and Alex Morgan missed the second game of the season with a concussion. No team in the world will have an easy time of it with so many of its best players not playing.
The positives are that this team has depth and has been in each of its games so far. Nairn has created the most chances for Orlando and earned an assist on the Pride’s lone goal from the field — a Marta penalty in Week 1 was the other goal scored.
A few weeks after the Brazilians and Australians return will be when the quality of the team can be judged. If the results do not come at that point, then it will be time to worry. It will take time but the full-strength Pride are the most dangerous team in the league.
Marta is the GOAT for a Reason
Without Marta, Orlando should still be a playoff team. An attacking trio of Morgan, Leroux, and Hill is deadly enough but when Kennedy, Nairn, and Dani Weatherholt are providing services goals are bound to come in bunches.
But the fact is that Marta changes the game. She and Sam Kerr are the favorites to win the MVP, even early on in the season, and Marta transforms this Orlando team. Her ability and control on the ball is one of — if not the — best in the world. Add in her vision and composure, and it is what makes her the GOAT.
However, the Pride should not focus on her. The quality without her is still too high. Leroux is the only Pride player with multiple shots on goal and it is only a matter of time before she finds the back of the net. Morgan’s time, and as a result her form, has been limited this season after picking up a concussion.
The biggest effect of Marta returning is that the opposition will not be able to solely focus on her. If they do, she will make them pay for it by finding the open player. In fact, Tom Sermanni probably hopes that opposition defenses will focus on Marta more because of how it will allow other players to find openings.
The bottom line is that even though the attack has not clicked yet and Orlando is still waiting for the first win of the season, it is not something to worry about. The results will come and when they do, the Pride will be one of the most dangerous teams in the NWSL.