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International Players’ Return May Not Be an Instant Cure for the Orlando Pride

The return of the club’s Brazilians and Australians can only help the Pride.

Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride have been without some of their best players for the majority of the 2018 NWSL season so far. Alanna Kennedy, Emily van Egmond, Monica, Poliana, and Marta have all been out for the past few games on international duty and the Pride’s performances have certainly shown it.

Through the first four games Orlando has just as many points, and they have only picked up their first win on Sunday. More than the results, the play has been lacking quality. Sure there have been missed opportunities where players have hit posts or the opposing goalkeepers made good saves, but the game has missed some of the midfield creatively that Marta and Kennedy bring.

However, there are still a large number of quality player players on this team that have not missed time. This off-season the Pride put a focus on adding depth, which was highlighted by the signings of Sydney Leroux and Christine Nairn. Nairn has assisted on the team’s last two goals and Leroux has been literally inches away from where she should be. After the 1-0 win this weekend, Ashyln Harris hit the nail on the head.

“Here’s the problem when you have really good international players: you tend to rely on them,” Harris said. “We have really good league players and I’m not scared to say this; at halftime I went up to Kristen Edmonds and I said, ‘You are one hell of a player. You are good on the ball. You are technical. You are good enough to be here. I need you to be better. I need you to be on the ball constantly. I need you running at that back line.’ We need players like her to feel like huge key players on this team because she is. I can’t make her believe that, she has to believe that. So for me, it’s that self belief.”

But what will truly change the for the Pride is the competition. Every successful sports team in the world has players that make each other better and Orlando is no different.

“Competition unleashes the beast in people,” said Chioma Ubogagu. “It challenges you and makes you dig deeper. This will only make us improve and strive for success. I think this is only going to help us even more.”

Any time Marta is on the field she changes the game because of how good she is. She also changes the game because she makes the players around her better. However, it may not happen right away. It might take a few weeks for the team to click and the chemistry to build up.

This could be an issue with the short NWSL season and so matches like this past weekend must happen. The play may not be pretty right now but the team will have to continue to fight through it and get a result. The good news is that the team did this and has some momentum going forward, and the Pride will need to use that to help them get a result on Saturday against Seattle, especially since Kennedy and van Egmond could be back as early as Saturday but the Brazilians may not be back until next week.

“Sometimes you just gotta grind out a win, and get that momentum and build off of it,” said Harris after the Houston game. “I hope we build off of this but it’s not enough. It’s not time to take your foot off the gas. It’s not time to say okay now they’ll just start coming to us. We’re gonna have to work for every point in this league, because the parity is just too many good teams, too many good players.”