The Orlando Pride announced yesterday afternoon that the club and Head Coach Tom Sermanni have “mutually agreed to part ways.” The decision is bound to received mixed reaction as the team disappointed in 2018, but did make the playoffs last year. However, of all of the coaching dismissals the club has had, Sermanni’s departure had the best timing.
While Sermanni has been the only head coach of the Pride since the team’s inaugural season in 2016, Orlando City has seen three different coaches. The first two coaching changes in club history occurred during the middle of the season.
Adrian Heath had been Orlando City’s head coach since the club’s inception in 2010. The club decided to part ways with him on July 6, 2016, right in the middle of the season. Heath’s replacement was former Real Salt Lake and New York City FC head coach Jason Kreis. Like Heath, Kreis was given about one-and-a-half years of MLS coaching before he too was fired, replaced by current boss James O’Connor. Between both firings and the hiring of the next coach, assistant coach Bobby Murphy took charge.
Both times Orlando City decided to fire its coach, the team was in the midst of a difficult stretch that saw the team slip down the league standings. While they may have been headed on a downward trajectory that year, giving the team three different coaches effectively gave up on each of those seasons, even though the season was only about halfway gone.
The Pride situation is a little different in that there has been some success in the NWSL under Sermanni. The team finished third in the league in 2017 and lost on the road in the postseason to a very difficult opponent, the eventual champion Portland Thorns. The Pride also were in a good position heading down the stretch this year, sitting as high as third in the league before going winless in their final six games.
Whether or not you agree with the decision, the timing really couldn’t be better for the Pride, and way better than it’s been for Orlando City. With the season just ending, the Pride now have months to search for a new coach, who will still have time to build the team the way they want and have a full preseason. That’s more than any Lions’ coach has had as both Kreis and O’Connor had to finish their first season already heading in the wrong direction.
The timing of Orlando City’s coach firings have been controversial so the success or failure of the Pride in 2019 will be interesting and could have an immense impact moving forward. If the new coach has a full off-season, starts his or her first season fresh, and leads the team into the playoffs, the club’s front office may be convinced to make these decisions during off-seasons rather than right in the middle of the season.
Considering that Orlando City B took a hiatus this year, Orlando City has continually gotten worse each MLS season, and the Pride have at least qualified for the postseason, the departure of Sermanni may be disappointing to some Pride fans. But fans must be pleased with the timing of the decision as it carries some positives with it. We’ll see how much impact the timing has when the Pride take to the field next season under a new head coach.