The Orlando Pride, under the stewardship of newly appointed Head Coach Marc Skinner, will begin preparations for the 2019 NWSL season with a training camp starting March 4 before eventually travelling to North Carolina to take part in the Cary-based side’s inaugural Friendship Cup. The event, set for March 23 at WakeMed Soccer Park, is a doubleheader, as North Carolina FC, now coached by former USMNT coach Dave Sarachan, will also play a friendly against Liga MX’s Necaxa straight after.
It marks the first time Orlando will face NWSL opposition and indeed another professional team in preseason, with the previous three preseasons largely consisting of tune-up games against college opposition and one against the United States Under-23s. With an all-time preseason record of 11-1-0, having outscored opponents, 47-5, last year’s preparations proved challenging for former gaffer Tom Sermanni and included the Pride’s sole preseason defeat. Missing nine senior players to international duty, a patchwork team that at one point saw as many as seven trialists on the field, fell 3-2 to Florida State.
This year’s preseason will likely not be any easier for new boss Skinner as the Englishman faces losing as many as six players to international duty during the next few weeks and with the World Cup in summer, it will no doubt have a big impact on the season too. To combat this the league announced in January that 2019 will see an increase to roster sizes and salary cap, with a minimum of 20 and maximum of 22 players now permitted, and a further four supplemental roster spots not counted towards the salary cap.
Skinner is truly in the deep end for his first season and needs to recruit and manage the roster carefully. As well as international call-ups, the new boss will also have to contend with factors like U.S. international forward Sydney Leroux’s absence during her pregnancy and the potential late return of Australian midfielder Emily van Egmond, who missed most of Newcastle’s W-league season with an ankle injury. A good preseason will hold the Pride in good stead as they try and adjust to a new coach and playing top caliber like the defending champion Courage only emphasizes Skinner’s desire to work hard and challenge himself from the start.
The rest of the Pride’s preseason schedule will be announced at a later date with the NWSL season set to commence on April 13.