All preseason, the talk surrounding the Orlando Pride had been positive. Players were thrilled about new Head Coach Marc Skinner. He brought a new mentality to the team, a family-orientated culture, and a unique style. And the players have 100% bought into all of it. On Sunday, the Pride played in their first regular season game under the new coach, and the performance was extremely disappointing.
Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris didn’t mince words in the post-match press conference when discussing the Pride’s showing.
“Disappointing result,” Harris said. “A really rough start to the season. The first 45 minutes was not good enough and very disappointing. We came back out and parts of the game we had chances to finish and unfortunately didn’t finish because I thought if we squeak one out the game changes a bit. I’m proud of the team and the response they had in the second half because at halftime we got our asses chewed out. It just has to be better.”
Statistically, the Portland Thorns dominated the first half. The Thorns had more shots, shots on target, corners, crosses, and led in just about every statistically category. The second half improved a little, but Portland was still the better team.
What’s more, for how heavily the stats favored the Thorns in the first half, the visual test was even less favorable to Orlando. Portland dominated the game and Orlando struggled to get the ball out of its own half. There were chances for the Pride, but many of them came from deep, and Skinner’s team struggled to send in the final pass and shot.
After the game, Skinner said that the details were missing but Orlando has some of the “the best players in the world,” so they need to be hitting on those final balls and the details need to be better.
But, it’s not always about the details. Sometimes it’s more about the heart. About wanting it more than the opposition and going out every day to fight for your team. And this mentality is what Harris spoke about after the loss.
“I have to be the best version of myself every day for this team,” said Harris. “I believe in myself that I’m the best [expletive] player out there every single day. And I can’t give that to other people. That is something that they have to wake up and feel every [expletive] day. I can’t give that. I’ll run through a brick wall for this team, and every single one of you out there know that. I can’t give that to everyone else; that’s a choice.
“I hope, I hope that we choose to continue to grow and dig deep because football is about, yeah tactics and this plan and these strategies, but when it’s out there, it’s about who’s willing to do the little things right, the small details. The plans don’t work out the way we envision in training. It’s here. It’s how hard you’re willing to work here, and I feel like we lacked that a little bit.”
Skinner brought back some of the life and desire into the team at halftime. Harris said that the team got chewed out and Carson Pickett said that their coach not only worked on the tactical aspects at halftime, but also the emotional aspect of the game.
To Harris’ point, though, it is up to the players to find it within themselves. They all believe in the message and system that Skinner has instilled in his early days in Orlando. Now it is just about going out there and performing, and the players understand that. It was a poor outing on Sunday, but it is an early learning experience and something that Orlando will use to build on.
“You can’t forget it, that means you’re not growing,” Harris said. “We’re not here to be perfect. No one’s claiming to be perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect in football. There’s going to be ebbs and flows in the game, and it’s just managing the times when your back is against the wall, and we will unpack this. We will individually be sent our clips and individually be held accountable, and collectively be held accountable, so we could move forward and be better.”
Now all of the focus is on the defending champion. The Pride are back in action just three days after the defeat and have to go up against the most potent attack in the NWSL — on the road, where the Pride lost 4-0 in their first preseason match just a couple of weeks ago.
The North Carolina Courage started their 2019 campaign with a 1-1 draw against another powerful team in the Chicago Red Stars. The Courage dominated the match and finished with 60% possession, 32 open play crosses, and 24 shots, but were somehow unable to get the three points. North Carolina has a star-studded team that includes McCall Zerboni, Abby Dahlkemper, Samantha Mewis, Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald, and Crystal Dunn.
This team never looked in doubt of winning the championship a season ago and ran away with the league. But Orlando isn’t worried. In fact, the Pride are looking forward to getting back into action and taking on the league’s best.
“We’re going to be okay. It’s just the first game,” said Harris. “[Expletive] like this happens, we move forward. We move forward now as a team, and we unpack this, and then we’re hungry for North Carolina. I don’t give a [expletive] if they won last year. Last year is last year. We’re coming for them.”