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Orlando Pride Confident Heading Into Puerto Rico Sol Test

The Pride finish their preseason tonight against an unknown opponent.

Scott Carnevale, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride will play in their final 2019 preseason game tonight, and in one week the Pride will start their 2019 NWSL season. Tonight’s match is against Puerto Rico Sol (5 p.m. ET), and Orlando will be looking to build off what new Head Coach Marc Skinner has been preaching since he came in a few months ago.

“[Preseason] is going really well so far,” said defender Carson Pickett. “I think the team culture and chemistry is a lot better than last year, just because I think everyone is working more as a team this year and we’re not all individuals. And I think that starts from the top. I think Marc’s been great about that — getting us all around each other and making sure no one feels alone or left out, on and off the field. I think that’s been a really big change. I think that’s the most positive thing that we’ve taken out of preseason.”

Skinner has without a doubt brought in new chemistry, and it could be seen just by looking at the players on the practice field. Everywhere you look, players have a smile on their face. They are happy to be part of the team.

That doesn’t mean that players aren’t competing or working hard, either. Pickett said that Skinner has “instilled a trust” in the team. Players will go out, work their tails off, fight for their respective spots, and then afterward come together as a team. The word that Pickett used was “family,” and she said it is something that Skinner has formed in his short time in Orlando.

That competitive, family environment will be on display tonight. Orlando plays against a team that it knows nothing about. It is a different sort of challenge than the Pride are used to, but one that they are looking forward to, especially with the international players out.

“To be honest, we don’t know anything about [Puerto Rico],” Pickett said. “And that’s something that Marc doesn’t mind because it’s more about us. I think we’re more worrying about what we can do tomorrow and what we’re going to take from the game and go into the Portland game. Obviously, it’s a great test with a lot of internationals gone — this will be the team when they’re all gone — but I think the biggest thing is that we’re just going to get out there and worry about ourselves and whatever we need to work on, we’ll take that into the next week.”

Skinner confirmed what Pickett said about not being worried about the opposition. In fact, he was looking forward to it and sees it as a unique and meaningful challenge.

“I’m hoping for a little bit of a different style,” Skinner said before practice on Wednesday. “They’re a little bit unknown to me if I’m being really honest with you, which is great because...when we go into the season, when we play Portland in the first game, we’ll know what they do. We’ll prepare for what they do. In these games you have to adapt to what you don’t know will happen and that will always be the telling factor between who wins things.”

Skinner has been stressing his possession style of play, and that should be seen at full force tonight. With the team more focused on themselves, and going in knowing nothing about the opposition, look for the Pride to be focused on ball movement and the team shape.

Something else to keep an eye out for is who steps up as a leader on the field. Last season three players captained the side — Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, and Alanna Kennedy — while Alex Morgan was captain in 2016. With all of them out on international duty, who will step up for the Pride?

Pickett named herself, Haley Kopmeyer, and Dani Weatherholt as players that will step up and become the leaders of the team. She said that the leadership roles have been “put on [their] shoulders” more when the international players are out. The defender also said that not one individual has a responsibility to be a leader and that “the whole team has a voice.”

Tonight’s game will be the only chance fans have to see Orlando play before the season opener against Portland next week. Tickets are free for the 5 p.m. kickoff at Orlando City Stadium.