In Greek mythology, there is a creature called the phoenix that is associated with the sun. This large, majestic bird dies through fire and combustion and is then reborn again through the ashes. It is this phoenix that Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner views his team as.
“Sometimes, it’s like a phoenix, you need to rise from the ashes,” said Skinner after the 3-1 loss to Portland over the weekend. “And I think that once you see that team, once you see the team that I want going forward, you’ll see it and we won’t have to talk about it. You’ll go, ‘That’s what he meant,’ and we’re just not there at the minute. So, I’m going to see who can do it out of this group. Who can’t will have to move on, but I’ll be identifying players to come in and make sure that we are better with the results department.”
The team that Skinner currently has is last in the league in just about every major statistical category — goals, assists, shots on goal. The Pride have committed the most fouls, allowed the most goals, have the worst goal differential, and are at the bottom of the standings. The Pride are the worst team in the NWSL right now.
The team has shown improvement over the last six games, but it has not been enough to change the results. Orlando is a team with so much, but perhaps that has been turned into a weakness. The fact that Orlando has world class players like Alex Morgan and Marta does not mean that they should have to carry the team, and that is precisely what Skinner has suggested has happened in previous years.
“The results might have been okay last year, but it was individuals changing the game,” said Skinner. “We need a team that can change the game because we need to support everybody going forward. Whether that we free Marta up to play, but we need the team behind her to play. And that’s what we are going to get.”
So, how does the team go from a bunch of individuals to an entire team that is working together to get results? Well, that’s where that phoenix metaphor comes into play. The results likely aren’t going to get better soon. To truly get to where Skinner wants, new players need to be brought in. And that is the plan.
“I think we can improve in every area if I’m being really honest,” said Skinner. “And that’s the brutality of my job. We are behind the scenes working, and we’re working hard. I know the players that I want, I know the players that we’re trying to get, we’re putting offers out, and we’ll see what comes back.”
But until those new players come, the phoenix will continue to burn. And it likely will be a slow burn. Until the reinforcements arrive, the Pride will need to fight to get a result. With the internationals out, players like Dani Weatherholt, Toni Pressley, and Rachel Hill will need to step up. Young players like Erin Greening, Morgan Reid, and Joanna Boyles have filled in nicely, but do they have what it takes in the long run?
Just like the phoenix, the Pride are burning. But when will it be time to rise from the ashes and what will the team look like when it happens?