With apologies to Roger “Verbal” Kint, “and like that...poof...it’s gone.” I am, of course, referring to the prospect of Orlando Pride soccer in 2020. It’s been a couple of days since news dropped that Orlando was withdrawing from the NWSL Challenge Cup, and information continues to come to light. Let’s look at the possible ramifications.
No Soccer for You!
While it hasn’t been confirmed, all indications from the NWSL are that the Challenge Cup is going to be the entirety of competitions in 2020. If that turns out to be true, it means that the Pride will not play a single NWSL match this year. While these are extraordinary times, that is still an extraordinary fact. It was going to be a challenging year before the pandemic hit, with the schedule horribly slanted against the Pride, the internationals scheduled to be gone during the Pride’s mid-season home stretch, Alex Morgan coming back from maternity leave, and a rebuild in progress. Once the pandemic threw everything into chaos, all bets were off. When the Challenge Cup was announced it seemed that the Pride were again dealt a tough hand with their schedule in the tournament. However, the club and the players seemed upbeat, positive, and ready to prove the doubters wrong in the competition. Now, we’ll never know.
Will They Stay, Will They Go?
Though a year off might seem like a way for players to rest, when you’re talking about the some of the older players the clock is already ticking. Marta and Ashlyn Harris will both be 35 years old before the start of the 2021 season. Ali Krieger will be 35 years old to start the season with a birthday in July. Finally, Morgan and Sydney Leroux will both be 31 years old at the start of next season. I’m not saying that these world class players can’t do the job, but age takes a toll, and each of these players just lost a year of playing time. There’s also the chance that with the NWSL adding a club in Los Angeles, Morgan may want to join that club to be close to her husband, Servando Carrasco. What kind of impact will all of that have on the club and Marc Skinner’s plans?
Marc Skinner’s Plans
Before everything happened, I had wondered how long Skinner’s rope was. During his first season, the World Cup took half his team and most of his starters. His second season wasn’t shaping up much better with the Olympics threatening to do the same thing. Now, it’s all up in the air. I expect that Skinner will be given a pass for this season, as he had no control over what happened. That being said, we’re still not sure how the missed “season” will affect player contracts, and Skinner may end up having to rebuild before he even built. It is also possible that the added time will help him develop the players in his system, though the lack of real competition will detract from those efforts.
A Club Divided?
It seems that some players on the Pride went out to bars/nightclubs, and it wasn’t just one player or even one group of players that did so. This is what prompted the club to do additional testing that ultimately led to the decision to withdraw from the Challenge Cup. I’m certain that those players feel horrible that this happened. I’m certain that they heard plenty from the club, their coaches, and their teammates about what happened. There may be some hurt feelings on the part of the players who went to the bars and those that didn’t, given how it has impacted their careers. I’m also certain they will all move on from this as a club. Those at fault will hopefully learn from their mistakes and grow from this unfortunate turn of events. I know I have done so in my life, and I intend to give these young players the same consideration.
For additional thoughts regarding the lost season, check out The Mane Land PawedCast where Michael and I have a longer discussion about the topic.