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Orlando Pride Exercise Options on Marc Skinner, Carl Green for 2021

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The Pride’s staff will return for 2021 to try to continue the team’s build back into a playoff-caliber side.

SOCCER: JUN 30 NWSL - Chicago Red Stars at Orlando Pride Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Orlando Pride have exercised the club’s option for the 2021 season for both Head Coach Marc Skinner and Assistant Coach Carl Green. The Pride announced the move today which will keep the primary technical staff in place through the 2021 NWSL season.

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to continue building what we started with the Pride. We have been working hard behind the scenes to develop a culture and ethos that fosters the growth and commitment needed to wear our iconic purple jersey,” Skinner said. “Our aims and objectives remain to support and develop our players, so that we can continue to achieve the high standards we expect of each other every single day. I look forward to working closely with Amanda, who is creating the structure needed to support our success on the field. To the fans, I hope to see you all in person soon enough as we continue driving our Club forwards.”

The 37-year-old has had about the most difficult first two years to his tenure imaginable. Skinner was named the Pride’s second head coach on Jan. 14, 2019, succeeding Tom Sermanni, and took over a seventh-place side in a World Cup year. As the Pride rely heavily on international players, much of his starting lineup was gone for a good chunk of 2019 and the players who replaced them simply weren’t up to the task. As a result, the team went through its worst season to date, finishing 4-16-4 and in ninth place in the nine-team NWSL.

Skinner vowed to build a better base to the team so that international absences wouldn’t cripple the Pride in the future, and that project seems to be bearing some fruit in light of last weekend’s 0-0 draw at the North Carolina Courage. However, 2020 has not been normal in any sense of the word for anyone, and the NWSL season has been reduced to a summer cup competition — which the Pride had to pull out of due to positive COVID-19 test results — and a trio of mini tournaments known as the Fall Series.

It was only right the Pride give Skinner and Green another year to continue their work in light of what 2020 has brought. With today’s announcement, they’ll get that chance.

“We’re currently in the process of establishing a high performing Pride organization that delivers results both on and off the field, and we’re pleased to have Marc and his staff continue leading this team,” Orlando Pride EVP Amanda Duffy said. “While this year has been unique, and we’ve experienced immensely difficult moments, Marc and Carl have proven to have a positive impact on the core of our roster and are an integral part of building the culture of our team to achieve much success. They each have built tremendous relationships and respect within our locker room, and we are excited to see the product of their work with the Pride next year.”

Skinner started his coaching career as technical director for Birmingham City’s youth Centre of Excellence, where he spent seven years, and also served as Birmingham’s reserve team manager and first-team goalkeeper coach. At age 35 he was named the head coach of the club’s women’s team in December 2016. His first campaign in charge was a shortened 2017 spring season, which saw the league transition from a summer schedule to the traditional European winter schedule, and Birmingham City finished seventh of the nine teams with seven points (1-3-4). The 2016-2017 FA Women’s Cup saw the club reach the final, where it lost to Manchester City.

Under Skinner’s leadership, the team quickly rose up the table, reaching fifth place in the FA WSL during the 2017-2018 season with 30 points (9-6-3) and the Blues were fourth in the league with 25 points (8-4-1) at the time Skinner’s appointment to Orlando was announced.

Green made the move from Birmingham City with Skinner, and was officially announced as the Pride’s assistant coach on Feb. 27, 2019. Green had served on Skinner’s staff at Birmingham as the team’s sports scientist and strength and conditioning coach since the beginning of 2015.

Skinner and Green will continue their project and presumably there will be more changes in the squad between now and the start of the 2021 season — through the draft at the very least. The pressure will be on next year to show real progress, but pressure is nothing new in coaching. It won’t be easy. With 2021 being an Olympic year, Skinner must complete his build of the team’s foundation so that it can withstand next year’s international absences or suffer through a season comparable to 2019. It’s a small sample size, but last Saturday indicates he may be on the right path to pulling it off. At least now he knows he’ll get another year to try to finish the job.