The Orlando Pride lost four players, including three starters, to the Summer Olympics. The absence of these players has resulted in some new players joining the team and others changing positions until those missing players return. Saturday night’s 2-0 loss to OL Reign showed the difficulty of the situation.
The start of the Olympic Games means that the Pride are without three key starters in their lineup. This includes Alex Morgan (United States), Marta (Brazil), and Ali Riley (New Zealand). Additionally, the team also lost backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod (Canada) to the tournament.
To prepare for these losses, the Pride made some significant moves. Defenders Amy Turner and Kylie Strom were brought in to cover the loss of Riley and forward Jodie Taylor was brought in to replace Morgan.
With Carrie Lawrence on the injured list, the only two players who could replace Riley at right back were Gunny Jonsdottir and Ali Krieger. While Jonsdottir played right back during the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, Krieger was a veteran of the position at the international level before moving into the center back role with Orlando. While she hasn’t played the position in a couple of years, it was seen as an easier transition for Krieger than other players.
Saturday night showed that the move back outside won’t be as easy as some might’ve thought. Krieger had a difficult time handling Tziarra King and her giveaways were a part of both Reign goals. In the 10th minute, Krieger got trapped on the right touchline, giving the ball away to King. Early in the second half, she was trying to dribble out of trouble, took too heavy a touch, and lost the ball to Eugenie Le Sommer, and King ended up with the second goal for the Reign.
While Krieger had a nightmare of a game, it wasn’t much better for Turner. The English center back is experienced, but was starting alongside Phoebe McClernon for the first time. The two had their own troubles with communication and organization as the Reign were able to slice through the Pride defense, resulting in 18 shots with 12 on target.
Additionally, Turner could’ve given up the third goal in the 59th minute when a good run by Le Sommer resulted in Turner chasing her down from behind. Turner slid in attempting to stop her from getting a shot on goal, but took the French international down in the process. Fortunately for the Pride, Ashlyn Harris was up to the task again, making her fifth consecutive penalty save.
Turner’s night got worse 10 minutes later when her comfort in the box was taken advantage of by OL Reign. The center back ended up playing the ball right to Le Sommer, who could’ve made it three. However, Krieger did well to challenge the attacker, forcing her touch outside and the Pride were able to clear.
On the attacking end, the Pride had been using Sydney Leroux up top in the absence of Morgan. Leroux scored a brace in Kansas City during her first game as a forward this season. She then scored a last-minute equalizer against Racing Louisville on July 9.
The addition of English international Taylor was supposed to make things easier. Leroux would go back to her natural outside position, creating chances for Taylor to score. But that didn’t happen against OL Reign. In fact, the Pride were held to just seven shots with none ending up on target.
While the Pride have made some good moves, it will undoubtedly take time for players to adjust to their new team or roles. Once the Olympic players return, they will return to their previous positions. But by that point, the Pride could slide further down the standings, significantly hindering their chances of a playoff run.
Making matters worse is the coaching situation. The sudden departure of Marc Skinner has caused the need for the Pride to bring in Becky Burleigh as the interim head coach. Burleigh might bring new ideas and formations into the fold, which could require an adjustment period as well.
The game against OL Reign was the first time we’ve seen Turner starting alongside McClernon, and Krieger on the right. Additionally, left back Courtney Petersen moved into the midfield — a position she has played a few times previously. It was a difficult night for the Pride and it showed that there will have to be an adjustment period for the players, as some reacclimate to former positions and others get used to being alongside new partners. The speed in which they adjust could determine the success of the season.