CITRUS BOWL — The Orlando Pride emphasized throughout preseason that the first couple games in their inaugural NWSL season weren’t going to look great.
But after a sub-par performance in Week 1, which followed with a 3-1 victory over the Houston Dash on Saturday night in front 23,403 at the Citrus Bowl in Week 2, Tom Sermanni’s team thinks it hasn’t reached its full potential yet.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do in some other areas, particularly just in our areas of actually playing the game and keeping possession and probing a little bit more against the opposition,” Sermanni told reporters after Saturday’s match against the Dash. “We still turn the ball over a little bit too often for my liking. We still got some better decisions to make. We’re still very much a work in progress, but what we’ve got is a good side.
“We got a really committed side and great group of players that work hard together, and if we keep doing that, keep being competitive, we’ll build a better brand of soccer.”
The Pride kicked off its season on the road with a 2-1 defeat to the Portland Thorns on April 17. And despite walking away without a win, the performance itself pointed out small details that blossomed, one of which was scoring first and having a lead for the first time in the club’s beginning.
That small detail was surely outlined in the game that followed last Saturday night when Orlando scored first and were consistent enough to score again and hold the lead for the victory.
“I think it helped us because it gave our team a lot of confidence,” said Sermanni on the progress the team has made.
“I’ve said to several people that I was apprehensive heading into last week’s game,” he added. “We did not know what to expect in all honesty, because I knew we were going against a Portland team that had a really solid preseason, and we were kind of here, there and everywhere. But I think our performance last week gave us a huge amount of confidence to go into [Saturday’s] game.”
The true potential has yet to arrive for the Pride, but there are spots of individual consistency.
Steph Cately and Alex Morgan played two seasons in Portland together from 2014 to 2015. A history of chemistry has been on display in Orlando’s first two games of their inaugural NWSL season.
Cately, an Australian international teamer, acknowledged that after Saturday’s game, saying there is an understanding between them whenever they share the field during games.
Perhaps there’s a missing link to that duo that’s destined to be a dynamic trio. Jasmyne Spencer, whose impressive 90-minute performance, orchestrated Morgan’s goal in the 61st minute when her through ball found Cately to assist the goal.
“It’s been a work in progress,” Cately said. “Obviously [Jasmyne and I] haven’t been playing long [together], I always played against her. She’s an amazing player to play with. She’s so fast, and a smart player, and can turn and dribble at any point. She’s open to learn, especially defensively, willing to listen to advice I’m giving to her.”
The left-back defender also added other spots where the team could grow as well.
“When you’re coming in, you’re starting from scratch,” Catley added. “You have no depth from previous years. Tom [Sermanni] recruited a lot of class players and a lot of international experience, and that helps in games like this in front of big crowds.”
Another key point that was talked about among the press and players after Saturday’s win was the continued growth of chemistry that can translate to that desired consistency growth.
“As each day goes by, we’re just getting more and more together as a group,” Pride midfielder Lianne Sanderson said. “We’ve only been a team in existence for one month. We got to keep working hard in the training field, trying to build the connection and the chemistry.”
Orlando visits the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, May 1 at 6 p.m.