Pride preview | Sanderson will start as Pride begin erasing unknowns

After an impressive outing against the Houston Dash in front of a record-breaking crowd, Orlando Pride forward Lianne Sanderson will start seeing herself in the starting lineup when the team travels to face the Chicago Red Stars Sunday at 6 p.m. EST.

Her second appearance for the Pride began at halftime, as she recorded one goal in 45 minutes of play.

Pride head coach Tom Sermanni said Tuesday after training that moving the English international teamer in the starting lineup is the plan.

“At this stage in the season where we thought the team was at, it was really important for us to stay in games,” Sermanni said. “And for that, until we start to know each other better and get our rhythm and our cohesion and everybody gets on the same page, it made more sense to make sure we kept things as tight as possible so that [when] we had a situation where the game starts getting stretched out and opportunities start coming a little bit more, somebody with Lianne’s skills then becomes really dominant in that certain situation.

“So we’ve used that in the last two games… Lianne’s our most creative player. So she’ll be getting as much game time as we think is best for her and the team.”

And though the newly-formed squad is only two matches into its inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season, Sermanni and his team are a lot more comfortable with not only with their personnel, but also the quality of teams in the league.

“I think we got a little more knowledge about ourselves,” Sermanni said. “I’ve got a bit more knowledge about our team and the players have got a bit more knowledge about each other, and then we [found] a barometer of the quality that we need to win games in this league.”

Defender Laura Alleyway expressed a similar sentiment, as she and her back line are finding their chemistry.

“There’s a lot less unknowns now,” the Australian women’s national teamer said. “Tom has sort of nodded out a decent starting 11, and obviously with a few changes here and there, we’re confident in each other now that we sort of know how each other will play [and] we know what to expect from each other.”

Orlando (1-1-0, 3 points) currently sits at No. 7 in the NWSL standings. They are tied with two other teams with the second-most goals scored with four.

“[Tomorrow’s] about us trying now to improve a little bit as we’re always wanting to do, become a little more cohesive, but continue with the same effort, the same work rate, the same commitment that we’ve shown the first two games,” Sermanni said.

One player in particular that Sermanni has been pleasantly surprised by is forward Jasmyne Spencer. For Sermanni, she’s been better than what he’s expected.

“I knew what Jasmyne was like because I saw her play in the league and I also saw her play in Australia,” he said. “So I know what quality she has. But I think she’s taking those qualities to another level this year. She’s always been fast, but she’s not just fast and explosive now… She’s been probably, arguably our best player so far.”

Spencer recorded 90 minutes of play as she helped set up two goals in the 3-1 victory over Houston.

Regarding Chicago (1-1-0, 3 points), Sermanni said he wants to continue the progression his team has undergone in the early season. In comparing his team’s match against Houston to Chicago’s, the Pride head coach said he thought Houston was a little more refined than Chicago in the first match of the season. Additionally, Chicago also faced Carli Lloyd, who recorded a goal in 90 minutes of play against the Red Stars. In the Pride’s home-opener, Lloyd left after 12 minutes of play.

Former NFL, UCF coach at Pride practice

On Tuesday, former NFL and University of Central Florida defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan was in attendance at the Pride’s training session at Moores Station. Sermmani embraced Bresnahan’s presence as he praised his coaching pedigree.

“I needed a body guard,” Sermanni said jokingly. “Chuck’s a very good friend of very good friends of mine and he came along to the game Saturday, and we caught up and chatted. And he said, ‘Look, if I’m around and when I’m in town, can I come down?’ I said, ‘Great,’ I mean, it’s fantastic to have someone of his caliber — coaching-wise, playing-wise — in and around the team.

“Those kind of people are really valuable for me. They’re valuable for even the players to just see that kind of quality person with that kind of background.”

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