The Orlando Pride return to the safety of the newly-named Camping World Stadium Sunday when they host the Seattle Reign for Orlando’s second-ever home match. Despite a loss to the Chicago Red Stars from a Christen Press match-winner last weekend, the team is eager to learn from their mistakes and move on.
“Having a loss is never great, but you learn so much from those games,” Pride left back Steph Catley said Thursday before training. “We can take a lot from last weekend and we can put them into practice this week.”
And building on what Orlando head coach Tom Sermanni has called a “good foundation” has been the key in the early going. In addition to focusing on fixing fundamental errors on the defensive side of possession, Sermanni said it’s about refining what has already been a good start.
“Let’s see, we’ve had the better possession last week, we had more chances, we had more corner kicks — we had all the statistical stuff,” Sermanni said. “We’ve been continuing to work on improving how we do those things. We’ve done a reasonable amount of finishing this week, as well, because one of the things that I think we need to take for the next step is you need to capitalize in games particularly when you’ve got chances. I think that’s something we haven’t done well.”
For the newest expansion team of the NWSL, Sermanni wants his team to not burden itself with results; rather, he wants them to focus on personal performances.
“What we want to burden players with is performance and turning up every day to continue to look and improve their performance individually and to improve our performance as a team,” he said. “If we keep doing that, then the hope is that the results will then follow. So it’s just that continuing process.”
It appears his players are taking that message to heart. Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris regarded her team as being one of winners. She said players need to simply focus on their individual roles.
“There’s a reason we all play at this level and we continue to play at this level,” Harris said. “We don’t like to lose and we hold each other accountable, and for us to get points, we all have to do our job and our role… We have to focus on our personal role and our individual role to be collectively good.”
Seattle (2-1-0, 6 points) visits Orlando (1-2-0, 3 points) on Mother’s Day for a 5 p.m. kickoff at Camping World Stadium.
Following the Pride’s home-opening 3-1 win over the Houston Dash, Sermanni regarded Pride forward Jasmyne Spencer as the player who’s performed the best for the Pride so far this season. Despite not appearing in the starting lineup in the 1-0 loss to Chicago, Sermanni still values the sort of impact the former University of Maryland Terrapin has on a game.
“I think she’s one of those players where she makes an impact whether she starts or whether she comes off the bench. And sometimes, depending on how we’re playing tactically, we have to decide where she’s best used. We felt that [with] the system we had to employ going into the Chicago game that she was a better asset for us coming off the bench at a particular time in the game. In hindsight, probably should have put her on earlier.
“I think the decision to start the team that we started was the right decision, and I think that was highlighted with the performance, the opportunities that we created.”
Spencer had one assist in a full 90 minutes of play against the Red Stars.
Defense needs to improve
At the conclusion of Week 3 action, the Pride tied the winless Boston Breakers in most yellow cards earned (five) and most shots on goal against (17). Whereas the former is of little concern to Sermanni — who says it’s more of a matter of mistiming rather than being undisciplined — the number of shots on goal has been fairly alarming for Catley and Harris.
“I think we’re still sort of learning each other,” Catley said. “I think there’s also a connection that needs to be developed a little bit more between the midfield and the defense to make sure that those gaps aren’t there for them to be shooting on goal.
“[Having the most shots on goal against] is not something that you really want to have. So, I think there’s a lot to tighten up defensively.”
Said Harris about the number of shots on goal she’s endured: “That’s not a good stat to have. Got to be better, right? … It’s got to be better at the end of the day — there’s no question. We’re giving up way too many shots, we’re giving up way too many chances, and, eventually, teams are going to start scoring. Right now, we are learning the hard way, but it’s not big gaps in terms of when we’re losing.”
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