Almost one year after they were supposed to be playing in the Challenge Cup, the Orlando Pride will finally get the opportunity to play in the second iteration of the tournament this Saturday. They will travel to the newest club in the NWSL, Racing Louisville FC with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET at Lynn Family Stadium.
“It’s a unique situation in terms of you have to try and predict rather than prepare for. How many times do you play a team when you’ve never seen any video on them?,” Head Coach Marc Skinner said on Thursday. “It’s a unique situation for them, they (Louisville) have a great opportunity to play at home and get up and running, so we have to be prepared for all of that. We welcome the challenge of that. What it does do is let us see how quickly we can adapt to something we’re not used to.”
“I think what it does do is it sees how quickly we can adapt to something we’re not we’re not very afraid to,” he added. “So, part of the evolution of soccer and feature is the adaptable formations and adaptable positions based on the monitored players and I think that will be a really big step forward rather than having one system or one idea you have the ability to adapt to many based on what the opponent gives you and I think the intelligent soccer players of the future will definitely be able to do that.”
The Pride will have the unique challenge of playing a team that has never played before Saturday. Players like Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill highlight the Louisville side, while others such as draft pick Emily Fox and former Reign FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos round out some of the notable names on the roster.
Orlando will be without three of their international players for Saturdays match. Alex Morgan, Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir and Erin McLeod are with their respective national teams for the first two matches, but will return to the Pride ahead of their match on April 21.
For the players still in town, like long-time defender Ali Krieger, her and her teammates are just ready to play.
“We’ve had nine weeks together to get this right and to get playing on a level that we know we need to be this year in order to win,” Krieger said on Thursday. “I think everyone’s very focused, everyone’s motivated, and everyone’s ready to play a different opponent, other than ourselves and FSU. So, we’re very excited to finally get going because it feels like we’ve been in preseason since October. This is an exciting time and everyone’s really pumped to get started, especially with what happened last year, to finally get out on the field together as a team, and start the season.”
The Pride will come back home for the second match of the Challenge Cup to host Gotham FC, formerly Sky Blue FC, next Wednesday, April 14th at 7:00.
For more soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @osjsoccer