Preseason for the sports fan is generally a time of renewed hope.
It’s a time to springboard from the buzz created by off-season moves and an incoming draft class, which bolsters the sense of “Hey, our team is doing something.”
Scrimmages dot the preseason calendar where supporters try to determine if this is the year where the team will be a contender. So far for the Orlando Pride, the preseason has offered three wins, two of them over NWSL opposition, and time for head coach Seb Hines to implement his system and team culture to the squad while the roster adjustments continue. While preseason results should be taken with a grain of salt, there are some expectations that come with them.
Good results like 2-0 wins over Gotham and Kansas City can be pointed to as proof of concept. The question now becomes for Orlando is if this can translate over into the regular season that starts in just over a month.
With that being said, here are some early takeaways from the Pride’s preseason thus far.
Change is inevitable, but this time it’s good
With the full time appointment of Hines and the hiring of Haley Carter as General Manager and Vice President of Soccer Operations, the team has had a very streamlined approach to their offseason plans. The roster has come together well, the integration of the rookies seems to be going swimmingly and the fans are excited for the potential of this new, young team.
Adding Giles Barnes and Paul Crichton to the technical staff adds to the stability of the staff, something that has been lacking the past two years. The Wilf ownership group has been looking to make the Pride successful in the long term and getting these key hires down and having them show dividends early on is a very good step in the right direction.
Open Scrimmage thoughts
The message from Seb Hines has been consistent and clear. The team culture within the Pride organization needs to be a full buy in from everyone, players, coaches and staff included. That total buy-in will lead to a certain playing style on the pitch. From what’s been gleaned thus far, that style and buy-in has been there and improved upon from what was instilled when Hines took over midway through the season in 2022.
Player movement both on and off the ball seemed to have improved from recent memory, and even though players are rotated with each other on the pitch, there wasn’t any chaos or gaps that Kansas City could exploit often. Additionally, Orlando is looking to become a team that can press their opponents from their front line, which they showed at times vs the Current. Players seem to take to Hines’ philosophy of ‘every player is a defender’ when the team does not have possession, acting as a full defensive unit, rather than just individual defenders. The team formation tended to evolve and change to what the Current were doing on the pitch over the course of the game, to the point that there was no noticeable dropoff from the Pride once the substitutes entered the game.
Once again, it’s only one game in preseason. However, the picture is continuing to become clearer for the 2023 Pride as the preseason goes on, and is trending in the right direction. The question becomes: can Orlando keep it up once the season begins? Only time will tell.
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