Now the real games begin.
The Orlando Pride capped off a strong 2023 preseason last week with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Spirit in the final exhibition before they open the regular season on the road against defending league champions the Portland Thorns this weekend.
After falling behind into an early two-goal deficit, the pride rallied back thanks to a brace from forward Messiah Bright, along with a goal from Kerry Abello.
“I think we could have started a lot better. You never want to go into a game two goals down, but we showed a lot of character, a lot of belief to get back into the game,” Pride head coach Seb Hines said after the Friday match. “We made some adjustments and were really, really pleased with the effort and the result.”
Heading into the final week of training, Hines and his coaching staff will be focused on fine-tuning ahead of Sunday’s big opener.
“I still think we can control the game a little bit better. It’s always circumstances, you’re two goals down and you try to get back into the game as early as possible,” he said of improvements to be made from the match. “It was a really good test for us, we’ve had a really good preseason. A lot of players are healthy, which is important. I have some decisions to make heading into the week, which is where I want to be, where everyone is pushing for that starting spot, pushing to get into the matchday roster. So we’re in a really good place right now.”
2022 was anything but an easy year for the Pride, which dealt with the turmoil of the Amanda Cromwell saga, playing most of their season under Hines as the interim manager, pulling off an unexpected string of positive results through the summer that kept them in the playoff hunt down the stretch before ultimately falling short.
Now, in 2023, with Hines given the job permanently this past offseason, the focus has shifted towards building off the foundational changes set last season.
The Pride played five games this preseason, finishing undefeated, including wins over three NWSL sides — Gotham, Kansas City, and Washington. While the results are ultimately meaningless, there was plenty to take away for Hines and the players, not counting the confidence boost it’ll serve heading into the season.
On Monday, the Pride announced their opening week roster, with more signings still to come.
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