Predicting The Pride: Head Coach Edition


It is the lot in life for most head coaches to be let go of the team they are leading. This came to be true for Tom Sermanni, as the Orlando Pride wilted down the stretch losing the final four matches of the season, and were winless in the last six fixtures.

While most fans of the league focused on the NWSL championship between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride supporters look to find answers on who the next gaffer of the team may be. 

Pro Soccer USA reported early this month the team was already interviewing potential replacements. Looking at who the club may target, I came up with this list of prospects. If you follow the tendencies of the organization, it makes it seem unlikely the team would replace Sermanni with a coach from the college ranks due to his coaching pedigree, and his history as U.S. women’s national team coach.

The club will target a higher profile manager, so in no particular order, these are some possible dream candidates that would be interviewed if I were the general manager for the Orlando Pride.

Steffi Jones, Former German Women’s National Team Head Coach

Steffi Jones rose to prominence through the German Federation, first by being appointed the Director of Women’s and Girls’ Soccer in 2011. She transitioned to the coaching staff of the German women’s national team as an assistant to Silvia Neid on April 2016 then taking over for her when she stepped down September of that year. Jones run of form as manager ended after 22 matches with a poor showing in the SheBelieves Cup back in March of this year finishing with an overall record of 13 wins, 4 losses, and 5 draws.

The knock against her, like former Houston Dash coach Vera Pauw coming into the 2018 season, is a lack of experience coaching at the club level. Additionally, she would also have to get up to speed quickly on the inner workings of the league she would be unfamiliar with. However, perhaps Jones could also find the similar success Pauw found in Houston on her lone season, it would take the veterans on the Pride squad buying into a potential new system going into a World Cup year.  

Chance of Hire: Another time might work.

Pia Sundhage, Sweden U-17, U-15 Women’s National Team Head Coach

The name of Pia Sundhage should be very familiar with women’s soccer fans either with her tenure as coach for the United States women’s national team from 2007 until 2012 winning Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012. She departed to become the coach for the women’s team in her home country of Sweden. During her time there, she is best known for leading Sweden to a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics where Sundhage’s team was able to knockout the U.S. team in penalty shoot-out. The defensive style of play was called out by Hope Solo after the match, and things got weird. Sweden was able to take out the Brazilian team next in the same manner. Interestingly, against Sweden in the penalty shoot-out both Alex Morgan and Marta missed their kick.

After she stepped down as manager of the senior team in 2017, she’s been coaching the Swedish U-15 and U-17 teams. In addition to coaching, Pia performs public speaking, and seems to be settled in her life. However, last year there was a report in the now defunct Excelle Sports stating Sundhage was courted to come back to the United States to coach in the NWSL. Now this didn’t happen, but could the Orlando front office entice her to the Sunshine State?

Chance of Hire: More hope and a prayer than wait and see.

Emma Hayes, Chelsea F.C. Women Head Coach

Emma Hayes has been in charge of Chelsea F.C. Women since 2012 where she lead her club to two Women’s Super League titles, and two Women’s FA Cups achieving a club double each time in 2015 then in the 2017-18 season. Prior to her time with Chelsea, Hayes lived in the States where she coached the Chicago Red Stars for two season in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), the league at the time which preceded the NWSL, in 2009 and 2010. Prior to Phil Neville’s appointment as manager of English women’s national team, she had been a name rumored to be high on the Football Association wish list.

Hayes established herself as a highly desirable coach with her stellar reputation, and proven results has also allowed her to set down firm roots in London. She operates a business outside of soccer, and also had a child. Chelsea has been accommodating to her needs, and schedule. She would make an excellent coach to any NWSL side; however, with her life so well formed in England, is there much of a draw to coach in America?

Chance of Hire: Apologies, but I can’t make it.

Emily Lima, Santos F.C Head Coach

Emily Lima, the current head coach for Brazilian side Santos F.C., made history when she was the first female appointed coach of the Brazilian women’s national team in 2016 taking over for Vadão; however, her 7-5-1 record lead to her dismissal less than a year from her appointment. When Lima was let go, several of the players retired from the national team, and protested the level of support from the Brazilian soccer federation. Coach Lima afterward joined Santos F.C. where just after one year she lead the team to the Paulista Feminino championship and a quarterfinal appearance in the women’s Brazilian Championship.

For anyone familiar with the Orlando Pride front office, Coach Lima checks a lot of boxes. She would be familiar with several of the players on the roster, her recent success at the club level is also appealing, and the style of play she would bring to the City Beautiful could be the answer to the poor performance from the roster in 2018. Could a limited English speaking ability hamper what could be a promising prospect?

Chance of Hire: Could the stars align?

Lisa Cole, Washington Spirit Academy Coach & pro team scout

Lisa Cole had an eventful 2018 NWSL season. She started by joining the coaching staff of Vera Pauw at the Houston Dash from the Papua New Guinea U-20 Women’s National Team in January, but on April 26, Cole would tweet she was no longer a part of the Dash coaching staff. A month later, the Washington Spirit would announce her in a dual role as a coach for their academy; as well as, a pro team scout.

Being a scout for the Spirit, Coach Cole is knowledgeable on both the college game and within the league on the level of talent with players. She would also have some familiarity with players on the Pride roster; as well as, the opponents the team would face in the upcoming season. The question would be if Lisa Cole is a name the front office and fanbase would get excited over. The club tends to like to make a big splashy acquisitions, so not sure if Cole would be on the club’s radar, and if she is if they would prefer a flashier name.

Chance of Hire: Never tell me the odds.

The Orlando Pride have yet to announce who will lead the team going into the 2019 season, but the fan base is certainly hoping to return to the playoffs after the dismal tailspin resulted in the seventh place finish in the standings. Here’s hoping the club provides an opportunity to a highly-qualified coach with experience in the women’s game, expertise handling big name players; as well as, player development. We’ll be knowing something shortly if the hints prove to be right.

Image courtesy of Steph Nacho
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