Teams entering the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League season, which coincides with a World Cup year, would be challenged with the loss of federated players preparing for the global tournament in France. Compounded to some of the teams woes is the appointment of a new coach, or like the Orlando Pride no coach officially named until after the draft. Barring any trades, Coach Marc Skinner will need to find players to fill the now twenty-two roster spots, and additionally the four supplemental players will also be important due to the potential of missing ten starters this summer.
Coach Skinner explained his thoughts on the World Cup absences impact to his roster in his initial statements by saying, “But what we need to do is look at what we have, who we’ll have to use during the World Cup, and then we as a coaching staff will work everyday to make those players better. So while our players are out representing in the World Cup, we’ll make sure those holding the fort will be doing their best, keeping us competitive and winning games.”
Impacting the Pride significantly will be the national team players who may end up missing more time than just the World Cup however since the U.S. women’s national team, along with Brazil and England, will be participating in a series of matches in preparation. While the Aussies will be participating in their own set of friendlies at that time. Most national team players have extensive commitments away from their club team leading into France.
In his brief time with the team so far, Coach Skinner has already made his started to make his mark on the roster for the Pride with his selections of Erin Greening and Marisa Viggiano in the 2019 NWSL college draft; additionally,the team announced waiving Brazilian defender Poliana after she expressed her desire to return to her homeland and play there. Not claiming a preferred formation, Skinner will have a few potential formations to tinker with, based on the remaining non-federated players on the Pride roster there currently won’t be enough players to field a starting XI.
It’s not a matter of if Orlando adds more players to the roster, but when those players will be announced. Until then instead of speculating on where specific players will be on the pitch during the World Cup absences, Coach Skinner will need to address the main hurdle which plagued Orlando last year: who in the remaining group of the roster will step up and score goals for the team. The focus will partly turn to both Danica Evans and Rachel Hill. However, if Chioma Ubogagu doesn’t make the roster for England, the Pride could maintain three forward on the attack in a potential 4-3-3. Both Ubogagu and Hill have spent the offseason in the W-League and could find themselves in form from the beginning of the NWSL season barring injuries.
Hill scored five goals while on loan for Perth, and Ubogagu found the back of the net twice. Having Sam Kerr on her team, Rachel was more successful as a distributor providing six assists as well. Chi scored her goals in her role as a poacher putting the ball passed the goalkeeper on second chance opportunities. From the group, Evans is the more pure striker of the group, but hasn’t been able to generate much momentum since her rookie season. Coach Skinner will need to find a way to give Danica an avenue to contribute more. It has yet to be seen if she can handle that role.
The possibility of Ubogagu making the World Cup roster for England is not unlikely, and if Orlando deployed a two striker front line could play into Hill’s playmaking ability for Evans to get herself on the scoresheet during the season. Scoring threats may have to come from the midfield, and the Pride may utilize a variation of a 4-4-2. Also in the W-League, Christine Nairn playing for the Melbourne Victory and contributed four goals to the team’s tally. Orlando managed 30 goals in 2018, which was a significant drop from the league leading 45 goals in 2017. Sydney Leroux was the team’s golden boot with six goals in 2018 while Marta led the team in 2017 with 13 goals.
The new gaffer for the Pride should also be mindful of the 2016 season when Orlando deployed a single striker formation. Back then the team struggled to provide service to Alex Morgan, and she would have to deal with defenders double teaming her without any other consistent scoring options. The Pride managed a meager 20 goals the team’s inaugural season. Kristen Edmonds had a breakout year and led the team with six goals.
Many questions are still needing to be addressed by the first year skipper. However, finding more goal scoring needs to be Skinner’s first priority, as in the brief existence of the team has shown the basic principle that goals cure most issues. If Orlando wants to return to the playoffs in 2019, the Pride will need to have multiple goals scorers where the player who leads the team generate more than six goals and get near double digit production.