The National Women’s Soccer League playoffs don’t begin for several weeks, but the Orlando Pride has already shifted into that mindset.
“We need the win. They're going to be championship games,” midfielder Dani Weatherholt said of the team's four remaining games. “It's playoff mode already."
In the coming weeks, the Pride will face three teams that are in serious contention for the coveted four playoff positions, back to back to back.
On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Orlando will host Portland Thorns FC, which currently sits in fourth place with 29 points, just one point below the Pride. The team will then travel to take on the top-ranked, NWSL Shield-winning North Carolina Courage, who have already clinched the top playoff spot. Following that match the Pride will return home to face the Chicago Red Stars, a team currently just one point out of playoff contention.
“These last couple games are just so crucial for us, because the race is so tight for playoffs,” forward Alex Morgan said.
Despite the difficult schedule ahead, the Pride choose to see the positives at the prospect of competing against possible playoff opponents.
“I'm really grateful that our next few games are all with the teams that we're in the running with,” Weatherholt said. “It just goes to show, you need to beat those teams to be in the playoffs, so I'm happy that they're top caliber teams.”
The Pride have already defeated two of their three upcoming opponents earlier this season. In May, Orlando defeated the Portland Thorns 2-1 and the Chicago Red Stars twice by scores of 2-0 and 5-2, with all three matches during the Club’s six-game road unbeaten streak.
But with time comes change in the game of soccer. Since those games, both Portland and Chicago have improved their form and added national team talent to their rosters.
Head Coach Tom Sermanni understands the level of difficulty this team is facing in the upcoming matches and has started preparing his team to echo the same sentiment that Weatherholt shared.
“100 percent,” Sermanni said when asked if the Pride were in playoff mode. “We’re in a situation now with four games that are all in their own ways must-win games.”
That urgency to perform on the pitch has trickled down throughout the ranks of the squad and while to many it seem daunting to some, the Pride are ready and motivated to make it happen and be successful in these remaining four games.
“We’re definitely fighting each game and we know we need to come out on top with a win,” defender Alanna Kennedy said. “Every game is do or die for us at the moment. They are all must-win games.”