The first week of the Amanda Cromwell era has come and gone, with the Orlando Pride continuing to build chemistry, fitness, and tactics ahead of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup and regular season.
“I think the effort, work rate, energy, excitement, the vibe’s been really good,” Cromwell told reporters after Tuesday morning’s training session. “We’ve been focusing on possession, the build particularly. We saw great strides today from what we did last week.”
The new Pride coaches have focused on getting the players on the ball as much as possible in these first few weeks, developing their style of play while building fitness towards a 90-minute match. It’s led to competitive and entertaining sessions so far.
“We’ve only done one week of training, but we’ve done a lot of tactics and some fun things, so I can’t complain,” said midfielder Gunny Jónsdóttir. “What’s most important is to get to know each other on the field, have some fun, give us some freedom to play, yet put up a little framework on how we want to play.”
“We’ve talked about a certain system we want to build on, attack one way and potentially defend another way,” said Cromwell. “We’ve been all possession focused these first two weeks. We’re gonna start transitioning to some out of possession, transition moments, but I think they really like the set up we have so far.”
Just as important as the tactical set up is the chemistry within the group. Pride General Manager Ian Fleming orchestrated a fairly extensive roster overhaul this offseason, with both seasoned pros and college prospects joining the Pride’s 2021 core players like Jónsdóttir, Marta, and Sydney Leroux.
“We’re really happy with the youth and veteran mix right now,” said Cromwell. “The vets have been huge with leadership and kind of having that servant mentality, ‘let me do whatever it takes.’ It’s a fun environment.”
In addition to training, the players have made time off the field to begin team bonding. Jónsdóttir noted the importance of mixing veterans and young players in just the right amounts to get the optimal result.
“You have to have a good balance in a team,” she said. “Whether it’s young players, older players, experienced players, players that have won, players that are hungry, I think we have a great mix of it all. You have the girls coming from college who want to show themselves in this league, girls who have played in the league for 10 years, who are also wanting to win things. So I think it’s just a great balance.”
While there’s a long way to go until the Pride’s first game of the Challenge Cup on March 19, Cromwell sees the seeds of a strong locker room being planted.
“To me, the best teams in the world are the ones that fight for each other and have each other’s backs,” she said. “I think that’s the culture this leadership group is developing.”