SANFORD, Fla. -- 2023 begins paradoxically for the Orlando Pride -- a team starting fresh, yet in many ways picking up right where it left off.
Seb Hines, the former assistant coach who reinvigorated the Pride and helped guide the team back into the NWSL playoff race after his elevation to interim head coach last summer, began his first preseason as the permanent head coach of the Pride on Monday. While it was technically his first day on the job, Hines is looking for continuity with last year’s late-season surge, which included a seven-game unbeaten streak and wins over both the San Diego Wave and Gotham FC.
“We started something last year where [the philosophy] was more competitive,” Hines said Monday prior to the team's first training session at Orlando Health Training Ground at Sylvan Lake Park.
“The training environment has to be the most competitive environment, because everyone's pushing for a starting spot. Can you outdo the player who's in front of you? And if you've got that position, can you hold on to it?”
Hines’ competitive vigor was on display Monday as he and his staff led the Pride players through an intense first session, which included multiple fitness-related drills to get the group up to speed after the long offseason.
Must see: Orlando Pride players arrive for first day of 2023 preseason training
Forward Erika Tymrak, who elected to return to Orlando after hitting NWSL free agency this winter, believes the increased intensity can only benefit the squad.
“[Hines] came in mid-season last year and he just created such a competitive environment in training, in the locker room, all the way to match day,” Tymrak said. “I think he earned the respect of the players right off the bat when he [brought] that mentality, and I think everyone's really excited to build off of that.
"Everyone's committed to Seb's vision.”
Asked about how Hines was able to garner such an immediate reaction from the group, center back Megan Montefusco pointed to the former Middlesbrough player’s ability to relate to his team.
“He was a player, he played for Orlando City. He's done this before,” Montefusco said. “He's been through all of the hardships in a career. He's seen it all, and he's just super honest about it. So I think we could trust him from Day 1.”
That built-in trust and familiarity will be key for the Pride, a franchise that begins a new era this week – with a significant head start.
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