It was a whirlwind 2017 for the Orlando Pride. In just their second season in existence, the team finished third in the NWSL standings and made the semifinals, falling just one game shy of the championship. Head Coach Tom Sermanni, who has been in charge of the team since its inception, has learned a lot from his two years with the team and is excited for year three.
“Overall, really excited to be coming back,” Sermanni said, “From year one it was just frenetic and frantic trying to put the team together and getting the team on the field, disrupted by the Olympics. I think we did a good job in year two in strengthening the squad and the players we brought in made significant contributions. Now, we’re looking forward to year three, when hopefully we can get more rewards from the work we’ve done in the first two years to establish the base that we’ve already established.”
From the inaugural season to this past one, was a massive difference in both results and cohesiveness within the team. After bringing back the core of the first years team, the coaching staff and General Manager Niki Budalic were able to bolster the roster with key attacking pieces like Camila, Chioma Ubogagu and, most importantly, Marta. The additions of players like Alanna Kennedy and Ali Krieger helped with the other side of the ball and made the team quite formidable as the year went on. As the team heads into the offseason to prepare for next season, Sermanni and his staff are looking to take a similar approach to the roster as they did for last year’s offseason.
“I think it’s just a question of just not doing a major overhaul, but just strengthening in areas we feel we were a little bit weak last year,” he said, “We’re always looking to improve the quality, then when we go out as a team next year, hopefully, we’ll be ready right off the get-go.”
Being ready right from the start of the season will be the most important for the Pride in 2018, as a slow start in 2017 forced them to need results towards the end of the year to make the playoffs. The dynamic play of his team down the stretch got them into the playoffs, but a good start to the season could have the Pride contending for the regular season championship as well.
Before looking forward to 2018, Sermanni spent a moment reflecting on what he learned from this past season with the Pride and the NWSL as a league. The biggest takeaway for him that relates to his team moving forward and the other teams they’ll face next season: the league is getting tougher and more physical.
“Every game in this league is getting more and more competitive,” Sermanni said, “Teams are getting better tactically and it’s a very physical league That type of player can be valuable in this competition and I think if I compare the other teams in the top four to us, I think in a pure football sense, we were the best team in the top four. I think we were the most dynamic team and we played the best football, but I think the other three teams were physically more dominant than we were. So we need to find ways to improve in that area whether that is by adding players that help that physicality or by refining the way that we play to overcome that differential between us and the other teams.”
With the foundation they have after last season and the lessons they’ve learned fresh in their mind, Tom Sermanni and his Orlando Pride team will be back, better than ever for 2018.