When Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner arrived in Orlando, he brought a new mentality, style of play and an overall culture he wanted to instill.
On Sunday, those very things will be tested in the Pride’s 2019 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season opener against the Portland Thorns.
After spending two and a half seasons at the helm of Birmingham City Women of the FA Women’s Super League, Skinner was credited with completely turning around the Blues’ style of play to a free-flowing, but also defensively sound and attacking-minded system.
He hopes to bring this same style to Orlando.
Fans and spectators alike got to see a glimpse of his new system this past Sunday at Orlando City Stadium, when the Pride defeated Liga PR Femenina side Puerto Rico Sol 5-0 in their last test before the start of the NWSL season.
“Our first principle when we came in to attack was when we move, action moves so we work off principles not positions,” Skinner said. “It’s about movement because we know that when somebody is in a static line, the only way you can get away is through width and rotation through the middle. There’s lots to learn and we’re going to continue to rotate.”
Compared to a much more structured style of play from years past, this new emphasis on movement and rotation is something that the players have worked to accomplish throughout the course of the preseason. To Skinner, it is clear that his new crop of players are buying in.
“I’m happy with the progress of the players,” Skinner said. “I keep saying this and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, it needs to have a little bit of time to do the things that we need them to do. But from where they’ve been to where they are now, I couldn’t ask for a more monumental growth in the players and just their attitudes and perspective of what they want to achieve.”
With eight different players having been away throughout much of the preseason due to national team duty, Skinner’s time with the entirety of his team has certainly been limited. To that group, however, they too are just as excited to begin NWSL play under his new system.
“I just really like his encouraging way of coaching and I feel like he’s all about really paying attention to the small details and making sure that everyone is aware of their positioning at all times,” U.S. WNT forward Alex Morgan said. “At the same time, it’s giving us the freedom to express ourselves on the field and I’ve really found that he’s so easy to work with and that I want to just learn so much from him. I think that he has so much knowledge to be able to share, so I think the team feels really motivated and encouraged by him.”
The excitement in the Pride camp is evident heading into this season. Skinner and his squad have already shown glimpses of the new style of play they hope to exhibit in the preseason.
With Portland Thorns FC and the North Carolina Courage - the two teams who competed in last year’s NWSL Championship match - as the first two on the schedule, the challenge is undoubtedly great. This year’s group, however, is eager to get going, feeding off of their new coach and the mentality he has begun to instill.
“He’s a great professional,” Brazilian international Marta said. “He’s smart and he checks the little details, but I feel like he has something special with his energy. In everything he does, he has such a great energy. He gets everyone going with the energy that he has so I hope that we can bring that to the field in our games.”
The Pride will open their season on Sunday, April 14 at 5 p.m. ET against the Portland Thorns FC at Orlando City Stadium. Ticket information can be found at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.