March 13, 2017 at Seminole Soccer Complex

Availability: HC Tom Sermanni, MF Kristen Edmonds

HC Tom Sermanni

The Orlando Pride hosted their first training session on Monday.

It was great. To be fair it usually always is, the first day. Players come in a little bit nervous but excited, and the tempo is usually good. But I think looking and trying to make a comparison to Year 1, I think the players have come in far more ready to play, and I thought the tempo was good, and I thought the quality was good.

When asked about changes to the team’s routine or training regiments, Sermanni said there wouldn’t be many changes. The one change he was looking forward to is being more settled in one location for training sessions.

We just want to be more settled in our training venue, for example, and hopefully based here more. Last year was difficult for everybody, and we ended up training at Sanford Airport, training at other places. So, this year, I think, generally, we’re far more settled than we were. The staff is much more experienced at working together, much more comfortable together. We’re able to sort of plan things better. So, generally, I just think everybody feels a lot more settled.

Sermanni said he was looking for two things at the team’s first training session: the players’ fitness and the integration of new players.

There were two things: One was just to kinda get an eye on what condition players are coming in ‘cus that then dictates what we can do over particularly this week and next week. So, it was just generally observing that. And then trying to look a little bit closer at some of the new players and just try to get a little bit more of a feel for them.

Good, to be honest. I thought [their fitness] was very good. I think the tempo of the game was good. Players look like they’re in good shape. There’s still a lot of energy left at the end of the session. My first-day impression—and I stress very much [that] it’s first-day impression—is that everybody’s come in ready to go.

The Pride made a bevy of offseason signings. In addition to signing new veterans, Orlando is also working with eight trialists.

We brought a mix of players in. We’ve obviously signed a couple players: Ali Krieger[Chioma] Ubogagu and Camila [Pereira]. So those are three, I think, very important signings for us. Through the draft, we got Nickolette Driesse and Danica Evans. So we’ve got both of them in. We brought Lorina White that we saw at Ball State that we quite liked the qualities that we saw on video. So brought her in to have a look. And then some of the other players around have been a little bit with us last year. [Jocelyn] BlankenshipJordan O’Brien, etcetera. So, there’s a little bit of a mix there. And Carol Rodrigues from UCF. So there’s some new faces but also some players that came in later in the year to train with us.

Second-year Pride player McKenzie Berryhill did not participate in the full training session, spending most of her time working individually on her fitness. She did not pass her medical examinations on Saturday at Orlando Health.

The situation with McKenzie is that she didn’t pass her medical on Saturday. She’s had a series of concussions previously at college. You know that’s an issue that’s very both sensitive and complex when dealing with how we can clear her. So, the situation currently is that her doctors don’t feel that they’re able to clear her because of those concussions. We’re getting more information from her college to find out. We’re getting information from [Arizona State University], and depending on that information will be dependent on what the decisions are from our doctors. But, on this, I’m very much under the advice from the doctors. So it’s not an issue where I’ve got really any input at all. It’s not like I’m dealing with somebody’s that maybe got a bad ankle or a bad hamstring. A concussion’s something that we need to treat very, very carefully.

On Saturday at Orlando Health, forward Jasmyne Spencer said Alex Morgan’s absence in the beginning of the season gives players opportunities to lead.

It’s hard to say. Obviously, Ali Krieger steps in and immediately assumes that role as with her experience and her pedigree does that. Day 1, it’s difficult to see other players doing that, particularly new players. That’s something that’ll start to evolve the longer that we’re in preseason.

When asked about expectations for the season, Sermanni said he wanted to pick up from where his team left off before the break for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Hope we win a few more games. I think what I want is—I think last season—I’ve said this many times—was a season of two halves. What I want to see is a continuation of where we left off at the first half of the season last year with some improvements. So, I think, and again this comes back to me and the staff and the players—we’re all much more familiar with each other. They know kind of what I want from, what they want from me, what I expect, what they expect. I think we’re all more familiar with each other now. They know what I expect from them. And they kinda know how I work and what I want to do and how we want to play. I think what we’ve done is improve the quality and the competition in this squad and that we’ll go out there with just a better chemistry and a better overall quality. And, with that, hopefully we’ll be able to play a more expansive brand of soccer.

Apart from Pereira, no one surprised Sermanni on the first day of preseason training.

Not really. Not surprised in the sense of kinda “blow me away.” But I don’t expect that on Day 1. And some days that you have to be very cautious of not to make judgments on Day 1. I suppose that one player that I think showed her quality today would be Camila. I think in the games, she shows that some real quality and some real class today. But, you know, overall, I was just generally pleased with the tempo and the overall quality of the games and the training.

With the addition of Alanna Kennedy, the Pride now have three Australian women’s national team defenders on their back-line.

I think the benefit of that is that you’ve got three players that have played a significant number of international games together and have played in significant tournaments together under pressure. So you get players who are familiar with each other. And I think that’s always helpful. So I think that will help us in the back-line, and I think the addition of Ali Krieger in there, and her connection with Ashlyn [Harris] and the national team will help. And I think the connection between Monica [Hickmann Alves] and Camila will help. So I think if you put all of that together, it gives us a real solid foundation to build from. And I think that will be important coming into this year.

When asked about filling his team’s final international roster spot, Sermanni answered speculatively and vaguely.

I would love to get that filled as soon as possible with the right player. If that comes together, that would be a fantastic result for us.

MF Kristen Edmonds

When asked about her return to Orlando for preseason, Edmonds said the first day was “hectic.”

It was a good first day. It was a bit hectic, but I think everybody’s just so excited that we’re finally back into everything, and it’s gonna start flowing pretty quickly. Yeah, we’re just excited to be back.

There’s—I don’t know how many people are here. I think 29 people are in camp? So, everyone’s trying to prove a point, everyone’s trying to get a spot from Day 1. We’re playing at a high level, so it’s gonna be competitive from the start, and it was today. But everybody’s still trying to get a feel for everything, so it was a little bit hectic, but we’ll get back into good soccer and get things going pretty quickly.

When asked about the difference between the first day of preseason last season and this season, Edmonds said there’s a more positive environment.

There’s kind of like a more positive environment. Not saying that last year wasn’t positive, but it’s everybody’s just excited. Our honeymoon stage is over, and everybody knows that we want to win now. And wins matter the most. Nobody’s looking at us as the new team in the league anymore. So we have a point to prove, and everybody knows that.

The fact that there is no Olympic break and there is no World Cup to worry about this season comforts Edmonds.

I think we added a couple of really, really quality players to the team that’s only going to help us. And I think we’re gonna be playing at a really high level this year. Last year, before the break, I think we were playing really well, and I think the break, losing so many players all at one time for a long period of time, kind of hurt us a little bit. But, this year, there’s no Olympics, there’s no World Cup. So we’ll pretty much have everybody for most of the season. So I’m excited to see what happens. I think it’s gonna be good quality, and we’re gonna push for playoffs this year.

Edmonds was pleased with how the college draft picks and the trialists handled themselves on Monday.

It’s always tough to come in to an environment at a level like this—jumping from college into the pros. So I think our draft picks and our trialists did really well today for their first day out.

Edmonds sees the older players on the team taking a bigger leadership role without Morgan around the team yet.

Yeah I think there’s a good mixture of older players and younger players in here. So I think a lot of the older players are gonna try to step up and kinda help ’em just gel into the environment so it’s a little bit easier for them.

Edmonds was selected by United States women’s national team head coach Jill Ellis to participate in a 29-player training camp in January.

I learned a lot at the two camps that I was in. I’m looking to bring what I learned. It’s simple things, but I think it’ll help my game a lot and to be able a little bit more competitive and to this team. And I think that it won’t just help me, but it’ll help the Pride as well.

She just said keep working, have a good season, and this season’s gonna tell a lot.

Last season, Edmonds scored a team-high six goals in 19 games.

Honestly, I’m gonna kinda stick to what I know. I’m not really gonna focus too much on anybody else. I’m gonna focus on the Pride and myself and just bring what I can to the table and not try to do too much and then stay competitive. I’ve always been an underdog, and I’m gonna keep being the underdog and just keep working hard.

When asked about the status of the National Women’s Soccer League and seeing veteran players leave for foreign leagues, Edmonds said it’s a good opportunity for those players to try something new. She also praised the parity in the NWSL.

I think the players that left—you know, good for them. It’s a chance for them in their careers to do something else. They’ve been in the league for a while now, they’ve paid their dues, and they want to experience something new, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing for them. And a few of them may have been coming back because the league here, from Team 1 to Team 10, it’s competitive. You can have the first-place team play the last-place team in the table, and it’s still gonna be a really good game. So the competition here is something that you’re not gonna get in a lot of leagues overseas.