May 25, 2017 at Seminole Soccer Complex

Availability: HC Tom Sermanni, DF Alanna Kennedy

HC Tom Sermanni

The Orlando Pride finished with a 1-1 draw with the Seattle Reign in their last match.

Delighted to come away with a point over there. It’s a very difficult place to go and play. It’s a stadium where they very, very rarely give up points and where they generally score a lot of goals. So when I look back in the video of the game, we actually created the much-better chances and, actually, in open play, never gave them a clear shot at goal or a shot on target. So, I thought, looking from the game from that perspective, I thought we did exceptionally well. And then when you factor in the fact that we lost [goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris] after 25 minutes, the drama that we’ve had with goalkeepers in the last week. Had to rush in [goalkeeper Caroline Stanley], and I thought she did exceptionally well. Under those circumstances, the team coped with that change very well.

Harris went down with a non-contact quad-hip injury in the first half against Seattle.

I mean, we’ve seen Caroline play. She’s been an established goalkeeper in this league and a very good goalkeeper. So, I didn’t have any concerns from her goalkeeping perspective. But you’ve got a player who comes in at 10 o’clock on a Friday night to the team and is thrown on the field after 25 minutes. It’s a little bit of a difficult adjustment. And particularly on that field, which is very narrow, and especially when you’ve got players like [Megan Rapinoe], who have got fantastic delivery from free kicks and corners. So, we knew that she was going to be put under pressure, and I thought she handled it exceptionally well.

In Harris’ stead, newly signed goalkeeper Stanley was inserted between the posts.

Well you just bring her in and fit in. I think the great thing we’ve got about this squad is that players can assimilate into it very, very quickly. You know, I think the environment amongst the players is one that’s very welcoming. So, new players coming in, I think and I hope, feel comfortable from the day that they come in. What we need to do this week is—with [goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe] and with Caroline—is give them as much goalkeeping action as we possibly can so we get them really integrated into the sessions and get them as much practice as possible.

Sermanni sees his team as one with many leaders.

Well I think we’ve got quite a few there. I mean, we’ve got a whole international back-line basically. And then you’ve got, obviously, Ali Krieger, who, in her own right, is a captain in the team as well. So we have players that can easily do that. Monica [Hickmann Alves], another very experienced player coming back from injury. And then we’ve got Marta [Vieira da Silva] on the team, who’s another great leader. So, I don’t think—you know, obviously, like any outstanding player you lose in any team, you miss ’em. But I think we’ve got the experience, the character and the personality in the team to cope with losing Ash.

Despite only tallying one win so far this season, the Pride’s mood is “upbeat.”

Mood’s upbeat. Mood’s good. In fairness, the mood always was good, even when results weren’t going our way. But the longer that you don’t get [a] result, it’s obviously much harder for everybody to maintain that kind of positive attitude. But the mood’s been great in the camp. The training’s been good quality, and I think getting those results, the key and the difference it makes is that it’s boosted the confidence of the players, both collectively and individually.

For Sermanni, having a bond with teammates from the same country helps.

I think that helps. I think when you’ve got people that you’re familiar with, and you come into an environment which is a little bit different to what you’ve been in, it’s helpful to have that kind of support around you, and I think, both from an on-the-field perspective, in the number of players we have, obviously three signed Brazilians… So there’s a little group there. But the fantastic thing about our Brazilian players is how well they intermingle with all the others. And when you’ve got someone like Marta standing in the game and see how she mixes in with all the players, that really emanates right throughout the whole team, that kind of environment. So, yeah, they’ve got their own little group, but that group is really, as I say, assimilated fantastically with everybody else.

After Harris, the Pride’s 2017 team captain, left the match against Seattle, Krieger took the captain’s armband.

I didn’t even notice who took the armband. I don’t mean that they’re irrelevant, but it’s kinda like—for me, there’s too much emphasis put on who’s wearing the captain’s armband. Ali Krieger is a leader whether she’s got an armband on or she hasn’t. She still leads the team by example by how she plays, by her leadership off the field as well. So she is, obviously, the natural person to go out and lead the team out. But you’re looking for leadership and captaincy, if you like, from different players in the team in different ways. So, I’m always loathed to kind of single out a captain and feel that they have this, like, owner-ish responsibility to be the leader. Leadership is a role for everybody in the team, but they just do it in different ways.

Sermanni sees Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr as the key in Saturday’s match in New Jersey.

Well I think Kerr is the key. I mean, she’s the key person, and it’s just a question of our center-backs making sure that they’re really focused and disciplined in their defending job against Sam; to make sure that she doesn’t get, you know, run in behind them, to make sure that when she gets the ball that we’ve got players around, pressing her to try and make sure she doesn’t get a chance to run at us and dribble at us. But she’s the key—really their key attacking player. So, she’s the main one we need to shut down.

Sky Blue is coming off a 2-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage. Sermanni hopes that match “softened up” the New Jersey squad.

I hope so. It’s not even just so much a game. It’s the travel as well. And I know Carolina isn’t that far, but you finish a game at, you know, 10 o’clock at night. You’re back to the hotel. You have a rushed meal. You’re usually up early the next day. You’re on a flight. You get back, and half the next day’s gone. So hopefully—and playing Carolina, who are a very demanding team, hopefully that’s bumped and bruised them up a little bit for us at the weekend. Softened ’em up for us. But soccer’s a funny game. Sometimes when you get in a mode of playing, actually playing more games can be advantageous as well.

After the North Carolina match, the Pride’s first win of the season, Sermanni said a lot of his team remaining positive was because of Marta.

I think the first thing, you know, when somebody like Marta walks in the dressing room, they’ve got immediate credibility and a major aura about them. And then it depends how that player reacts around the team, as to how positive that becomes. And the great thing with Marta is that she just loves soccer. You see her out here, and she’s having fun. So she’s got this great balance of being somebody that enjoys being in an environment and having fun in the environment, mixing easily with people and with players. And then being able to switch on professionally when you walk across that white line and train. So she’s got that great balance with her. And just the way that she interacts with the players has helped her become someone that the players just love being around. So it’s easy for a player of her stature to come in, do her stuff and then just kinda leave again. But she has bought in to being, really, an integral part of the team.

DF Alanna Kennedy

Kennedy said her team was happy to leave Seattle with a point.

Yeah, obviously Seattle’s a great team, and playing them away is always gonna be hard. And losing Ash early in the game was not ideal. But, yeah, I thought we did really well. And it was great for us to come back and get a goal and equalize. So, yeah, we’re happy with a point.

For Kennedy, making Harris’ replacements feel comfortable is key to integrating the goalkeepers into a relatively unfamiliar starting role.

Ash’s shoes are pretty big to fill, but I think we’ve got depth with both of them, and Caroline did a great job coming into the game on the weekend, and I’m sure—I know Aubrey can do the same. So, I’m sure it’ll be fine. We got a lot of leadership at the back, especially with Ali. So I think she’ll make it easy, and hopefully the five of us can stick together, and we’re looking to get a clean sheet. We haven’t got one yet, so hopefully that can happen this weekend.

It’s probably hard for them knowing that—sometimes it’s hard as a goalkeeper not knowing when you’re gonna come into the game, so I think, for them, they need to be mentally prepared, and you see them at training, and Aubrey—I mean, I don’t know Caroline too well—but Aubrey, every single session, she’s here, and she’s ready for her opportunity, so I’m sure she’ll be ready on the weekend and Caroline, if it’s her as well. Yeah, I think it’s just our job to make sure that they feel confident, and I think we did a good job of that on the weekend.

Kerr and Kennedy are teammates on the Australian women’s national team.

Yeah, obviously, Sam’s a great player. I actually enjoy playing against her. It’s always a great challenge, but she’s hard to contain. Yeah, I guess both [defender Steph Catley] and I know her well. And I guess Ali’s come up against her in the national-team environments, but, yeah, they’ll be hard to contain, but, obviously, I think each week we’re getting better at the back, not just the back four but as a defensive altogether. Hopefully we can shut that down.

When asked about who would step up as a defensive leader, Kennedy mentioned Krieger.

As I said, it’s a huge loss not having Ash. She’s a great personality to have both on and off the field. But we’ve got a lot of leaders in this team, and I think Ali will definitely step up. She’s already been a great leader on the team, and, you know, we’ve got Marta on the squad as well. So, there’s plenty of players around who I know can do the job as well, but, yeah, we’re definitely going to be missing Ash.

She’s just a great leader. She’s very approachable. She’s very well respected, and she’s done great things in her career to earn that respect. And just someone who—for me, she’s a great friend. So I just enjoy being around her, and I think she’s definitely deserving of the role as captain.

In their past two matches, the Pride are undefeated, winning 3-1 over the Courage and drawing 1-1 with Seattle.

I think it’s a little bit of a weight off our shoulders. We know we have the quality in the team, but it just took a little bit of time to come together. You know, we’re still only picking up a few points here and there, but we’re capable of more, and I think we’re still driving for the three points each week. I think it’ll come, and we’ve definitely got the quality in this squad.

Coming from the perspective of another international, Kennedy sees a clear bond between the Brazilian players.

They are very close. You can definitely see the bond, both on and off the field. They have a lot of chemistry on the field, which is great for us. But, yeah, I think that’s also an advantage, having lots of players from the same nationality who have worked together, and the Brazilians definitely know each other well.

For Kennedy, the onus is on the back-line to make whoever’s in goal confident.

I think it’s huge and especially with a keeper like Ash. Someone who is just a great player, and just you feel confident having her behind you. So I think, for us as back four, having Caroline come in on the weekend, it was important that we made her feel confident and comfortable coming into the game, and she did a great job. She stepped up and played her role, so, yeah, I think, as I said, both her and Aubrey have the quality to step up even though they have big shoes to fill.

Kennedy sees Marta as one of the biggest personalities on the team.

I just see the character within this team, obviously from Marta as well. But just the whole squad. We’ve shown a lot of resilience and determination to keep striving for success even though we haven’t seen the results that we wanted. So I think just the character that we have is a great thing when results aren’t going your way, and Marta is probably one of the bigger and stronger personalities that we have on the team, and so, yeah, she’s just great to have around.

Sky Blue will be the Pride’s fifth away match of the season. For Kennedy, she sees that as a possible blessing in disguise.

It’s been tough. Obviously we haven’t got the results we wanted, but it’s definitely made us—as a team who had a lot of good players, and you kind of expect the results to go certain ways, I think it’s made us stronger as a team and know that we have to be our best every week. So I think that’s really coming together now, and you can see that. And it was maybe a blessing in disguise that we had a few losses just to pick ourselves up.

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