Orlando Pride eager to maintain momentum against Kansas City

·4 min read

After delivering a pair of upset wins earlier this week, the Orlando Pride are aiming to record their longest winning streak in three seasons as they host Kansas City on Sunday night.

Star strikers Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan have scored all five of the Pride’s goals in their first three games of the regular season, powering the team to two wins over North Carolina and Portland this week.

On their first winning streak since the 2018 season, the Pride are entering Sunday’s match with team-wide enthusiasm.

“We feel really great,” rookie Taylor Kornieck said. “We had two really tough games and we’re just hoping to take all the energy we put into those games and bring it on into Kansas City.”

Kansas City is seeking its first win of the regular season after recording draws against Louisville and Houston and a loss to Chicago last week. After a rushed offseason, the club still is assembling its identity after being relocated in December from its previous existence as the Utah Royals.

The team has been led by Amy Rodriguez, whom Orlando coach Marc Skinner said rates as one of the top forwards in the NWSL. The striker already has scored three goals this season, netting two in the Challenge Cup and one in the regular season.

Orlando and Kansas City both played in the preseason, but defender Ali Riley emphasized that both teams have grown since that prior meeting.

“For me personally, every little preview is helpful being new to the team and new to the league,” Riley said. “But I know we’re a different team from preseason and I’m sure they are as well. Knowing the strength of [Rodriguez], knowing what their center backs look like, it’s always helpful to get that sneak peek but I know it’s gonna be a completely different game than being out here on an afternoon preseason day.”

For both teams, the match comes at the end of a packed week. Sunday will mark Kansas City’s third match in eight days and Orlando’s third match in nine days.

The team focused mainly on recovery between Wednesday’s match and Sunday to keep players fresh for their final match of the stretch.

“We’re so lucky to have a great staff here taking care of us and giving us everything from anti-inflammatory smoothies to treatment massages,” Riley said. “The coaches know that balance between review and preparation. That’s so key because we can’t have too many minutes on the field when we’re recovering from these games.”

At the start of the packed week, Skinner said he planned to implement a rotation to help ease the difficulty of the schedule. But the Pride played the same starting lineup of field players for both of their wins this week, although keepers Erin McLeod and Ashlyn Harris each had one game.

Skinner said he hopes to get the Pride out to an early lead against Kansas City to allow the team more time to cycle younger players into the lineup.

If the team continues to succeed, however, the coach also wants to emphasize internal competition for starting positions.

“You have to earn it,” Skinner said. “If the players are playing well, I don’t need to rotate for the sake of it. I need to make sure that people earn their right to be in this team, and that’s all I ask.”

Regardless of which players make Sunday’s lineup, the coach said he’s noticed increased resolve across the roster to start this season.

The Pride entered the season saddled with the disappointments of the club’s last two seasons. But although it’s early in the season, Skinner said the last week has helped the Pride to feel confident in their competitiveness in the league.

“You kind of have that real energy,” Skinner said. “Everybody wants to be part of a winning team. There’s great energy; there’s great commitment. ... They’ve been wonderful. We’ve got to take that energy forward and bounce into the next lot of games.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting