Pride aim to continue improvement in Kansas City

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A week off couldn’t have come a better time for the Orlando Pride, who are trying to make one final push to salvage their season.

They’ve had their moments as they travel to face the Kansas City Current (5-4-3, 18 points) on Sunday for the second time.

“It was a really nice break, especially because it was in the middle of the season,” defender Celia Jiménez said. “We took some time off after getting some points. We were able to disconnect and recharge the battery.”

After going winless and without a point in June that included a 6-0 thrashing at Portland, the Pride (3-5-4, 13 points) have generated points in all three of their July matches.

“We’ve got to build on what we’ve done in the last three games,” interim coach Seb Hines said. “We know there’s not a lot of games left, so we need points.”

Orlando can make it 4-for-4. Having escaped with a 2-2 draw against Kansas City at Exploria Stadium on May 14, the Pride know points are attainable regardless of circumstance.

The Pride had conceded 2 goals in the final 10 minutes and looked to have blown a lead in that first meeting with the Current. Kylie Strom, however, was fouled in the box and Toni Pressley took the penalty to tie the score in the 96th minute.

In a 2-2 draw on May 27 vs. the Washington Spirit, the Pride did something similar in stoppage time. Jordyn Listro found Mikayla Cluff in the box to head in what seemed to be a consolation goal to make the score 2-1. Then they had an extra chance at the very end when Julie Doyle crossed the ball toward the back post before deflecting off a defender and found Darian Jenkins unmarked for the equalizer.

Hines had made adjustments to how the Pride play after taking over for coach Amanda Cromwell last month. She was put on administrative leave.

“I definitely think the formation we’re playing with now, it requires the fullback to be a lot more aggressive, attacking,” Celia said. “Get higher and cover in case of a counterattack. It’s been great.

“We have a long way to go but we’re headed in the right direction. ... As a fullback, I’m excited. I love having the ball at my feet. I love connecting. Having that opportunity to get into the attack, I enjoy that. It’s been really really fun.”

The Current are known for how they defend with numbers and countering quickly.

“They bring something different. They have five in the back,” Hines said. “That’s very difficult to break down. It shows in some of their results why they’re hard to beat. We have to work on that — how to break down a back five with not a lot of space between their lines.”

Kansas City is the league’s hottest team, winning five of its last seven matches. Four have been shutouts, which speaks to how well the team defends.

“We’re going to try to stretch them out, use those wide spaces,” Celia said. “We’re been a very vertical team in a way. ... We can expose them by using the wide spaces.”