WWTD: Pride to Face Spirit Shorthanded

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After netting the first point of the young National Women’s Soccer League season, Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni will have to scramble to put together his best starting XI for the Washington Spirit at the Maryland Soccer Complex without any of the team’s Brazilian women’s national team players, most notably Marta. Additionally, the status of Alex Morgan is in question as she is day-to-day in the league’s concussion protocol after she collided with Utah Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith in the closing moments of the first half. Earlier this week, the ProSoccerUSA.com reported Tom was open to a change of formation from the 4-3-3 from week one.  Let’s examine two possible starting lineups Sermanni could field against the Spirit, one without Alex Morgan, and a second including the top striker for club and country. 

No Morgan or Marta, No Problem or Time To Go Single Striker

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There’s no way of sugarcoating it, Coach Sermanni is going to have to shuffle his starting XI from last week’s home opener. The Pride had a hard time effectively moving the ball against the Royals, and it won’t be a walk in the park against Washington as Orlando will have to deal with the likes of Andi Sullivan and Tori Huster. The Spirit attack will also have the likes of Mallory Pugh and Joanna Lohman cutting through the midfield to pressure the Pride back line which was exposed versus Utah and prone to making a mistake. Until Sermanni can show his squad has solved that problem and have all his first-choice players healthy and with the team, here is one option for Orlando. 

Lack of starting depth will cause some shuffling of the back line, moving Toni Pressley to center back allows Ali Krieger to return to the right back spot which she did last match once Monica entered the match. Coach Sermanni will have to answer who he has to be the playmaker in the midfield. Both Edmonds and Nairn could act in this manner and may drift back and forth between playmaker and defensive midfielder providing help to Dani Weatherholt. 

Sydney Leroux as the lone striker as the tip of the attack should provide a target to Rachel Hill and Chi Ubogagu. Leroux may not be the speedy striker, like Alex Morgan, but her physicality should help her battle Washington defenders. Let’s take a look at the Pride if Alex Morgan gets cleared to play on Saturday. 

Thank Goodness We Still have Alex Morgan or We’re In a 4-4-2

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Same back line as in the previous formation, playing with the two striker pairing of Morgan and Leroux shifts the midfield. Sermanni can keep Chi on the bench as a super sub and open up the midfield more. In this graphic, the midfielders are set in a diamond, but could play as a flat four midfield, meaning all players space themselves more even with each other allowing Nairn and Hill to play further wide, as the diamond formation tends to play more central going up the middle of the pitch. 

There are many choices Coach Sermanni will need to make as he attempts to earn the first road victory of the season short handed. He’s going to need to get creative with the absence of the Brazilians, and hopefully Alex Morgan will be available for selection allowing some extra wiggle room. There will be players who should be making their first appearance at the ‘plex off the bench, but these are two options on how the team can line up at the beginning of the match. 

Luis Hernandez

I remember the moment I fell in love with the beautiful game. Argentina v England during the 1986 World Cup with two of the most famous goals in World Cup history, the ‘Hand of God’ goal and the ‘Goal of the Century’ and if you don’t know what I’m talking about you should do a quick Google search, I’ll wait... 

Welcome back! So where was I...okay. Since that moment, I had a passion for soccer, so I wanted to play for my high school team even though I’m not the most gifted athlete. There were two ways to get on the team, you could enroll in the soccer class offered ensuring your spot or you could get selected from the open tryout. 

In my junior year, I had prepared for the tryout to sharpen my skills for several months. I was confident I could earn a spot. What I lacked in physical prowess, I made up in effort and heart. The day of the tryout, I felt like a man possessed, charging and giving it my all. I knew my best chance to make the team was with my defense abilities. Afterwards, I was sure I was going to make the team. When the results were being announced, the head coach called me over to speak with me. He told me that he loved my heart, effort and love of the game. He also said the girls’ team needed a manager. 

It took a minute for his words to sink in. Not only was I not making the team, but he wanted me to fill a role with the women’s side. I was introduced to women’s soccer in 1991. I helped the women’s head coach with everything, from equipment manager and running drills, to acting as the opponent goalkeeper during practices, and sometimes a linesman during a match if we didn’t have three referees show up for the women’s match. I witnessed back then the inequality between the men’s side compared to the women which has stuck with me since then. 

I didn’t have the soccer career in high school I envisioned, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my junior and senior years because the time spent on the pitch grew my passion for the women’s game. So after all that, here I am. Let’s Score!