The Orlando Pride announced that they've exercised the contract options for coach Marc Skinner and assistant coach Carl Green on Wednesday. Skinner first joined the club back in 2019 from Birmingham City of the FA Women's Super League, where he spent five years with the English club.
The club entered 2020 coming off a last place finish, with Skinner largely looking to establish a new style of play and a player-driven culture. Skinner and the club are looking at 2020 as a year to continue rebuilding, but the uncertainties surrounding the season in light of the coronavirus pandemic has continued to halt that progress.
"What's really important as a coach, you understand the momentum changes within sport. Yes, of course we want to see our players and see the younger players to see and challenge them in different experiences in different environments, but you also need to get momentum and understanding between your team," Skinner told CBS Sports.
"When we're looking at our first-year results, when you have 14 different partnerships at center-half position throughout a season of 24 games, you can never build a team cohesion. For us, it's about understanding which relationships can be forged and which relationships can be formed during this period."
The club was unable to participate in the Challenge Cup this summer due to COVID-19 testing and have since made its return to NWSL in the Fall Series where it played North Carolina Courage to a scoreless draw over the weekend. The match provided opportunities to new players, and a chance to make gameday evaluations -- something the coaching staff has been unable to this year.
"We want to give these players chances, but they've got to earn them," Skinner said. "I think for us to be a successful team, we can no longer give away free chances to play for Orlando -- and it almost at times felt like we had to give players opportunities because we had no more options in Year 1.
"Now, what we need to do is make sure if those players are good enough to earn that, then they deserve that, and that's what we'll continue to do. We'll be using the Fall Series as a momentum builder, as a kind of here and there stamp in tide to know where we're at and what we've got to do to achieve going forward."
The club currently has several players overseas on transfer or loan,, likely due the previous uncertainty around more NWSL games in the fall. With the arrival of the Fall Series, the current roster is a mix of veteran players along with newer names, and Skinner intends to keep building the team where he can.
"It's a perfect opportunity because have 12 players out on loan that we're looking at bringing back, obviously, to be part of what we're building in the future, but I was really, really pleased with their performance and their attitude in the North Carolina game considering it had been such a long time since they played," Skinner said.
"There was a lot people who did themselves a lot of good in that game, and over these next three games we'll make sure that those other players who have earned their right to play will get an opportunity to play. It's a really good way of experimenting and seeing who we have so that we can support our team and the rest of our players when we get together as a group in the new year."