How The Olympics Being Postponed Will Benefit Orlando Once The 2020 Season Finally Gets Underway
Updated: Jun 1
The International Olympic Committee recently announced that the Tokyo Games will be postponed until 2021, due to on-going concerns regarding the coronavirus. It's a decision that has been widely expected, and one that wasn't exactly made in a timely manner. Other major international tournaments such as UEFA Euro 2020 have long since been rearranged. Safety has to the be the number one priority, period. That being said this announcement will have profound benefits for a lot of teams in the NWSL, not least the Orlando Pride. Once it is safe to resume pre-season and build up to league action that is. The Pride were set to have their roster decimated mid-season for the second consecutive year. Now stars such as Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris will be available for the whole season (I know there will be your usual international exhibitions, but you get my point) and that can only be a positive for the team.
The Pride were set to lose as many as 9 players in the summer to the Olympics with Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnett and Alex Morgan all set to be confirmed participants for the USWNT. Marta would have no doubt travelled with Brazil, and Claire Emslie would back herself to get the call up for team GB who are entering again this year. I would get in to the whole team Great Britain thing and explain it to you all, but we'd be here for weeks. She qualifies anyway as a Scot, as the team will be a mix of all 4 home nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). You would imagine the Matilda's would have qualified, which would have seen Alanna Kennedy and Emily Van Egmond removed from league action. Erin McLeod was a potential loss, if an unlikely one. The Canadian is no longer listed as a federation player and has all but retired from international selection. Even if it were only 8 that's still a huge chunk of the team gone, especially when you consider the names on that list.
There was heavy criticism of the front office from many quarters last season; and the criticism wasn't unjust. Their planning for the 2019 FIFA World Cup was short sighted at best. The tournament left a huge hole in the team, one that it was not able to adequately fill. Sure, it allowed the likes of Erin Greening and Marisa Viggiano to log significant amounts of minutes. But it was hardly an ideal solution, the youngsters were very much thrown in at the deep end. Having the senior internationals around for the whole season, aside from Alex Morgan of course as she eagerly awaits the birth of her first child, will be a huge benefit to the younger members of the team. Being able to train and play with top quality players, week in and week out will be hugely beneficial to the development of their on-field skills. Off the field it will help the team no end as well, having that level of professionalism around at all times will only rub off well on the younger players. It will allow them role models to look up to. Coaches can guide you through and implement rules on how to prepare for a game but watching the experienced pros, who have reached the very top of the game, prepare for matches is priceless. They have been there and done it, and that in itself can be very inspiring to any up and coming player.
A lot has also been made of attendances at Exploria Stadium for Pride matches. Whilst the core supporters are there, week in and week out there can be do disputing that overall numbers have dwindled since the club's inaugural season. We have seen spikes, such as that seen following the World Cup. But that needs to be built up again and sustained in the long run. What will be important for the team is to really promote itself during that period where USWNT supporters will have been watching the Olympics. Fill that giant 5 ring hole in the national team supporters hearts. Having some of the very best players in the world, playing their football in Orlando for the whole season should help with that. Now if only the front office could market the team a smidge better, we'd probably be on to something... Enter, Amanda Duffy. The stage is yours Amanda.
It's on the field, though, where the benefits of Olympic cancellation will be most keenly felt. Head coach Marc Skinner will be able to call on a settled first eleven, partnerships will be built and strengthened all over the field through having steady and consistent practice and game time with one another. This is something that he never had last year. He will be able to pick his strongest team most of the time, injuries and suspensions pending of course. And that will be invaluable in getting the most out of the team's big players. And if that happens and the team are able to pick up results, that will leave most Pride fans thinking 'what Olympics? Totally forgot about them'.