If Tom Sermanni had his druthers he would just as soon take the 600 mile flight back to North Carolina instead of the 3,000 mile trip to Portland. But his Orlando Pride side pulled out a late win in North Carolina on the weekend which jumped them over the Red Stars into third place. The reward? A trip to Providence Park where the Thorns lost only one time this season.
“As a squad we haven’t done anything easy this season so the trip to Portland is another hurdle for us to overcome and one we’re relishing,” Sermanni told The Equalizer.
Sermanni may have preferred the shorter trip, but his biggest concern heading into the weekend is not one of tactics but rather the well being of his players. “The crowd is hostile, like a proper football environment,” he said. “But my biggest concern is that my players get protected.”
Echoing the sentiments of several NWSL coaches, Sermanni is of the belief that the large crowds at Providence Park can intimidate referees as well as opposing players. And he cited the Pride’s possession style combined with opponents’ willingness to constantly foul from behind to stop Marta, Camila and Alex Morgan as further reasons why referees need to call matches tighter. In his eyes, referees seem to be unaware of these continuous fouls breaking up the Pride rhythm without any consequences.
“Of all the four teams in the playoffs, we are the least physical team and play a style of soccer that should receive better protection in the modern game,” he said.
One other issue facing the Pride in the loss of Camila who has been diagnosed with a torn ACL. She will miss the playoffs and there has been no timetable put on her recovery.
“The play where Camila got hurt was a foul,” Sermanni said noting that none was called against the Courage’s Nora Holstad. “It wasn’t a card but it was another foul not given.”