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Three tweaks to get Orlando into the NWSL postseason

Marta will need to stay healthy and stay effective for the Pride to return to the playoffs (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

We started with Utah, but as we march through the other teams we’ve identified as threats to the NWSL’s early top four, the one most harshly done by our hasty divide is the Orlando Pride. This is, after all, a team that finished third last season, added some experienced pieces to fill out the roster, and has a handful of young players who could conceivably take a step forward. Why are the Pride even in this group?

The standings are the most obvious reason, with Orlando’s start putting them closer to the Royals and Spirit than the league’s top four. Only four points in four games? And only three goals? Based on last year’s return, those rates are unlikely to continue, but through its season’s slow start, the Pride has played more like Washington and Utah than the playoff favorites.

The Pride has been missing significant pieces – Marta and Alanna Kennedy might be two of the team’s three best players – but every team at the top of the standings has dealt with significant absences. That Orlando didn’t highlights the main qualm about its 2018 potential: The Pride needed everything to go right, again, because if it doesn’t, the team doesn’t have the depth to keep up with the league’s more established squads.

In that way, every suggestion we have, below, comes back to depth. Phrase it however you want – identifying inefficiencies; maximizing resources; protecting your most valuable asset – all three of our recommendations, below, come back to this idea: Orlando needs their Plan A to click in order to keep up. Else, the depth of teams like Chicago, North Carolina, Portland, and Seattle will win out over the course of the season.

Here are the three “tweaks” we’d recommend for Orlando …

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