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The Lowdown: Facing elimination, teams already at mercy of Challenge Cup format

The format of this year’s National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup is such that already only four teams remain in control of whether they advance to the championship match on May 8th. For the other six teams, their plight is on them for not securing early results, but it still creates some interesting scenarios over the next three match days.

“Of course we need help,” Orlando Pride head coach Marc Skinner said on a recent conference call. The Pride host the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night and a loss will eliminate them from advancing as will a draw unless the Gotham-Courage match also ends in a draw. Even if the Pride win, and then upset the Courage on May 1, it might not be enough.

“We’re trying to win the game, but we have to be good at trying to figure out how to beat the opponent without own style,” Skinner said. “We’re learning that more as the games pass by.”

The Pride are in a unique situation, having had very little time training or playing in 2020 with anything resembling the side they had intended. To that end, Skinner has continuously preached about the process, but he added that the team never goes into a match with any idea other than to win.

“We always want to win every game and we haven’t done that yet,” he said. “But we never enter a game just for the developmental phase of it. We know that is part of a winning club, you have to have development of your team together. So our first aim is to win the game even if you have to win it ugly.”

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