Tight-knit Australians help bolster Orlando Pride | Orlando Sentinel

From: Orlando Sentinel
Number of sources: Four
Word Count: 673
Date of Publication: June 10, 2017

Playing soccer nearly 10,000 miles away from home can be very difficult, especially when you have to leave family behind. But it can be even worse to have to go without good food.

“I miss my family and my friends, but most of all, I miss just the food and going out to brunch,” Australian defender Alanna Kennedy said. “That’s what I like to do when I’m at home, just go out for brunch. … They have it here too, but it’s just not the same.”

Kennedy, a member of the Australian national team, previously played just one soccer season outside of Australia before being traded to the Orlando Pride. But the adjustment has been made easier thanks to the many connections between the Pride and her home country.

Along with Kennedy, the Pride roster features defenders Laura Alleway and Steph Catley, both of whom play for the Australian national team.

“Obviously, I’m very comfortable playing next to Steph and [Alleway] as well,” Kennedy said. “It’s nice and reassuring having players around you who know you both on and off the field really well.”

The Pride’s Australians have become a very tight-knit group. Alleway and Catley live together and Kennedy practically lives with them, spending much of her free time at their house.

While they are the only three Australians on the roster, Catley and Alleway’s roommate, Maddy Evans, is considered an “honorary Aussie” by the team.

“Me and [Alleway] adopted her last year when we came into the team and she is just like an Australian,” Catley said. “Her personality, she fits in very well … and we gravitate towards her. So yeah, she fits in very nicely.”

Evans, who spent time in the offseason playing for the Brisbane Roar of Australia’s W-League, is thrilled to have developed a close relationship with the Australians.

“They’re some of my closest friends,” she said. “I went over and played in Australia and they kind of have welcomed me into their little group, so it’s fun. They joke around that I’m the honorary Aussie, but I’m proud from Glenside, Penn.”

Evans is not the only American Pride player to have competed in Australia. Forward Jasmyne Spencer has spent her past few offseasons in the W-League.

Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni, who previously coached the Australian women’s national team, is happy to see some of his players spend their offseasons competing in the W-League.

He said the similarities between the Australian league and the National Women’s Soccer League have helped players train and compete at a high level for much of the year.

“It’s been a great connection overall, both for our club but also I think for the league and for American players,” Sermanni said. “There’s a whole load of benefits from going down and playing in Australia. … I’ve already, in the last week had three of the Aussie coaches of W-League teams on the phone to me, recruiting [Pride] players or trying to recruit [Pride] players.”

While the Australians are very close off the field, their on-field relationship has also been beneficial to the Pride this season. All of them have started at least once this year, with Catley and Kennedy starting every game for the team.

“I’ve played next to Alanna for years and years at the highest level in the national team and [in] some really high-intensity situations, so I know I can trust her and she can trust me,” Catley said. “We know how each other play and what kind of pass to give each other and stuff like that, so it’s just a chemistry that you can only get from playing with each other for years.”

The rest of the team has also been grateful for the chemistry that the Australians have brought to the field.

“The quality of play that they bring to the table is just great,” Evans said. “The chemistry from their international team, they can bring that here and then kind of mesh it into our style of play, which is really cool. We’re very lucky to have them.”

About Christian Simmons 38 Articles
My name is Christian Simmons, and I recently graduated from the University of Central Florida with my master's degree in integrated business management. My undergrad degree from UCF is in journalism. I'm passionate about sports in all its forms. I've had internships with the Sun Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, NPR affiliate WMFE and CBS affiliate WKMG. I'm also the co-founder and editor of Knight Sports Now, a student publication that has covered UCF sports since 2017. As a freelance reporter, my stories have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The New Orleans Advocate, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. and the Baltimore Sun, among others.