Hill pleased to help Pride’s mo­men­tum

Orlando Sentinel - - SOCCER / BIANCHI / GOLF - By Mike Gra­majo

It was just a mat­ter of time be­fore Rachel Hill scored her first goal of the sea­son for the Or­lando Pride.

The sec­ond-year pro­fes­sional opened her 2018 scor­ing ac­count on May 2 dur­ing a 2-0 win against the Chicago Red Stars — a re­sult that helped Or­lando earn seven points out of nine pos­si­ble points dur­ing a three-game road stretch.

Hill is pleased she got her first goal out of the way — es­pe­cially be­fore the Pride host the top team in the NWSL. The North Carolina Courage visit Or­lando City Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day.

“I’m happy about it,” Hill told Pro Soc­cer USA. “I think we’re start­ing to click bet­ter as a team and the goals are com­ing eas­ier now. With North Carolina, it’s a huge game, we know how big of a game it is and all our fo­cus is on that right now. It’s nice that we have a while now to pre­pare for it and we’ll be ready to go.

“Any­one can beat any­one in this league, so we have our eyes on the win on Wed­nes­day.”

Hill was one of sev­eral Or­lando play­ers who played in the Aus­tralian WLeague dur­ing the off­sea­son. Dur­ing her ten­ure with Perth Glory, she recorded nine goals in 12 matches, a ca­reer-high Hill said she hopes to repli­cate with Or­lando this sea­son.

The for­ward praised the tal­ent in the W-League, but she also noted the dif­fer­ences be­tween the Aus­tralian and Amer­i­can pro leagues.

“Both leagues are very com­pet­i­tive,” Hill said of the W-League and NWSL. “There’s qual­ity play­ers and each league, but I think the ex­pe­ri­ence is bit dif­fer­ent. In Aus­tralia, there’s a lot of younger girls, so I was one of the older ones. So, I think the ex­pe­ri­ence level is a lot dif­fer­ent.”

There was no pre­sea­son for Aus­tralian stand­out Alanna Kennedy.

Kennedy missed Or­lando’s first four matches of the sea­son due to na­tional team duty with Aus­tralia and re­joined the Pride dur­ing a 1-1 draw at home against the Seat­tle Reign last month.

She said Or­lando’s tal­ent-rich ros­ter played a key role in her smooth tran­si­tion back to the Pride lineup de­spite a sig­nif­i­cant ad­just­ment from play­ing de­fender for her Aus­tralian club and na­tional teams and mid­fielder for the Pride.

“For me, it was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent… it made my job a lot eas­ier,” Kennedy said of Or­lando’s skilled ros­ter. “I play as a de­fender for my na­tional team and off­sea­son I play as a de­fender, so for me to come back and play those few games, [it] took me a lit­tle while to con­di­tion my­self to be­ing back in the mid­field. To be able to rely on the play­ers around me to take a lit­tle of the load off me was re­ally im­por­tant in those few games. It’s great to have that around us this year.”

Kennedy said Or­lando built a steady foun­da­tion last year, al­low­ing her to mesh with the team faster de­spite not be­ing with the Pride dur­ing the pre­sea­son.

She en­joys lin­ing up along­side veter­ans Dani Weather­holt and Chris­tine Nairn, but she knows some­times lineup changes are nec­es­sary.

“It’s nice to get game time when you’re play­ing with the same per­son to be able to cre­ate chem­istry, but with the sched­ule we have, it’s im­por­tant to ro­tate our play­ers and keep peo­ple healthy,” said Kennedy.

“We have a lot of time to­gether in the train­ing pitch to know how each other plays. I know Dani [Weather­holt] well, I’ve watched [Nairn] play in the mid­field for years and played with her for years as well. It’s been good to be able to ro­tate, and it’s good sign when you have depth.”

AILEEN PER­ILLA/COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Pride for­ward Rachel Hill helped get Or­lando go­ing on its re­cent road trip with a goal against the Chicago Red Stars.

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