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Why the Alex Morgan-to-Orlando Trade Is Not As Bad As Some Think

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It’s been a whirlwind week for the NWSL’s new team. The Orlando Pride were only announced this past Tuesday and already there is a big deal in the works for the team. According to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, Morgan, as well as Canadian international Kaylyn Kyle, will be traded to the Pride for the team’s first pick in the NWSL draft, two international slots, USWNT defender Meghan Klingenberg and forward Lindsey Horan as an allocation, if the American decides to leave Paris Saint-Germain for NWSL.

Over the last few days there has been lots of backlash from the trade, claiming that Orlando is getting the raw end of the deal and that they are "giving away the farm" to get a player who only played in four games for the Portland Thorns last year, due to national team commitments and injuries. While that is true, Orlando is still getting an excellent deal for what they need.

As a new team in a growing market, it’s evident that the team wanted to make a splash in the league and bring in a player who could be the face of the franchise. Alex Morgan fits that mold — a mold that Orlando City used, bringing in Kaká for its first year. In that case, the attendance can speak for itself. There’s also the marketing boost the team and city would receive by getting one of the most famous women’s soccer players to play in an Orlando jersey. Tickets and jersey sales would be huge for a brand new team, just like Kaká’s presence boosted both aspects for the men’s team. Kaká finished third in MLS jersey sales this year.

One of the biggest issues that many had in bringing in Morgan was that she has been injured and out of form since 2012, when she scored 28 goals for the USWNT. Since then, Morgan has only scored six national team goals in 2013, five in 2014 and five so far this year. Again, this compares to Kaká with the fact that he was very injury prone coming to Orlando last year and he was out of form, having only scored two goals with Sao Paulo while on loan and having not made a national team appearance in 2014. Being in the right environment and having the right coaches around could help Morgan find that 2012 form again, which would make her easily worth the price Orlando paid for her.

But nobody doubts this makes sense for Orlando from a marketing perspective. What about on the field?

Tom Sermanni, Orlando’s new coach, has had experience coaching both Morgan and Kyle on the national team levels. Sermanni coached the USWNT from 2013-2014 and assisted the Canadian women’s national team this year at the Women’s World Cup. Having someone who is familiar with a player like Morgan, as well as having a coach who has been at the helm of two different national teams (USWNT and Australia from 2005-2012), is extremely beneficial for building a new team, even if they don’t have the first pick in the NWSL draft and those two international slots.

Now this is all happening before the team has even been built yet. Morgan and Kyle are the only two players so far, and this isn’t even official yet. The Pride still have the Expansion Draft to go through, as well as the league draft, in order to build around their star player. One thing that we have learned from Orlando City’s team building process is that they want to build a young team with up and coming players. Despite not making the playoffs this year, the Lions have set themselves up for next year to be a top contender for the Eastern Conference. With GM Paul McDonough in charge of both the Pride and Orlando City, it’s not a far jump to assume that he will try building both teams similarly.

Again, all of this still is not 100% official yet. Rumors are that the trade will be made official on Monday, a day after Morgan and her USWNT teammates play at the Citrus Bowl in a friendly against Brazil. There are also rumors about Ashlyn Harris, Florida local and USWNT backup goalkeeper, coming to play for the Pride. In the Expansion Draft, some good players will be left unprotected. According to NWSL Expansion Draft rules, each team may protect up to two U.S. allocated players. As some teams have more than two, that will leave some good players unprotected. Someone like USWNT midfielder Heather O'Reilly could be selected and step right in to help Orlando right away.

There's even rumblings about Ali Kreiger, USWNT defender and BFF's with Ashlyn Harris, coming to Orlando if Harris does indeed make the move down south. So it's quite possible McDonough and Sermanni can build a quality roster around Morgan, which would mean the Pride wouldn't necessarily be mortgaging their future on Morgan.

Needless to say, all those who feel that this trade for Orlando is not worth it should withhold judgement until the team actually has players. All we have right now are rumors. Not facts. When it comes to April of 2016, we will start learning if this blockbuster NWSL trade was indeed worth it for the Pride.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Need Goal Production When Barbra Banda is Off the Field

Barbra Banda has been a goal-scoring machine, but the Pride need an alternative when she’s not on the field.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride made waves in the women’s game when they signed Zambia international striker Barbra Banda from Chinese Women’s Super League club Shanghai Shengli. It’s been an incredibly successful acquisition with Banda immediately becoming one of the most impactful players in the NWSL. However, the club needs to figure out how to succeed without her contributions as well.

Following the 2021 NWSL season, the Pride began a complete rebuild under former general manager Ian Fleming. Using the Washington Spirit as a model, they traded stars like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger for draft picks and Allocation Money. While the moves caused frustration among the team’s fanbase, the club used the money to acquire Brazilian international Adriana, re-sign club captain Marta, and sign Banda.

The deal for Banda came close to breaking records. The $740,000 transfer fee is the second highest in the history of the women’s game. A move like that — along with her international scoring record — comes with enormous expectations and, so far, Banda has lived up to the hype.

It took some time for Banda to arrive in Orlando because the signing came while she was taking part in Olympic qualifying for Zambia. Once she arrived, the goal contributions began. She made her debut on April 19, coming on in the 61st minute for Ally Watt. While she didn’t score in her debut, she looked dangerous and the goals soon came.

The Pride have scored 15 goals in the last seven games and Banda has been part of 14. This includes eight goals, three assists, two penalties drawn, and a goal following the blocking of one of her shots. The only goal she wasn’t directly part of was Emily Sams’ opener against the Seattle Reign on May 19. However, she had a brace in that game.

To say that the Banda signing has been a successful one would be an understatement. While the Pride were a playoff caliber team without her — they narrowly missed the postseason last year — the striker’s addition makes them arguably the best team in the league. But her success this season also raises some questions about the rest of the squad.

It’s incredibly rare that a field player plays every minute of every game. That’s even more so for an attacking player that runs as much as Banda during games. Players need rest to avoid overuse and possibly seeing a dip in form later in the season. This is one of the reasons why Banda was taken off at halftime against San Diego Wave FC Friday night.

The Pride have scored multiple goals in five games this season. They netted two late in the season opener against Racing Louisville FC, before Banda’s arrival. The other four have been in Banda starts and she’s contributed to all but one of those goals. Clearly she had a significant impact on the team’s ability to score, so what happens when she’s not on the field?

Prior to May 24 against the Portland Thorns, Banda had played over 80 minutes in all of her starts for the Pride. The two most recent games she’s been replaced at halftime. In the first one, she had already netted a first-half brace and the Pride had a commanding 2-0 lead at home. However, they were only leading by a goal in San Diego when she was replaced by Marta.

The absence of Banda on the field was apparent Friday night. San Diego had chances in the first half, but the Pride created problems for the Wave’s back line throughout the first 45 minutes. After recording six shots in the first half, they only had three in the second. Makenzy Doniak equalized in the 62nd minute and, despite losing the lead, the Pride still looked lifeless in the attack. That leads to the question of whether the Pride can find goals without their star striker.

The most obvious go-to player when Banda is off the field is Watt. The speedster is the only other striker to play significant minutes this season, but she’s only scored once this year. Other than Banda, the only Pride players with multiple goals are Summer Yates (3), Julie Doyle (2), and Marta (2).

While no other players come close to Banda’s goal production, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Several players contribute to goals, which can cause problems for opposing defenses. The bigger problem is that the Pride aren’t converting when Banda isn’t on the field. That’s not a concern when Banda comes off in the final minutes with a multi-goal lead. However, the Pride have been in one-goal games without the striker in the last two matches and been unable to score a goal that would put the game away.

When Banda is on the field, she’s the go-to attacker, a large reason why she has a league-leading eight goals this year. The Pride need to find a dependable goal scorer when the striker isn’t on the field. Potential goal scorers can be overlooked when a player like Banda is scoring at the rate she has this season, but those players should show up when she’s not on the field. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening.

The Pride have had a fantastic start to the 2024 NWSL season, including a 12-game unbeaten run and a league record eight-game winning streak. Much of the success can be attributed to the play of Banda, but the Pride need to find goals when she’s not on the field. If they can figure out that last piece, they might be unstoppable.

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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave: Final Score 1-1 as Winning Streak Ends at 8 Games

The shorthanded Pride scored first but had to split the points on the road with yet another different starting lineup.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The NWSL-record win streak is over but the team remains unbeaten in 2024 after a 1-1 draw against the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium. Orlando (8-0-4, 28 points) got a first-half goal from Julie Doyle and withstood ferocious attacking pressure by San Diego (3-4-4, 13 points) throughout the second half, conceding a deflected goal by Makenzy Doniak but holding on for a road point.

Orlando remains unbeaten in San Diego (2-0-1) and stays atop the NWSL standings, three points ahead of Kansas City, albeit with one more game played than the Current. The Pride are already within three points of their total for all of last season.

“Overall, I think it’s a good away point,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said after the match. “It keeps our unbeaten streak going as well. It’s always a tough place to come, San Diego away. You look at the personnel they have on the field, you know, internationals all over, but I thought we stood up to the challenge really well.”

Hines did not have a full-strength squad for the contest, with Brazilian internationals Rafaelle and Adriana out of the matchday roster and Marta on the bench after the trio played Tuesday night in Brazil. Anna Moorhouse started in goal behind a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Brianna Martinez. The midfield in the 4-4-2 consisted of Cori Dyke — her first NWSL start — Morgan Gautrat, Haley McCutcheon, and Doyle, with Barbra Banda and Ally Watt up top.

The Pride were sloppy out of the gate, turning the ball over repeatedly in the first five minutes. The hosts couldn’t produce any clear-cut chances off of those turnovers, however. The first decent look came in the sixth minute when Strom tried to shepherd the ball out of play but instead turned it over. The ball ended up with Mya Jones in the box and Strom recovered to block her first shot attempt. The rebound came back to her and she sent the follow-up shot off target.

Abello got muscled off the ball in the 11th minute, allowing Jones to get a cross from the right to the far post. Maria Sanchez was there and got her header on target, but it was right at Moorhouse for the comfortable save.

Orlando’s first look at goal came in the 16th minute when Abello stole the ball and sent it to Doyle on the right. Doyle fired her shot near post but missed wide into the outside netting, wasting the opportunity. Two minutes later, Banda tried a curling shot from outside the area on the left but sent it fizzing just wide of the right post.

Doyle took a pass from Watt and got into the box on the right in the 26th minute. Cutting back to her left, she sent a left-footed effort on goal but it was a weak dribbler right at Kailen Sheridan for an easy scoop.

Alex Morgan was sent in deep by Jaedyn Shaw in the 29th minute on the right side. Moorhouse perhaps could have gotten to the ball first, but she hesitated and had to make a big save from point-blank range to keep the game scoreless.

Banda sent in a good cross for Watt from the right in the 31st minute. Watt went down under contact but the referee wasn’t interested in making a call. The Pride won a corner out of it and Strom sent a weak header right at Sheridan.

Moments later, Strom slipped while defending Morgan, who was able to get a clean look at goal but fired her shot right at Moorhouse.

In the 34th minute, Banda got loose on the right and tried a cross that deflected out to the top of the area. McCutcheon ran onto it and fired but the shot was wide.

The Pride broke through two minutes later. Orlando countered off a San Diego set piece and the ball ended up with Banda on the right after a nice play by Martinez. Banda took on Naomi Girma and sent a cross into the middle for Doyle, who contorted her body and stuck out a leg to redirect the ball past Sheridan to make it 1-0 in the 36th minute.

“I definitely wasn’t satisfied with just one goal, and I knew that one goal wasn’t going to win the game. I think once you get one in, your confidence just goes up, and so I’m hoping that that was the start of more to come, but yeah, we’ll see. I’ve just got to keep shooting, and trusting my teammates, and being committed to getting in the width of the goal.”

“I thought we took our goal exceptionally well. It was great to see Julie get on the score sheet,” Hines said.

Banda nutmegged a defender and got in down the left in the 41st minute but her cross for Watt was tipped away by a defender’s toe.

The last chance of the half fell to San Diego, with Danielle Colaprico firing a dipping shot toward goal that Moorhouse tipped over the bar.

San Diego dominated the possession in the first half (65%-35%) and had the advantage in shots (8-6), shots on target (6-3), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (86%-74%), but the Pride had the only goal.

Marta came on for Banda — who Hines said was on a minute limitation for the match — to start the second half, making her 100th NWSL appearance. The substitution emboldened the hosts, who pressed forward without the fear of Banda’s pace and scoring threat. As a result, the hosts were on the front foot throughout the second half and the Pride’s block dropped deeper as they went back to their play of the first five minutes, repeatedly turning the ball over in their own half.

“It’s very difficult, because there’s not another player like Barbara,” Hines said. “She is always going to put fear in defenders. She’s going to keep defenders honest with starting position. I think if that scenario presents itself again, we still have quality players, and it may look a little bit different.”

The first chance fell for the Wave in the 54th minute when Morgan broke down the left with two teammates in the area and only one defender. Abello was the one defender, and she was able to knock the cross out for a corner. Gautrat cleared the ensuing set piece cross.

Watt got up the right in the 57th minute, with one of her limited second-half touches, but she sent either a cross or a shot attempt right at Sheridan.

Marta had a tight-angle shot in the 60th angle, but the effort was no trouble for Sheridan, who knocked it aside for a corner.

Two minutes later, the hosts equalized. Martinez gave too much space on the right side and it allowed a cross to find second-half sub Doniak. Moorhouse may have stopped the shot, but it deflected off of Abello and in to make it 1-1 in the 62nd minute.

“To be honest, I couldn’t see (the ball), because Kerry was stood right in front of me,” Moorhouse said. “It’s just one of those things. I think on a different day, Kerry can block it.”

“Obviously disappointed with the equalizer, but to see the game out and get a point away from home is pleasing for the staff and the players,” Hines said.

Two minutes after the goal, the Pride survived a scare. Moorhouse came off her line to get to a ball over the top, but she sent her clearance off an opponent and it deflected to Kyra Carusa, who tried to fire into the empty net from distance. Fortunately for the Pride, Carusa didn’t make good contact and sent her shot too low, where Moorhouse could catch it.

A poor giveaway in the defensive half led to a Carusa shot in the 71st minute but it was over the crossbar. The Pride immediately gave the ball back and Savannah McCaskill sent a cross to a wide-open Sofia Jakobsson at the back post, but she sent her header off target.

Substitute Mariana Larroquette nearly got in behind in the 79th minute on a good through ball but she didn’t have enough pace to stay ahead of Abby Dahlkemper.

Two minutes later, Jakobsson sent a dangerous cross to the near post for Doniak but it was just over her head and Moorhouse caught it.

Pride forward Alex Kerr, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2024 NWSL Draft, made her professional debut late, coming on in the 83rd minute for Watt.

San Diego survived a rare mistake by Sheridan in the 88th minute. The goalkeeper came off her line to catch a Marta set piece cross, but she spilled the ball and it laid in the box teasingly, but no Pride players could get to it. The ball was sent out of the box where Martinez gathered it and sent a poor cross out of play.

Nothing came of the six minutes of stoppage time for either side, with neither getting a clear-cut opportunity. Marta made a nice move to keep a ball in at the end line but sent a screamer out in front that was too close to Sheridan, who covered it. On the other end, a deflected cross fell to Kristen McNabb outside the area and the fullback sent a shot that sailed well off target.

That was it, and the teams had to split the points.

San Diego dominated the stat sheet, finishing with the advantage in possession (65%-35%), shots (19-9), shots on target (13-6), corners (6-2), and passing accuracy (85%-74%).

It wasn’t the kind of performance the Pride have shown during much of the unbeaten streak so far, but considering the unavailability of key players and a difficult road environment against a determined opponent, the draw isn’t the worst outcome in the first of four road games in the final five matches before the Summer Cup break.

“I think the players (were) coming off the field disappointed (with the draw) that they put themselves in a position to win the game,” Hines said. “Unfortunate not to see it out or get that second goal. But you know, every game has its challenges. I think there’s elements of our game that we can continue to improve on. I think we can control the game more in possession, find connections and our links, but again it’s a good away point. Last year we probably would have taken that, but the players have set high standards for themselves and so have we as staff.”

Moorhouse confirmed Hines’ observation.

“I think the biggest thing is disappointment,” the goalkeeper said about the game. “I definitely thought we defended well. We attacked well as well. I think we were very disappointed to come away with a point and not all three.”


The Pride will finish their two-game road swing on Saturday, June 15 at North Carolina.

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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave FC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride return from the international break and take to the road as they face San Diego Wave FC.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (8-0-3, 27 points) look to extend their 11-game unbeaten run and eight-game winning streak as they face San Diego Wave FC (3-4-3, 12 points) in Southern California. This is the second and final scheduled meeting between the two teams this season, having already played in Orlando on April 19.

Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.

History

The San Diego Wave joined the NWSL in 2022 and have only faced the Pride five times in their existence. The Pride have only lost once in those four games, posting a record of 3-1-1 (2-0-0 away). The most recent meeting was on April 19 in Orlando. Summer Yates scored the game’s lone goal in the first half, lifting the Pride to a 1-0 win. It was the fifth consecutive result and second consecutive win on the year.

The first meeting last year was at Snapdragon Stadium on April 29 after the Pride’s 0-4-0 start to the season. It looked like it would be a fifth straight loss when Jaedyn Shaw gave the hosts the early lead. But Adriana assisted Mikayla Cluff on the equalizer and Haley McCutcheon scored just before halftime to give the Pride the lead. Adriana got her first goal of the season in the 69th minute to put the game away as the Pride won 3-1.

On Aug. 25 in Orlando, the Pride got off to a horrible start when San Diego center back Abby Dahlkemper scored in the seventh minute for her first goal since 2016. Marta set up Adriana just before halftime for an equalizer, but Kyra Carusa netted the late winner in a 2-1 San Diego win.

The first-ever meeting was on Aug. 13, 2022  in San Diego. The lone goal in the game came from the penalty spot after a Julie Doyle cross hit the arm of Kaleigh Riehl in the first half. Meggie Dougherty Howard stepped up and buried the penalty. The Pride held on for 67 minutes to beat one of the top teams in the league, 1-0 away.

The second meeting was on Sept. 25 in Orlando and the Pride got off to a great start. Doughety Howard opened the scoring in the first half and Gunny Jonsdottir doubled the advantage in the second. It looked like the Pride were headed for six points out of six against the expansion side, but San Diego came storming back. Makenzy Doniak cut the lead in half and former Pride attacker Taylor Kornieck equalized late, resulting in a disappointing 2-2 draw.

Overview

The Pride are the hottest team in the NWSL this season. They’re one of two teams to begin the year undefeated — the other being the Kansas City Current — but the Pride have the longest winning streak in league history with eight. The string of results has the Pride at the top of the NWSL standings as they near the schedule’s halfway point.

Just as impressive as their winning and unbeaten streaks is how they’ve managed to get results. The team has won high-scoring and low-scoring games, something Pride Head Coach Seb Hines says makes them unpredictable. The four most recent games are a great example of this as they’ve won 3-2, 2-1, and 1-0 twice.

While the Pride got the season off to an excellent start, they became arguably the league’s best team with the arrival of Barbra Banda. In just seven games and six starts, the Zambian international has scored a league-high eight goals, including three braces.

The back line has also been a positive this year, conceding 10 goals, which places them third in the league. It’s an impressive stat considering several players are playing different positions than last year. Kylie Strom moved from left back to center back, Emily Sams moved from center back to right back, and Kerry Abello moved from the attacking midfield to left back.

Tonight’s opponent has been one of the best teams in the NWSL since joining the league two years ago. The Wave finished third in 2022 and won the 2023 NWSL Shield with the league’s best record. However, they’ve gotten off to a tough start this season with 12 points from 10 games, placing them ninth in the league.

With players like Shaw and Alex Morgan, you’d expect the Wave to be one of the best attacking teams. But their success has come on the defensive side. Their nine goals conceded is second in the league, only behind NJ/NY Gotham FC’s seven. Meanwhile, their nine goals scored is second fewest in the league, only more than the last place Utah Royals.

The Pride have been fortunate recently to have the same back line. The Wave, on the other hand, have been deploying a different back four weekly. Despite the changes in personnel, they’ve only conceded multiple goals twice this season — in the opening game against the Current and on May 17 against Bay FC. They only gave up two goals in each of those matches.

Nobody has stepped up for the Wave offensively this season, a reason why they sit so low in the standings. Shaw, Doniak, and Carusa all have a team-leading two goals on the season. Emily van Egmond, Hanna Lundkvist, and Sofia Jakobsson have each added one goal.

“We understand that the last time we played them, they were probably a shadow of themselves. They’d been on the road for a long time, quick turnaround. So we don’t expect it to be anything the same as it was before,” Hines said about tonight’s game. “We’re also going to their place, which is always a tough environment to go and play. As well, they’ve got some internationals that are on duty right now, so it will be interesting to see what personnel is out there on Friday. But Casey (Stoney) is a great coach. She won the shield last year. They’ve got a winning formula, but it hasn’t come to fruition this season. They probably want to get that ball rolling and it’s going to be a challenge for us. But, like I said, we’ve been thrown plenty of challenges this year and it’s no different and the players are fully prepared for what they need to do to go out there and get the three points.”

The Pride injury report includes Angelina (knee), Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), and Viviana Villacorta (knee). Summer Yates is available after missing the Portland game with an illness. The Wave have no injuries or suspensions for tonight’s game.


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, Bri Martinez.

Midfielders: Cori Dyke, Morgan Gautrat, Haley McCutcheon, Julie Doyle.

Forwards: Barbra Banda, Ally Watt.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Carrie Lawrence, Evelina Duljan, Ally Lemos, Summer Yates, Marta, Amanda Allen, Alex Kerr, Mariana Larroquette.

San Diego Wave FC (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Kailen Sheridan.

Defenders: Kristen McNabb, Naomi Girma, Abby Dahlkemper, Hanna Lundkvist.

Midfielders: Maria Sanchez, Danielle Colaprico, Savannah McCaskill, Mya Jones.

Forwards: Jaedyn Shaw, Alex Morgan.

Bench: Hillary Beall, Sierra Enge, Kaitlyn Torpey, Christen Westphal, Kimmi Ascanio, Emily van Egmond, Kyra Carusa, Makenzy Doniak, Sofia Jakobsson.

Referees

REF: Nabil Bensalah.
AR1: Stephen McGonagle.
AR2: Melissa Gonzalez.
4TH: Benjamin Meyer.
VAR: Adorae Monroy.
AVAR: Maggie Short.


How to Watch

Match Time: 10 p.m.

Venue: Snapdragon Stadium — San Diego, CA.

TV: None.

Streaming: Prime Video.

Twitter: For live updates and rapid reaction, follow @TheManeLand and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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