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Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit: Final Score 2-2 as Penalties Again Affect the Outcome

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The Orlando Pride have never beaten the Washington Spirit and came within moments of doing just that when another penalty call gave the opposition a late goal for the second straight week. Young USWNT star Mallory Pugh, who also scored in the first half, converted from the spot in the 90th minute to spoil Marta’s brace and what would have been Orlando’s third consecutive road win at Maryland SoccerPlex.

It was the second match of the regular season series, which concludes at Orlando on Aug. 8, following a 1-1 draw back on April 22. The Pride (4-5-4, 16 points) are now just 0-2-2 in the all-time series against the Spirit (3-6-3, 12 points) and 2-3-3 on the road this season.

Tom Sermanni gave Alex Morgan her first NWSL start of the year after playing her for 25 minutes off the bench last week.

Pugh returned to the Washington Spirit starting lineup after an ankle injury had kept her out for a couple matches in a 4-3-3 deployed by Jim Gabarra.

The Pride got on the board first just 10 minutes in after Camila went down in the box after contact and referee Henrik Karlsson pointed to the spot on a decision that may have been a bit harsh on the hosts. Marta, who had sent Camila into the box with a slick pass just a moment earlier, slotted home from the spot to give Orlando the early 1-0 lead.

It was the Brazilian’s seventh goal of the season, setting a new Pride single-season record that she would later improve upon.

But Orlando’s lead lasted only 14 minutes. The Pride had been turning the ball over cheaply throughout the opening minutes of the game and it finally cost them in the 24th minute. Estafania Banini stole a lazy pass from Kristen Edmonds in the Orlando defensive third and started the counter, passing off to Francisca Ordega, who then found Pugh on the right side. Pugh used the defender as a screen and cut a shot back against the grain that was able to sneak in between the post and Aubrey Bledsoe’s outstretched arm, tying the game at 1-1.

Bledsoe came up huge moments later, when Tori Huster made a long run from the midfield and Meggie Dougherty Howard fed a perfect pass to her behind the Pride defense. Bledsoe came off her line in the 28th minute and got a hand up to knock it away and keep it at 1-1.

After a water break at the half hour mark, the Spirit found Pugh on the far side of the box all alone but she rushed her shot and hit it wide of goal.

The Pride tried to get Alex Morgan more involved toward the end of the first half and had some success, although a pair of offside calls ruined a couple promising attacks. In the 41st minute, Morgan got the ball on the left side of the box and backheeled a pass to Marta, who turned and found Camila. The younger Brazilian hit her shot with power but it sailed a bit over the bar.

The last good opportunity of the opening period for either team came at 44’ when Ordega got in behind the defense but Toni Pressley recovered to block the first shot attempt. The follow-up was from a bad angle and Ordega hit it behind the net.

The Pride spent the final moments of the half on the attack but couldn’t fashion a good scoring chance and the halftime whistle blew with the teams still knotted at 1-1. Orlando held the possession advantage (59.2%) but much of that was in its own defensive half. The 81.3%-72.3% edge in passing accuracy was misleading as well due to several defensive-half turnovers by the Pride. However, Orlando did win more duels (23-18) and tackles (7-5) in the opening 45 minutes, but was out-shot, 7-5 (3-1 on goal).

Orlando came out of the break looking better and making fewer mistakes in its own end. Morgan finally got in and slotted the ball home two minutes after the restart but the play was offside as Chioma Ubogagu came forward 2-v-2 and played the ball behind to a clearly offside Morgan.

A poor pass from Ali Krieger — making her first return to Washington since the Spirit traded her — intended for Edmonds gave Huster a chance but she shot over the bar in the 51st minute.

Morgan was nearly in alone in the 54th on a nice pass from Ubogagu but goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe was way off her line and just beat the USWNT striker to the ball to clear it. The Pride pressed their attack with Camila blasting a drive right at Labbe in the 56th minute, but the shot had so much power on it that the Spirit keeper nearly spilled it.

Moments later, Marta scored her second. Catley stole the ball after Labbe threw it out to a defender and crossed in for Ubogagu. Chi nodded it down to Camila, who chipped it to her left to Marta. The five-time World Player of the Year let it bounce, then struck a gorgeous goal off the half volley to put the Pride ahead, 2-1, at 56’. Marta’s eighth of the season extended her club record.

Orlando continued to look dangerous with Marta nearly sending Camila in alone in the 59th minute but the play was just offside. Morgan’s day ended at 63’ when she was subbed off for rookie Rachel Hill. After the match, Morgan said she definitely didn’t feel 90-minute match fit.

Marta nearly put the game away and completed her hat trick in the 65th minute with a long chip attempt that beat Labbe but was a few feet wide of the net.

As the game wore on, the hot day playing on the road seemed to take its toll on the Pride, as they started to get a bit disjointed at the back. Catley got beat by second-half substitute Cheyna Williams in the 68th but her cross took a deflection.

That warning sign temporarily got Orlando going again, with Ubogagu getting wide open looks from distance twice, but hitting it over the net in both the 70th and 76th minute, and Camila drove another one right at Labbe in the 77th. It was the last action for Camila, who was withdrawn for Jamia Fields a minute later.

Huster fired one just over the bar from outside the box in the 80th minute that didn’t miss by much but Bledsoe seemed to have it covered. Washington then started pressing numbers forward and finding some pockets of space in the defense. Caprice Dydasco put a dangerous cross through the six-yard box in the 83rd minute, and Pugh sent in Williams two minutes later but Bledsoe went down to make the save. Estefania Banini had a shot partially blocked by Krieger in the 86th that dribbled in behind her but Bledsoe beat the Spirit attacker to the ball.

Then, disaster struck in the 89th on another ball into Orlando’s penalty area. You didn’t think Orlando would get a soft penalty and not pay for it, did you?

The Pride looked to have all the attacking players well covered but Pressley stepped in behind Kristie Mewis to keep her from turning. There was some light contact as the ball came in to Mewis and the Spirit attacker felt it and went down and got the call. Pugh stepped up and hit her second of the game from the spot to tie it.

“PKs have been given out way too frequently and I’m not sure if they’re all deserving or not but it’s just unfortunate that so many games have been decided on PKs,” Morgan said in a TV interview after the match.

It was the 26th penalty awarded in the NWSL this season and it only seems like they’ve all been called against the Pride.

Orlando had planned to bring on Maddy Evans for Marta before the penalty was called but for some reason Sermanni stuck with that plan after the call, and in a tie match with five minutes of stoppage time to play, the Pride were without Morgan, Marta, and Camila on the pitch, and Jasmyne Spencer was never used. An ineffective Ubogagu also played the full 90 (actually 97).

Washington had the only real opportunities in stoppage time. Huster had a ball fall at her feet in the box in the 94th minute but shot it right at Bledsoe. It’s a good thing she did, because on the play, Mewis’ arm came up and hit Pressley in the face, but there was no whistle for the foul and the Spirit got a scoring chance with the defender lying prone in the box. Williams took a shot in the 97th minute, as the Pressley injury had stretched the five minutes of injury time out. Bledsoe made the stop and the game ended, 2-2.

It was a thoroughly unsatisfying result after the Pride had played so well through the second half and led so much of the match.

The Pride return home next Saturday, July 15, when they host FC Kansas City at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando Pride

The Pride’s Favorite Hunting Ground Is the Middle of the Box

A look into the Pride’s goals in 2024 and why it is really not a riddle why so many of their goals have come from the middle.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

In my article last week I took a look at Orlando City’s offense, or lack thereof, and so this week I am going to focus on a far more pleasant topic — the undefeated Pride and where their goals have been coming from thus far this season. Let’s take a look at this heatmap (the darker the red, the more goals in comparison to other locations) that I made below, sourced from data I took from fbref.com for the distance away from the goal and from espn.com for the general location on the field for each goal:

Now, a few things you’ll notice about this heatmap:

  • The Pride have scored 19 goals themselves thus far this season (opponents have gifted them two own goals), and 16 of the 19 (84%) have been from inside the 18 and pretty much right in front of the net. The one goal from outside the 18 was a rocket from Emily Sams on May 19 at Seattle, and that too was basically from the center of the goal, just 23 yards away, so it shows up in that very pale pink stripe outside the 18-yard box.
  • Most of the goals were scored from in between the six and the 18 (average distance for those 14 goals in the dark red = 11 yards).
  • The Pride have not scored any goals on the left side of the field all season. This is interesting, because they do have several offensive players who are left-foot dominant (you may have heard of Marta, for example), but at least through 13 games, nobody has been able to get loose on the left side of the box and finish into the net.
  • The heatmap looks like it came from Microsoft Excel…because it in fact did come from Microsoft Excel. I know that there are programs and websites out there that can provide better graphics and which may have much more detailed tracking on the exact locations shots were taken. Our team at The Mane Land will happily do all the research and share what we find. All you have to do is buy us some coffees and we will invest that right into giving you the content you desire!

Being that most of the goals scored this season by the Pride have all been in that same central location, there is not a lot of suspense in looking at the leaders in goals by location. As you surely guessed, since she leads the team in goals, Barbra Banda also leads the team in goals scored in the center of the box. What I found more interesting, however, was how those goals came about.

The website fbref.com’s shot tracking, provided by Opta, includes the last two offensive actions prior to the goal for every goal scored in every match. They call these “goal creating actions,” and here are the possible actions: live-ball pass, dead-ball pass (i.e free kick), take-on (beating a player off the dribble), taking a shot, drawing a foul, and stealing/intercepting a ball while on defense. Shown below are all 16 of those goals scored in the middle of the box, listed in order from the start of the season, and what you will see is that every goal pattern is unique, highlighting the diversity of ways the Pride have put the ball into the back of the net:

  1. Pass (Live) by Amanda Allen – Goal by Summer Yates.
  2. Pass (Dead) by Angelina – Goal by Marta.
  3. Shot by Kerry Abello – Goal by Summer Yates.
  4. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Angelina.
  5. Pass (Live) by Julie Doyle – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  6. Foul Committed on Barbra Banda – Goal by Summer Yates (penalty).
  7. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Ally Watt.
  8. Pass (Live) by Ally Watt – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  9. Take-On by Barbra Banda – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  10. Pass (Live) by Emily Sams – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  11. Foul Committed on Barbra Banda – Goal by Adriana (penalty).
  12. Pass (Live) by Marta – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  13. Shot by Haley McCutcheon – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  14. Shot by Rafaelle – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  15. Take-On by Barbra Banda – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  16. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Julie Doyle.

While there are no goal patterns that have emerged yet for the location on the field where the Pride score the most goals, there is a name that jumps off the page when you look at that list — the aforementioned leading goal scorer, Barbra Banda. The Zambian is clearly far more than just a clinical finisher, though. She also drew two fouls that led to penalties, took on and beat two defenders to give herself openings to score, and also played three passes in open play for goals, including the most recent goal scored by the Pride — a Julie Doyle volley on a beautiful cross from Banda.

For the season, Banda is third in NWSL in total goal creating actions with 10, and first in goal creating actions per 90 minutes (GCA90) with 1.39, a value that is more than double the player currently in eighth (let me repeat, she is averaging more than double the person ranked in eighth!) place in the NWSL. Her GCA90 of 1.39 is also 16% higher than that of Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, who finished ranked first in England’s Women’s Super League last season with a GCA90 of 1.2. This article was not originally intended to be a Banda lovefest, but it is quite difficult to write about the Orlando Pride’s offensive success without a brief trip down the middle of the rabbit hole to look at just how good she has been this season.

Channeling my inner yoga instructor and returning us to center, the last piece to look at around the Pride’s goal scoring is to look at their shot locations and how they are doing from all sections on the field. The side-by-side heatmaps below use different colorings. The left heatmap shades from white to red as the total shots taken increases, and the right heatmap is styled more as hot/cold, with low percentages of success being blue and high percentages of success (read: goals) turning red.

I expect that were we to look at the heatmaps of most soccer teams, they would all likely look very similar to the Pride’s heatmaps above. It is highly likely that teams will try to shoot most frequently from the middle of the areas closest to the goal, and it is highly likely as well that they will achieve higher percentages of success from shots in the middle of the field and close to the goal. Just like teams in the NBA have identified that corner 3-point shots and shots in the paint are the primary places that they want to look for their shots, most soccer teams are game-planning their offenses around creating shots right smack in the middle of the 18.

Opposing teams know this, of course, and that is where the battle of wills and wits comes into play that we love watching so much. So far this season, the Pride have clearly been winning these battles, as evidenced by the fact that even though defenses are trying to stop them, they have still managed to take 76 of their 195 shots (39%) from the most dangerous spots on the field and have scored 16 goals on those shots, a conversion rate of 21%.

If they keep up their current goal-scoring pace the 2024 Pride are on pace to surpass their total goals scored from 2023 (27 goals) within the next 4 games, and they have an outside chance to score the most goals of any Pride team ever (current leader = 2017 Pride with 45 goals) if they can slightly increase their goals/game rate during the second half of the season. I think they have a legit chance to do this, and if they do I expect it will be because they continue to excel at pouncing on the opportunities they create in the center of the box.

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Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final score 0-0 as the Pride Remain Unbeaten

The Orlando Pride remain undefeated after taking a road point against the North Carolina Courage.

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Photo Courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

It wasn’t the result that the Orlando Pride wanted, but the team remains unbeaten in 2024 after a 0-0 draw against the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park. Orlando (8-0-5, 29 points) had plenty of chances but was unable to score a goal for the first time this season. The Pride were the first team this year to take any points away on the road against North Carolina (5-7-1, 16 points), which is now 5-0-1 at WakeMed Soccer Park in 2024.

The Pride had an opportunity to go top of the table as the Kansas City Current drew the Chicago Red Stars Friday, but the 0-0 draw wasn’t enough to do so. This was first time the Pride were shut out since September 9, 2023 on the road against OL Reign. Halfway through this season, the Pride are only two points shy of their point total from 2023.

“The positives are, you know, a point on the road, (which) it’s probably something we would have taken before the game,” Hines said. “No other team has done that against North Carolina. Clean sheet as well. It’s really important that we get that going as well. But, I think after the game it’s a bittersweet taste in our mouths because we thought that we played really well.”

Brianna Martinez echoed Hines’ comments.

“We’re proud to be the first team to kind of give them a tough game at home but also disappointed, because I think we know we could have beat them and walked away with three (points),” the defender said. “Our effort was there, just technically it could have been a little bit better if we kept the ball.”

Hines did not have a full-strength squad for the match, with starters Rafaelle and Morgan Gautrat out with injuries. 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 Adriana, Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, and Haley McCutcheon, with Barbra Banda and Marta up top.

After the start of the game was delayed due to field conditions, the Pride didn’t wait very long to get into the attack with a takeaway in the first minute, moving the ball up to Banda into the box, but she lost possession. The Pride got their first chance in the fourth minute as the ball was worked up the left side to Banda, who crossed it in to Marta , but the shot went right into the arms of Courage keeper Casey Murphy.

The Pride’s second shot on goal came in the seventh minute on a break that saw Banda once again cross the ball — this time to Doyle — who also sent it right at Murphy.

In the 14th minute, Yates tried to make her way into the box where she was stood up. The ball popped out to Banda, who took a shot from outside the box, but it went wide right of goal.

Doyle earned a free kick in the 15th minute, but the attempt went to Murphy again. In the 17th minute, the Pride had another free kick resulting in a corner kick. Unfortunately, Yates sent the ball over the goal and out for a goal kick.

The Courage were able to get some possession, including a ball into the box, but the Pride defense was able to clear. In the 26th minute, Martinez made a good interception but slipped, allowing the Courage to get a half chance off that was easily saved by Moorhouse.

In the 29th minute, Marta took a long-distance shot that sailed over the goal. The Pride followed that up a minute later with another shot that bounced back to Adriana, who headed it right to Murphy. In the 32nd minute, Adriana made her way into the box and crossed for Marta on the back post, but her header went wide left.

The Courage got their first good chance in the 33rd minute when Ashley Sanchez beat Martinez to the ball in the box, but Moorhouse did well to come out, get big, and make the save. The resulting corner kick was headed out by the Courage for a goal kick.

The Courage got behind the Pride defense in the 38th minute. Sanchez took a shot at the top of the box, but it sailed high. One minute later, Narumi Miura took a long-distance shot that went left of goal.

In the 42nd minute, Marta took another shot on goal from outside the box, but again it went right to Murphy. After that, both teams saw out the half with no stoppage time given.

North Carolina held the halftime edge in possession (54%-46%), shots (7-6), and passing accuracy (83%-80%). Despite one fewer shot, the Pride had more shots on target (3-2), with the corners being equal (1-1).

The Courage came out on the front foot to start the second half, but it was the Pride that got the first shot. Once again, Banda muscled her way into the box, but she was unable to get the shot off. The ball bounced out to Marta at the top of the box, but her shot went wide right.

In the 48th minute, Banda again made her way forward, this time earning a free kick when she was fouled from behind. The kick went into the wall and then out for a corner kick. Unfortunately, there was a foul in the box on the set piece and the opportunity went to waste.

The Courage had a few opportunities in the 55th minute, but nothing on goal. In the 58th minute, Moorhouse came out to make a sliding save where a Courage player rammed her. There was no foul called on the play, and the Courage continued the attack. Fortunately, Sams and the rest of the defense kept the Courage out of goal. After some attention from the trainers, Moorhouse continued.

In the 67th minute, Abello earned a corner that was taken by Marta, but nothing came of it. Two minutes later, Doyle made her way into the box and crossed to Adriana, but her shot didn’t have much on it and was handled easily by Murphy.

In the 72nd minute Adriana took a shot that deflected off the defense and out for a corner. The resulting corner kick was cleared. Two minutes later, Hines makes his first substitutions, including Angelina returning from injury.

“I just want to thank the staff and my teammates. They were there for me the whole way,” Angelina said. “It was like five weeks to get back on the field. I just feel great (and) they gave me great support through my injury.”

In the 77th minute, McCutcheon committed a foul resulting in a free kick for Carolina. Moorhouse punched the ball out. The Courage continued to create trouble in the Pride’s area, but were unable to convert.

Banda took another shot in the 80th minute, but it went wide right. Five minutes later she sent a cross to Adriana, but the Brazilian’s shot was blocked. The resulting corner amounted to nothing, despite a few shot attempts. Banda made another run in the 88th minute, but her shot attempt went high. She was subbed out in the 89th minute for Amanda Allen.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Marta took another shot that was deflected out for a corner. The video assistant referee took a look at the play for a potential handball, but it was cleared. Murphy collected the corner kick, as the Pride wasted another chance.

Six minutes of stoppage time turned into nine minutes. The Pride had a flurry of chances but didn’t score. In the last minute of play the Courage earned a corner, but Moorhouse made one more save as time expired, and the teams split the points.

The Pride made up ground on the stat sheet, finishing with the advantage in possession (51%-49%), shots (19-14), corners (6-2), and passing accuracy (80%-77%). Shots on target were even (5-5).

The lack of clinical finishing is not normal for this Pride team. Even Banda wasn’t dialed in against the Courage. Given how stingy the Courage are at home, and how back and forth the match was, a point on the road is acceptable if not ideal.


The Pride are back home on Friday to host the Utah Royals at Inter&Co Stadium.

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Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride wrap up their two-game road trip with a visit to the North Carolina Courage.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (8-0-4, 28 points) conclude their two-game road trip tonight against the North Carolina Courage (5-7-0, 15 points) in Cary, NC. This is the second and final time the two teams will face off during the 2024 NWSL regular season, although they will meet in the group stage of the Summer Cup.

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

History

The Pride and Courage have played 24 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage in 2017. The Pride are 6-13-5 in those games (6-10-1 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-3-2 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).

The most recent meeting between the two teams was on May 1 in Orlando. Barbra Banda and Ally Watt started up top together for the first time, a move that paid off in the game. In the 29th minute, Banda set up Watt for the opener. Watt repaid the favor in the 40th minute as the Pride went up 2-0. Julie Doyle added a goal just before halftime, giving the Pride a commanding lead. Emily Sams’ own goal was the only scoring for the Courage and Banda’s second of the night gave the Pride a 4-1 win.

The first game between the Pride and Courage in 2023 was on April 19 in Orlando. The Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up Watt for the opening goal, but Denise O’Sullivan equalized in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, resulting in a 1-1 draw. On June 17 in North Carolina it was all Courage. Kerolin and Meredith Speck gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before a Haley McCutcheon own goal made it 3-0 to North Carolina.

The Pride didn’t show up for the July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Ratcliffe and Malia Berkely gave the hosts a 2-0 halftime lead before Frankie Tagliaferri made it three, and a late brace by Haley Hopkins completed the 5-0 result. The Pride finally got a win on Sept. 17, 2023 at home. Watt got the Pride off to a great start, scoring inside the first minute. After assisting on the first goal, Adriana doubled the lead before halftime. Manaka Matsukubo got one back for the visitors, but it wasn’t enough and the Pride won 2-1.

The first meeting in 2022 came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring early. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead with her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win. On Sept. 21, 2022 at Exploria Stadium, it was the Courage that got off to the better start when Debinha scored in the second minute. The Brazilian then assisted Tess Boade in first-half injury time to double the lead, and later added another, dooming the Pride to a 3-0 defeat.

The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place on April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.

The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored late to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha and Havana Solaun goals helped the Courage take home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized moments later and the teams drew 1-1.

The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game in a scoreless draw.

Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, meeting twice. The first was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.

The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on April 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but scored four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by the Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.

The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.

The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on April 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando when the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted a late winner, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.

Overview

The Pride are coming off a hard-fought 1-1 draw in San Diego, a result that snapped their eight-game winning streak. Julie Doyle opened the scoring in the first half with arguably the goal of the season, but the visitors equalized through Makenzy Doniak in the 62nd minute. Despite ending their winning streak, the draw extended the Pride’s unbeaten run to 12 games and kept them tied on points with the Kansas City Current atop the NWSL standings.

Banda has been the most impressive player for the Pride this season, scoring eight goals, recording three assists, and drawing two penalties in eight games. She added to her assist tally in San Diego, setting up Doyle’s first-half goal. The team has also been strong defensively and Head Coach Seb Hines has found his preferred back four. After shifting players around because of injuries and suspensions, he’s used Sams, Rafaelle, Kylie Strom, and Kerry Abello in five of the last six games. However, Rafaelle missed the San Diego contest and is out tonight with a leg injury.

The Courage have historically been one of the best teams in the NWSL, but have struggled this season. They’re currently tied with Racing Louisville for seventh in the league and have a -2 goal differential. They’re in the middle of the league in both goals scored and goals conceded, unsurprisingly leaving them in the middle of the table.

North Carolina has been led offensively by the players you’d expect. Tyler Lussi has a team-leading three goals, just ahead of Bianca St-Georges and Haley Hopkins, who have two each. Dani Weatherholt, Ashley Sanchez, Brianna Pinto, Kaleigh Kurtz, and Malia Berkely have all added one as well. The only player with multiple assists this year is Sanchez, the team’s primary playmaker. The U.S. international will likely cause the most problems for the Pride back line, making stopping her essential.

The Courage haven’t been bad in most games defensively this season. Other than the 4-1 loss to the Pride, the only time they’ve conceded more than two goals was in a 3-0 loss to the Houston Dash on May 24. However, they bounced back on June 8, only losing 1-0 to the Portland Thorns. They started the season with a four-person back line, but have recently switched to three in front of starting goalkeeper Casey Murphy, so it will be interesting to see how they line up tonight.

While the Courage have gotten off to a disappointing start, they’ve been excellent at home. The team has yet to drop points at WakeMed Soccer Park, winning all of their first five games, including a 2-0 win over the Thorns on April 13. Their home form will make winning a difficult task for the Pride.

“Results from them has shown that it’s a tough place to go and get points. They’re unbeaten, they’ve won every game there, and we expect nothing less than a tough game,” Hines said about the Courage. “So we’ll go out there, we’ll give everything like we have done in every game. We want to bounce back from almost a disappointing result away at San Diego. We know we can play better than that and so we’ll be going in there and looking for a win.”

Angelina (knee) isn’t listed on the injury report this week for the first time since her injury, but Morgan Gautrat (concussion) and Rafaelle (leg) have been added to players out. They’re joined by Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), and Viviana Villacorta (knee). North Carolina will be without Sydney Collins (ankle), Estelle Johnson (maternity leave), Kerolin Nicoli (knee), Olivia Wingate (leg), and Ryan Williams (suspension), while Matsukubo (lower leg) and Dani Weatherholt (leg) are questionable.


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

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

Midfielders: Adriana, Summer Yates, Haley McCutcheon, Julie Doyle.

Forwards: Barbra Banda, Marta.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Cori Dyke, Carrie Lawrence, Ally Lemos, Angelina, Amanda Allen, Mariana Larroquette, Alex Kerr, Ally Watt.

North Carolina Courage (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.

Defenders: Felicitas Rauch, Malia Berkely, Kaleigh Kurtz.

Midfielders: Victoria Pickett, Denise O’Sullivan, Narumi Miura, Bianca St-Georges.

Forwards: Tyler Lussi, Haley Hopkins, Ashley Sanchez.

Bench: Marisa Bova, Julia Dorsey, Natalia Staude, Jenna Winebrenner, Riley Jackson, Maya McCutcheon, Landy Mertz, Brianna Pinto, Meredith Speck.

Referees

REF: JC Griggs.
AR1: Nicholas Seymour.
AR2: Tiffini Turpin.
4TH: John Rush.
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal.
AVAR: Tom Felice.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow @SkoPurpSoccer, the official Twitter account of our Orlando Pride podcast (The Mane Land’s main account will be providing updates on Orlando City’s match), and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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