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Orlando Pride: Who to Watch In 2018

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With the Orlando Pride season coming up in a couple of months and the team staying basically the same from last season (so far), many people are wondering if this team has what it takes to go to the next step: making it to the NWSL Cup final. After a disappointing match in Portland during the semifinals, the Pride have had a long off-season to reflect and come back even stronger.

The team has yet to make any moves thus far in the off-season. Tom Sermani hit the ground running as soon as the season had concluded, traveling to Europe and Australia to scout new talent for the team. The front office was able to re-sign Dani Weatherholt who had a very good season in the midfield for the Pride. The club was also able to send a handful of players to Australia and Europe to ensure that they continue to compete at the highest level. I would argue that this has done wonders for the players who went. 

Five players from the squad went off to play in winter leagues this year. Rachel Hill went to play for Perth Glory for her first season in Australia. Toni Pressley also went to Australia for the first time, playing for Canberra United. Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy returned to their homeland to compete for Melbourne City. Monica also played in a winter league but did not travel to Australia. She has been playing for Atlético Madrid. Later on in the season, Sydney FC received Aubrey Bledsoe on loan from Orlando Pride due to some goalkeeping issues they had. This made the total rise to six players playing abroad and I can’t forget to mention that Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris were getting regular call-ups with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

With all this work in the off-season, the Pride are poised to have an even better season this year. You could basically go position by position on a team with this much talent when discussing who to watch for in the coming year, but here’s who I’ll be keeping an eye on for 2018.

Rachel Hill

One of the most exciting players to watch going into this season might not be Marta or even Morgan (though both of those ladies are certainly exciting to watch). I have my eyes on 22-year-old forward Rachel Hill, a player who originally was not selected by the Orlando Pride in the 2017 draft but was traded for shortly after. The Pride gave up a few assets to grab the young striker out of UConn last year and she is poised to have a breakout season.

Last year, Hill signed with the Orlando Pride in May shortly after graduating from college. She took a bit of time to break into the starting 11, finally getting an opportunity on June 28 to show what she had. Hill had three goals, and one assist in 713 minutes over 15 appearances. Though Hill only had the fifth most minutes out of the forward group, her play off the ball, as well as her link-up play, were something to be delighted with. 

The W-League has has done wonders for the young forward this winter, as she has lit up the league in the offensive end. I would argue she has had the best off-season of any Pride player that went off to play. 

Hill joined Perth Glory in the beginning of the W-League season, playing alongside NWSL Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr. Boy did Hill take off from the start. She scored seven goals with three weeks left to play in the league. Hill currently sits second in goals right behind Kerr, who has eight. 

2018 Outlook

The issue with this kind of form in the W-League begs the question: will she be able to bring over her goal scoring to the Pride when she returns? I believe she will. The opportunity that Rachel has had to not only have more professional soccer under her belt but to also study the game of Kerr has been invaluable.

This is not to say that working with Morgan and Marta hasn’t been influential but having as many opportunities to learn the forward position from some of the best strikers in the world does not hurt. Though Hill was fifth in minutes last year among strikers, I would not be surprised if Tom Sermani found ways to get her on the field more in 2018. The one thing that could help her is Camila’s absence from the team in the first few months as the Brazilian makes her way back from her ACL/MCL injury. If Hill can make an impact early for this team, she could not only see her minutes rise with the squad but she could also become an instant fan favorite. 

Prediction: If Hill can grab a starting spot she could easily have a ten goal/five assist season.

Marta

If there is anything Pride fans can hope for going into next season, its the idea that their two biggest stars hit the ground running. Marta’s play in the 2018 season can set the tone for the Pride.

The five-time World Player of the Year took the NWSL by storm last year, joining the team right before the home opener against the Washington Spirit. Though she did not start that game there was a different feel in the air. The Orlando Pride had signed one of the best women footballers in the world. As she came on in the 59th minute the crowd erupted and you knew that she was going to be special for the Pride. 

Marta did not waste any time leading the Pride as she bagged her first goal on May 7 against FC Kansas City. She was the leader of the Pride up until June 21 when Alex Morgan returned from Lyon. During the time Morgan was gone, Marta had five goals and three assists, with her numbers improving each week. Even when Morgan returned, Marta had eight goals and three assists, ending the year as the Orlando Pride leading goal scorer with 13 goals along with her six assists.

2018 Outlook

So where does Marta go from here? Having a full preseason with the Pride can only bode well for team chemistry, especially with all the stars this team has. Expect Marta to continue to split time between the attacking line and her midfield facilitator role, depending on the opponent and the team’s shape.

Prediction: I would expect Marta to score a bit less if Hill is able to seize a starting role up top and look for the Brazilian to finish with about seven goals but a boost in assists, most likely hitting double digits. 

Alex Morgan

After a lackluster first season with the Pride, Morgan decided to join Lyon for half of the year on a loan to provide another opportunity for herself. While with Lyon she was able to score five times in eight appearances, regaining top form. Due to the fact that she was away from the Pride for half of the season and returned with an injury, it took Morgan a bit of time to acclimate to the team. She eventually ended the season with nine goals and four assists, creating a kick in form for the Pride in the back end of their season leading them to the playoffs. Though it didn’t end how Morgan wanted it to, the season was a boost for her.

2018 Outlook

Alex can only continue to improve next season. She has not been on loan this off-season but she has spent time with the USWNT, continuing to work on her game. With having an entire preseason with the team, Marta being right at her side, and the improved form of Chioma Ubogagu and Hill, Morgan should expect to have an even better season than last year.

Prediction: I would expect Morgan to score at least 12 goals this season. If healthy, she’ll be one of the top scorers in the league.

Chioma Ubogagu

She would need to sign her contract offer to be in Orlando in 2018, but Chi has found a place among the Orlando Pride attack after joining the team last season. Ubogagu was acquired by trading a 2017 third-round draft pick to the Houston Dash. It was a move seen to bolster the attack that had been so lackluster the season before. Even with the additions of Marta in the beginning of the year as well as a few other attacking plays, Chi was able to make her presence known on the pitch.

She played over 1,300 minutes for the Pride in her first season with the club, scoring three times and providing three assists. Ubogagu played all but three games and was used in a variety of attacking spots. Her versatility is something that the Pride can value especially with some injuries and holes they will have to inevitably deal with next season.

Though she did not play in a winter league this off-season, Chi received a USWNT call up. Many believe that the reason she was brought into the USWNT was because of her position flexibility. This is a big step for Chi and if she can continue to play well and receive call-ups it’ll only improve her stock.

2018 Outlook

Chi could have an interesting season for the Pride but could certainly hold on to her spot in the starting 11 (I do not foresee Jamia Fields or Danica Evans taking over those spots, although Nadia Gomes could provide pressure). Her main area to improve is consistency in the final third.

Prediction: I would expect Ubogagu to net at least seven goals this year if she can hold onto a starting 11 spot. Even if she cannot, she could be a huge spark off the bench and provide goals to close out games. Though I would prefer to see her start, this could be a possibility. 

Dani Weatherholt

Most of Weatherholt’s game goes under the radar. Unfortunately, that is a common thread with more defensive players. Nonetheless, she was a key cog in the wheel for this Pride team since she was drafted in 2016. Though it took some time for her to see the field, she has been consistently locking down teams and connecting the defense to the offense in transition. 

Last season, Dani went from playing just under 800 minutes in year one to almost 1,500 minutes in year two. She was asked often to play a double pivot  (two defensive midfielder set up) to bolster the defensive end of the field. Weatherholt and Kennedy were a dynamic duo in the defensive part of the pitch. Like stated above, this type of play is not recognized as much because there aren’t a whole lot of stats to bolster the argument but when it comes to more defensive players that can be a good thing. 

2018 Outlook

With Dani being only 23-years-old, she still has room to grow and I fully expect that to continue going into next year. With the uncertainty of Kennedy up to this point, Dani could be asked to hold down the defensive midfield position solo. Even if Kennedy comes back (which at this point we expect to happen) Weatherholt can blossom even more becoming one of the best defensive midfielders in NWSL. As long as Weatherholt can continue to settle into the team and work well in possession, she will undoubtedly continue to hold down that defensive midfield spot.

Prediction: I would expect Weatherholt to work on her passing stats, not that she was terrible in that department, but having better possession and passing percentage would go a long way for this team. If Weatherholt can hold the ball more often or even distribute at a better rate, this Pride team could be even more potent. I expect even better growth out of her becoming an enforcer at the defensive midfield spot.

The Goalkeeper Position: Ashlyn Harris & Aubrey Bledsoe

When it comes goalkeeping, the Orlando Pride had the goal locked down last season. When Ashlyn Harris went out with a quad injury, Bledsoe came in and did a great job keeping the team in the fight for a playoff spot. With both goalkeepers doing well last season this could create a potential issue: If a team needs a goalkeeper, could one of these players be dealt?

As the season approaches, teams around the league could start inquiring about the availability of one of the Pride’s keepers if injuries occur. But for now Harris and Bledsoe return for the Pride and could be the most dominant one-two punch in terms of goalkeepers.

Harris began the season as the starting goalkeeper, a role she held in 2016 as well, when the team came into the league. She played the first six games of the season for the Pride putting in solids performances in all those games. Though she did not grab any clean sheets, she only let up about 1.5 goals per game and had four saves per game, also tallying a 10-save game against North Carolina Courage. However, against Seattle, Harris went out in the 26th minute and emergency backup Caroline Stanley was forced into action. Harris returned Aug. 13, grabbing a clean sheet in her first start back. She then led the Pride to the playoffs. Harris has done a bit of off-season work as well, playing with the USWNT, keeping her in form.

Bledsoe was pushed into action the week following Harris’ injury. She started 10 games for the Pride, allowing 1.5 goals per game and averaging 3.5 saves per game. Bledsoe also had two clean sheets. She slid right into a team that needed her to step up and boy did she. During the off-season, Bledsoe is currently with Sydney FC, where she’s made the most of her opportunities, chalking up five starts and two shutouts so far. The time with Sydney FC has done wonders for her thus far and only helps improve her stock.

2018 Outlook

Could it be possible that the team deals one of these bright stars to gain a missing piece? Bledsoe could be an attractive player to trade for due to her performances and her age. However, Harris also has her own appeal with a plethora of experience in the professional game, 14 USWNT caps, and the ability to inspire the players around her. I’m not suggesting that either player needs to leave the team but this could be something that the team entertains if there are needs that can’t be solved with just finding a player. 

Prediction: Harris will retain the starting job by the time the season begins but if there is any slip in form or if Harris gets injured again, we could see a changing of the guard, allowing an opportunity for Bledsoe to come in and compete for the job. If this team needs to grab one more piece and can do so by trading one of its keepers, it could be possible that Harris or Bledsoe are dealt.

Camila

After having an explosive year last year, Camila had an unfortunate ending to her season after tearing her MCL & ACL in the final regular-season game. Camila played 1,900 minutes last year in 24 games. In that time she scored four goals with five assists, creating a lot of chances on the attacking front but also was able to get back on defense. The unfortunate injury was something the Pride were not expecting and may have hindered them from going all the way to the NWSL Cup final.

Camila began her career at the age of 18 in Brazil, bouncing around a few teams. She also had a small stint in Houston before returning to Brazil. However, when Camila joined the Pride there were high expectations for the young defender/midfielder and she did not fail to disappoint. Though her stats may not be as high as some would have hoped, her effect on the field could not be missed. 

2018 Outlook

The number one goal for Camila in 2018 is for her to get healthy. Tearing one of either your ACL or MCL is tough enough but having to come back from both is no easy task. The Pride will do everything in their power to ensure that she rehabs correctly and gets back on the field. Injuries like Camila’s can take about six to nine months to properly heal pegging a summer to early fall return. Best case scenario for the Pride would have them above the line at that time with Camila gently sliding in so she can rehab back in time for a playoff run. Even so, this team should have enough depth to fill in for her even if the player isn’t as explosive. 

Prediction: I would expect Camila to have a slow return to the squad, easing back into the lineup midseason. With that, she could have a handful of assists and a goal or two by the end of the season. 

Orlando Pride

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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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage: Three Keys to Victory

What do the Pride have to do to earn a victory against the Courage?

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride head north to take on the North Carolina Courage Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The Pride will look to extend their season-long unbeaten streak and start another win streak against the Courage. A victory might put the Pride back on top of the NWSL table.

What do the Pride have to do to earn all three points on the road?

Shut Down the Courage

Barbra Banda might have more goals than North Carolina’s Tyler Lussi and Bianca St-Georges combined, but that doesn’t mean the two players are not a threat to score. This season, Lussi and St-Georges have three goals and two goals, respectively, accounting for five of Carolina’s 13 goals. Keeping those two in check is imperative to secure a victory.

Doing so will require the Pride defense to be effective when passing out of the back. The bad habit of dribbling into the opposition, or making poorly weighted passes in their own third needs to stop. If the Pride can improve the passing out of the back while maintaining their otherwise solid defense, the club can limit Carolina’s chances.

More Better Moorhouse

Anna Moorhouse is a pretty good shot stopper, but I still hold my breath on crosses and corner kicks. Moorhouse had a pretty good match against the San Diego Wave, and she needs to improve on that performance. She has faced 43 shots on goal with 32 saves and 11 goals allowed. That the number of shots is so low is a testament to the defense in front of her. Moorhouse has the physical tools needed, now she just needs to fine tune her decision-making and put a little stickum on the keeper gloves. If she can continue to build on that last performance on Saturday against Carolina, the Pride will have a good shot at continuing the unbeaten streak.

Help Banda to Help You

Even when teams try to stop Banda by putting multiple players on her, it’s never completely effective. However, if Banda’s teammates can create some space and some chances on their own, that will draw defenders from Banda, allowing her to be more dangerous. As such, it is important to players like Adriana, Marta, Ally Watt, Julie Doyle, and Summer Yates to do more on their own. Teams are worried about Banda and will defend accordingly. Now, the Pride just need to make them pay for doing so.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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