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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. Portland Thorns FC: Final Score 2-1 as Barbra Banda Brace Lifts Pride to Eighth Straight Win

The Pride used a Barbra Banda brace to defeat the Portland Thorns 2-1 for their eighth straight win.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride (8-0-3, 27 points) won their record-setting eighth straight game by defeating the Portland Thorns (6-4-1, 19 points) 2-1 tonight at Inter&Co Stadium. Barbra Branda’s first-half brace gave the hosts a 2-0 lead that they took into the second period of play. The Thorns got one back through Izzy D’Aquila, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride claimed all three points.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made two changes to the starting lineup that beat the Seattle Reign 3-2 on Sunday. Morgan Gautrat returned to the lineup, replacing Ally Lemos, and Julie Doyle replaced Summer Yates, who was out with an illness.

The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse remained the same with Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, and Emily Sams. Gautrat and Haley McCutcheon were in the defensive midfield behind Doyle, Marta, and Adriana with Banda up top.

It was a slow start to this game as the two teams tried to find ways to break down the opposition in the first 10 minutes. However, the Pride dominated the remainder of the first half, taking a 2-0 lead into halftime. The Thorns made two halftime changes and it made a difference as they created more chances than in the first 45 minutes. They got a goal back in the 71st minute and nearly scored on multiple other occasions. But the Pride were able to hold on.

The Pride had the first decent attack of the game in the 10th minute. It started with an excellent long ball across the field from Rafaelle to Doyle and the midfielder’s cross was blocked by Becky Sauerbrunn. The ball landed at the feet of McCutcheon and she attempted a shot, but Hina Sugita was there to block it. The Pride recirculated the ball, resulting in Adriana finding Marta at the top of the box, but the captain’s attempt was blocked by Kelli Hubly.

In the 17th minute, a bad touch by Christine Sinclair enabled Rafaelle to take possession and find Marta at the top of the box. The Brazilian fired from distance and the ball bounced off the chest of Thorns goalkeeper Shelby Hogan for the first save of the game.

Marta took another shot in the 24th minute when Doyle lifted the ball over a pair of defenders, looking for her teammate on the far side of the six-yard box. It was far enough for Marta to control and get a shot off, but Hubly stayed in front and blocked the attempt.

In the 26th minute, Adriana played a great ball forward to Banda, enabling her to get into the box. Hubly got in front of the striker and defended her well, knocking the ball out of play. Marta’s ensuing corner kick was cleared out, but only to Abello who played it back outside for Marta. The captain found Strom with space in the box, but the center back’s shot was wide of the target.

The Pride won another corner kick in the 29th minute and this one resulted in the game’s opening goal. Abello’s cross was cleared behind goal by Hubly for a corner kick. Marta took the set piece, sending it to the far side of the six-yard box. Gautrat got her head to it, sending the ball to the center of the box. Rafaelle’s shot on goal was blocked, but the ball went right to Banda, who put it in to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.

Immediately after the goal, the teams went to the sidelines for a hydration break. When play resumed, the Thorns got their first chance of the game. It came from a mistake when a pass back to Rafaelle was misplayed, enabling Olivia Moultrie to take over. The teenager took a couple of dribbles before shooting, sending the attempt straight to Moorhouse.

In the 35th minute, Janine Beckie made a run down the right and attempted to play Moultrie behind the Pride defense. Moultrie had a step on Rafaelle, but the pass was too close to Moorhouse, enabling the Pride goalkeeper to collect it.

The Pride doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Marta sent a long ball forward for Banda. Dribbling into the Thorns box, Hubly caught up with the striker and blocked her initial shot. However, Banda recovered, dribbled around Hogan, and touched the ball in for an easy second goal of the night.

The goal saw Banda net her third brace of the year and her second brace in two games after she scored twice against the Seattle Reign on Sunday. It was her eighth goal of the season, tying her for the league lead with Sophia Smith. However, while Smith has scored eight goals in 10 games, Banda has done it in seven.

“I’m so happy to be part of that. I’m happy to help her score goals because, at the end of the day, it’s good for the team,” Marta said about Banda’s brace. “We were missing some players like that a few years ago, and we created a lot of chances, but most of the chances didn’t result in goals. This year, we have her here, she showed up from the first game, and really, really wants to help this team. She showed hunger every single game. And, for us, it’s very good because she’s fast, she’s strong, and then we just need to find a pass.”

“Building that chemistry has probably happened quicker than we might have thought,” Hines said about the chemistry between Banda and Marta. “But she finds a way and it’s brilliant to see. Even the second goal today, you would feel like the chance is gone but she finds a way to find the back of their net.”

After scoring twice, Banda nearly got an assist in the 43rd minute when a pair of defenders closed her down, leaving McCutcheon free to her right. The defensive midfielder controlled the ball and shot, but it was too close to Hogan.

The Thorns got their second shot in the second minute of first-half stoppage time when a long ball into the box was cleared by Abello. The clearance went right to Jessie Fleming, who quickly shot, but it was well over the target.

The final chance of the first half came a minute later when Rafaelle was called for a foul on Sugita. It gave the visitors a free kick in the Pride’s final third, their first set piece of the game in a dangerous position. Sam Coffey sent the ball into the box and Sauerbrunn got her head to it, but sent the redirection over the goal. The halftime whistle blew immediately after the miss, sending the Pride into the locker room up 2-0.

At halftime, the Thorns had more possession (54%-46%) and better passing accuracy (85%-83%), but the Pride had more shots (14-3), shots on target (13-1), corner kicks (3-0), and crosses (10-5).

“We had mentioned that two halves are never the same. 2-0 is a very dangerous score line as well,” Hines said about his halftime message. “The next goal can be the defining factor.”

Right after the halftime whistle, Banda went down and rubbed her leg. As a result, Hines made one halftime change, replacing Banda with Ally Watt.

The Pride had the first chance of the second half in the 52nd minute when Doyle played McCutcheon to the end line and Coffey knocked the ball out of play. The first corner kick by Marta was blocked back to her and her second cross was knocked out of play by Sinclair. The second corner kick found the head of Rafaelle beyond the back post, but her header was high and wide of the target.

The Thorns quickly went the other way off the goal kick with Moultrie sending Beckie down the right. The midfielder played a great ball to Sinclair, who had gotten behind Rafaelle, but her attempt to redirect the ball on target was unsuccessful, sending it over the crossbar.

In the 56th minute, Doyle sent a long and low ball forward for Watt. The speedy striker beat Sauerbrunn to the pass and sent a shot towards goal, but right to Hogan.

Two minutes later, Adriana used some crafty footwork to beat Nicole Payne and shot for the near post. She felt that Hogan had blocked it out for a corner kick, but referee Ekaterina Koroleva determined that the ball went directly into the side netting and issued the Thorns a goal kick.

It appeared as though the Pride would have a corner kick in the 60th minute when Marta sent a dangerous ball towards goal. It looked like Hogan pushed the shot wide, but Koroleva said Marta was the last to touch it, much to her dismay.

Marta caused more havoc for the Thorns defense on the left, beginning with a dangerous cross in the 65th minute. She was looking for Watt, who was making a diagonal run to the near post. But Sauerbrunn beat her to it and cleared the ball out of play.

A minute later, Marta was played forward on the left and sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal. Watt made the slightest of touches, attempting to redirect inside the far post, but didn’t get enough on it and the ball went out of play.

On the other end, the Thorns had a chance in the 68th minute when Beckie played a nice through ball, sending D’Aquila behind the back line. The substitute’s first touch was a shot, but Moorhouse did well to come out and block the attempt.

Shortly after the stop, Hines made his second change of the game. Cori Dyke came into the game for Doyle.

The visitors got a goal back in the 71st minute through a nice individual effort by Moultrie. The U.S. international beat her defender to the end line and found D’Aquila wide open in the box. It was an easy finish for the substitute, cutting the Pride lead to 2-1.

The Pride’s third substitution came in the 76th minute. It was a defensive move as Brianna Martinez came into the game for Gautrat.

Watt went down in the 79th minute and required attention from the Pride medical staff. In the meantime, the players went to the benches for water and instructions. When Watt was up and play resumed, Ana Dias sent a dangerous ball towards the back post. D’Aquila was in the area, but couldn’t get on the end of it.

A minute later, Sugita created enough space to send the ball towards goal. Moorhouse initially looked like she would have to make a stop, but the ball curled away and went out for goal kick.

The Thorns came close to equalizing in the 84th minute when Moultrie lifted the ball forward. Dias was between Rafaelle and Strom, but got her head to it. Moorhouse was indecisive about whether to come out and it nearly cost her. Fortunately, the header was off the crossbar and the Pride were able to clear.

The final two changes for the Pride came in the 87th minute. Ally Lemos and Amanda Allen entered the game for Abello and Adriana.

In the 90th minute, Lemos pulled Sugita back while the Thorns midfielder looked to enter the Pride box. She was issued a yellow card and Portland had a free kick in a dangerous position. Moultrie sent the set piece towards the far post where Dias met it with her head. However, the attempt was wide of the target.

The fourth official showed five minutes of second-half stoppage time, but the Thorns couldn’t take advantage. The only shot came in the fifth minute when Moultrie took a shot from outside of the box. McCutcheon blocked the attempt and the Pride won the game 2-1.

At full time, the Thorns had more possession (55%-45%) and crosses (22-17) with better passing accuracy (84%-81%). The Pride had more shots (22-13), shot on target (16-6), and corner kicks (7-2).

“Listen, they’re a top team. They were six games unbeaten coming into this game,” Hines said about the game. “They should be looking at the top of the table with the roster that they have. They’ve got internationals all over, they’ve got players who have won the league as well. So it was always going to be different in that second half. And I think how we started the second half, we started a little bit surprised.”

“I thought after that first 10 minutes for the second half, we settled, we started moving the ball really well,” he continued. “We also created some really good opportunities to score as well. And I think if we had got that third goal, we probably would’ve put our minds at rest towards the end. But this team thinks deep. You know, to get it over the line towards the end, that’s really, really encouraging and it’s something that we’ve done all season which is pleasing that we didn’t stop that today.”

The Pride win snapped a six-game winning streak by the Thorns and was the Pride’s eighth consecutive win, setting a new NWSL record. However, the Pride have bigger things in mind as they contend for the first trophy in team history.

“It’s a great feeling,” Hines said about the record. “I’ll be honest, it’ll probably be short lived because we’ve got bigger goals we’ve set this season and objectives that we want to reach this season. But yeah, of course it’s a nice feeling. It’s great to do it in front of our fans, our home fans who have supported us through the tough times and just glad that we’re rewarding them for their support by having this record and setting a new record for the NWSL. But a lot of credit has to go to the players and the support staff because, without them, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve this today.”

“Proud,” McCutcheon added. “ I think I even said that tonight from last year to this year. We knew we were building something special but just to have something in the history books is something that I didn’t think would happen so soon. And so yeah, we’re thrilled but we’re not satisfied. We want to keep pushing for the ultimate goal at the end of the season.”

Much was made about the Pride going after a new league record heading into this game. However, they’re still looking to maintain their spot at the top of the NWSL standings.

“I think it’s about mentality more. Keep a hard mentality, very strong,” Marta said about the team moving forward. “And, like I say, we need to keep on playing our way, make our way, find a way when we don’t have it together. And we can’t start to think about the other teams. We need to think about ourselves. We need to repeat every single thing that we did good in this game. And improve, improve more and more. Don’t be satisfied.”


The NWSL will take a break next weekend for internationals before returning the following weekend. The Pride will take the field next on June 7 when they travel west to take on San Diego Wave FC.

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Orlando Pride

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

The Pride look for a league-record eighth straight win as they welcome the Portland Thorns to town.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (7-0-3, 24 points) welcome the Portland Thorns (6-3-1, 19 points) to Inter&Co Stadium. This is the first of two times these teams will face off, with the return game in Oregon scheduled for Oct. 11.

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

History

The Pride have struggled historically against the Thorns, with a record of 3-13-2 in 18 games (3-12-2 in league play and 0-1-0 in the playoffs). They’re 2-5-2 in Orlando against tonight’s opponent, all in regular-season matchups.

The most recent meeting between the two teams came on June 11, 2023 in Orlando. Sophia Smith gave the visitors the lead in the 20th minute, but the Pride took over after that. Adriana scored a brace and Messiah Bright’s 69th-minute strike lifted the Pride to a 3-1 win.  On March 26 at Providence Park, Morgan Weaver and Smith opened the scoring inside 22 minutes. Hina Sugita made it three, and Michele Vasconcelos wrapped up the scoring as the Thorns won 4-0.

The teams met twice in 2022, with the first coming on Sept. 9 at Exploria Stadium. Yazmeen Ryan gave the visitors the lead and Sugita doubled the advantage as the Thorns won 2-0. That was the second meeting of the season after the teams met on June 19 in Portland. In Seb Hines’ second game as interim head coach, the Thorns smashed the Pride, 6-0.

The teams met earlier in the year during the 2021 season, playing on May 26 in Orlando. The Pride won for only the second time against Portland since the team’s inception. The Pride won 2-1 and Orlando’s goals came from Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux.

The second meeting that year came on July 18 in Portland, and the home team won again. Smith gave the hosts the lead and Marissa Everett doubled the advantage. Marisa Vigginao got one back in second-half stoppage time, but it wasn’t enough as the Thorns won, 2-1.

They met a third time on Aug. 14. The Pride took an early lead when Courtney Petersen found Jodie Taylor for the opening goal. But Simone Charley equalized and the teams drew 1-1.

The Pride and Thorns didn’t play in 2020 after the season was canceled due to the global pandemic and they weren’t in the same group for the NWSL Fall Series. As a result, the most recent meeting prior to 2021 was in 2019.

The teams opened the 2019 season against each other in Orlando, but the Thorns got the better of the clash. The game was decided on either side of halftime as Caitlin Foord scored just before the break and Tobin Heath scored four minutes after the restart, lifting their team to a 2-0 win. They met again in Orlando on May 11 and the visitors won again. Toni Pressley gave the Pride an early lead, but it was all Portland after that. Dagny Brynjarsdottir equalized, Andressinha gave Portland the lead, and Foord finished it off.

The final meeting between the two in 2019 was a goal fest in Portland and another Thorns win. Hayley Raso gave the visitors the lead just three minutes into the game and Midge Purce’s goal made it look like it would be a dominant performance by the hosts. But Marta got one back to make it 2-1. Christine Sinclair made it 3-1, followed by a Thorns own goal by Emily Menges. It looked like the Pride would get a rare point through Erin Greening’s 90th-minute goal, but Tyler Lussi scored in second-half injury time, dooming the Pride to another loss in Oregon.

The teams faced off three times in 2018, which featured the Pride’s lone win in Portland. The Thorns won the first game, 2-1 on April 15. But on May 12, goals by Morgan and Christine Nairn gave the Pride a 2-0 lead. Sinclair got one back for the hosts, but the Pride held on for their only result at Providence Park. The third meeting went back to usual, with the Thorns winning 2-0 through Lindsey Horan and Raso.

The teams started the 2017 season against each other in Portland with the Thorns winning 2-0. They met again in the penultimate game of the season in Orlando, ending in a scoreless draw. The most important game between the two teams was the Pride’s only playoff appearance. Unfortunately, it was all Portland, as the Thorns beat the Pride 4-1.

The first meeting of 2016 was the Pride’s first-ever game. Steph Catley gave the visitors a surprising lead, but Brynjarsdottir equalized and Horan won it for Portland. They met again on June 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Two second-half goals by Brynjarsdottir and Horan lifted the Thorns to another 2-1 win.

Overview

The Pride are currently the hottest team — not just in the NWSL this season — but in league history. After drawing their first three games, they’ve won an astounding seven straight. Their 3-2 win over Seattle Reign FC Sunday tied the league record for most consecutive wins in NWSL history. Tonight, they’ll look to set a new league record and maintain their place atop the league standings.

Prior to last weekend’s win, the Pride had won back-to-back 1-0 games against Racing Louisville and Bay FC, both at home. In the team’s six home games this season, it has only scored multiple goals once, a 4-1 win over the North Carolina Courage on May 1. Despite the lack of goals at home, the Pride have drawn twice and won four times.

Standing in the Pride’s way of a new NWSL record are the Portland Thorns, a perennial powerhouse in the league. Once again this season, the Thorns are a team to be reckoned with. While they’re not at the top of the standings, they’re currently fourth and five points behind the Pride. Portland has a streak of its own, winning their last six. This will be the first match in NWSL history between two teams that are each on a winning streak greater than four games.

As expected, the Thorns are one of the best offensive teams in the league. Their 23 goals rank second behind the Kansas City Current. While they’re less successful defensively than the Pride, both teams have a positive goal differential of nine, second best in the league.

The biggest attacking threat for the Thorns is Smith, whose eight goals and six assists lead the team. Olivia Moultrie and Janine Beckie are tied for second with three goals, Sinclair, Payton Linnehan, and Sam Coffey have two goals each, and Weaver, Sugita, and Ana Dias have all scored one so far this year.

While the Thorns have conceded 14 goals this season, they gave up five in the opening game of the season against the Current. Since then, they haven’t given up more than two goals in a game, something that has occurred three times. Fortunately for the Pride, they’ve shown an ability this season to win low scoring and high-scoring affairs. They’ll need to continue that tonight in order to win their eighth straight game.

“It’s two teams who are on a winning streak and two teams that want to continue that winning streak as well,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s game. “Listen, it’s a big game for us. It’s going to be a tough game for us. Portland are one of the best teams in this league. You look around their roster, they’ve got internationals all over. So it’s a good challenge for us and we’re embracing it. Every game we’re embracing it. And it will be nice to do it in front of our home fans on Friday.”

The Pride have one addition to tonight’s availability report. Angelina (knee), Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), and Viviana Villacorta (knee) are joined by Summer Yates (illness). The Thorns will be without Gabby Provenzano (Achilles), Bella Bixby (maternity leave), and Morgan Weaver (knee).



Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Sams.

Defensive Midfielders: Morgan Gautrat, Haley McCutcheon.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.

Forward: Barbra Banda.

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

Portland Thorns FC (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Shelby Hogan.

Defenders: Marie Muller, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelli Hubly, Reyna Reyes.

Midfielders: Hina Sugita, Jessie Fleming, Sam Coffey.

Forwards: Olivia Moultrie, Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie.

Bench: Emily Alvarado, Isabella Obaze, Meghan Klingenberg, Nicole Payne, Olivia Wade-Katoa, Payton Linnehan, Marissa Sheva, Ana Dias, Izzy D’Aquila.

Referees

REF: Ekaterina Koroleva.
AR1: Matthew Rodman.
AR2: Joe Suchoski.
4TH: Wes Caouette.
VAR: Karen Coulson.
AVAR: Maggie Short.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Seattle Reign FC: Final Score 3-2 as Pride Rebound in Second Half for Seventh Straight Win

The Pride outlast Seattle Reign FC 3-2 for their seventh consecutive win.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (7-0-3, 24 points) continued their undefeated start to the season with a 3-2 win today against Seattle Reign FC (2-7-1, 7 points). The Pride took an early 2-0 lead with goals by Emily Sams and Barbra Banda, but the hosts came back with goals from Angharad James-Turner and Bethany Balcer. Banda’s second of the day in the 58th minute proved to be the difference as the Pride won yet again.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made two changes to the lineup that beat Bay FC 1-0 last Saturday. Ally Lemos and Marta entered the lineup, replacing Morgan Gautrat and Julie Doyle. While Doyle started the game on the bench, Gautrat wasn’t in the team. The back line in front of goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse was Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, and Sams. Haley McCutcheon and Lemos were in the defensive midfield behind Summer Yates, Marta, and Adriana, with Banda up top.

It looked like the Pride would run away with this one when they took a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes and appeared to have scored a third. However, the Reign didn’t give up and scored on either side of halftime to make it 2-2. Unlike previous years, the Pride didn’t fall apart after losing the lead and found a winner from their star striker. It was another one-goal affair — their sixth in seven wins — in which the Pride had to hold on for dear life as they attempted to see out the victory.

The Reign got off to the more aggressive start, creating two chances inside the first three minutes. In the second minute, Tziarra King blocked a clearance attempt and it went to Jess Fishlock. The midfielder played the ball across to former Pride midfielder James-Turner, who shot on goal. It was heading inside the post, but Moorhouse did well to get down and collect it.

A minute later, Ji So-Yun sent an aerial ball across the field for Balcer, who quickly played it wide for Sofia Huerta. The right back found Fishlock in the box and the Welsh international attempted a first-touch shot, but she couldn’t get solid contact, sending the ball well off target.

The Pride got their first chance of the game in the seventh minute when Reign goalkeeper Laurel Ivory got a little too cute with the ball. Attempting to dribble around pressure, her clearance was blocked, ending up at the feet of Banda. The Pride’s leading scorer’s first touch was a shot, but she sent the attempt over the crossbar.

Two minutes later, the Pride grabbed the lead. It started with a long ball down the right for Marta. The Pride captain sent it to the top of the box, where Yates brought it down, but a defender got a foot to it. Fortunately, it went right to Sams, whose first touch was a shot inside the post to give the Pride an early 1-0 lead.

“I just wanted to support the play,” Sams said about her goal. “And it just happened to fall to me and I just took my chance and I scored.”

Since Sams played primarily as a center back last season, she hasn’t had many opportunities to score. However, Hines has deployed her as a right back at times this year, including in this game, and, as a result, she scored her first NWSL goal.

“She finished it like a forward as some would say,” Hines said about the defender scoring her first goal. “Em has done brilliant in having to shift into a new position and she’s embraced it. I think sort of her one-v-one defending’s been brilliant recently and so she gets her reward for going up and supporting the attack, and it’s a lovely finish with her left foot. So yeah, it was a great goal from Em. And if she continues to play that position at right back, maybe there’s a few more down the stretch of the season.”

The Pride’s attacking Brazilians tried to combine for a chance in the 13th minute when Adriana sent a cross into the box for Marta. She got her head to the ball and tried to redirect it on goal, but wasn’t in front of the net at the time. As a result, the header went wide.

The Pride doubled their lead in the 18th minute when a poor clearance was intercepted and sent forward for Adriana. The playmaker used some fancy footwork to create space for a cross, sending it across the face of the goal. Ivory could only get her fingers to it as the ball got past her. Banda was left wide open near the back post and simply headed the ball in to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

In the 25th minute, King tried to catch Moorhouse by surprise after receiving the ball from Balcer. The attacker took a shot from distance, but Moorhouse was able to block it to her side. It was a good stop as the shot was taken from the shadows and into the sunlight.

Balcer had a great chance for herself in the 26th minute when King found her on the far side. The forward outmuscled Abello to get in on goal, but Moorhouse came out strong. Balcer got a shot off, but right into Moorhouse. The attempt bounced off Balcer and out for a goal kick, ending the threat.

The Pride put a third ball in the net in the 31st minute when Marta sent a long ball across the field for Yates. The midfielder took on Lauren Barnes, beating the defender. However, Barnes left a foot out, tripping Yates and giving the Pride a free kick.

The ensuing set piece was sent into the Reign box where Banda got a slight touch to it, but not enough to send it on goal. Instead, it popped up for Strom to get her head on it and give the Pride a 3-0 lead.

Before the game could restart, the video assistant referee called down for referee Elijio Arreguin to take a closer look. After further review, Arreguin determined that Banda was offside on the initial ball as she attempted to get behind the back line, disallowing the goal and keeping the game 2-0.

Moorhouse was forced into another save in the 36th minute when the ball was tipped off of Ji’s foot. It went directly to Fishlock well outside of the box and the midfielder took a long attempt at goal. The shot appeared hard to see, but the Pride goalkeeper tipped it over the crossbar for a corner kick.

The ensuing set piece was cleared out but only to James-Turner, whose shot was aiming for the top corner. Moorhouse wasn’t going to get to the attempt, but it was just over the target.

In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, King attempted a shot from inside the Pride box that was blocked by Rafaelle. The Reign retained possession and a long ball was sent into the box for Balcer. However, it was too far ahead of the forward, who pushed Sams into Moorhouse and was booked.

It looked like Adriana would have a chance to get on the scoresheet a minute later when she received the ball in the box from Banda. The Brazilian attempted to cut back and lose Huerta, going down in the process. There was some contact, but the referee determined it wasn’t enough and the Reign were able to clear.

During the final minute of stoppage time, the hosts got a goal back. Ji sent a pass to the top of the box, where James-Turner met it. The midfielder took a shot that likely would’ve been saved by Moorhouse, but it deflected off Strom and went into the corner of the goal, cutting the Pride lead to 2-1.

That was the final attack of the half. After 45 minutes, the Reign had more possession (54%-46%), shots (8-4), shots on target (6-2), and corner kicks (2-1), as well as better passing accuracy (82%-80%). But the two goals and some good goalkeeping by Moorhouse had the Pride leading at the break.

“Just get closer to our opponent. I think we gave them a little bit too much space. And then tactically, offensively, he told us to do a better job of finding Barbara on the front line,” Sams said about Hines’ halftime instructions. “And I think if we’re able to keep the ball more, we don’t really have to worry about the defending side so much if we can keep it and keep adding goals. So that was kind of the halftime talk.”

Hines made one halftime change, replacing Yates with Doyle.

The goal just before halftime seemed to spark the hosts as they began the second half on the attack. In the 46th minute, King received the ball on the left, shielded her defender, and attempted to send the ball across the face of the goal. However, Moorhouse was able to block it away. The Pride were unable to clear the ball and Ji gained possession. The South Korean shot from distance, but it was off target.

A minute later, the Reign found the equalizer. It started in the Pride box when halftime substitute Shae Holmes won the ball from Banda and sent it forward. Two passes later, Fishlock sent a long ball to Balcer behind the Pride’s back line. The forward lifted the ball over Moorhouse to even the game at 2-2.

The hosts continued their attack and created another shot in the 51st minute. It was Ji again creating space and attempting a shot from long range. However, it was blocked and the Pride gained possession before it got close to Moorhouse.

The Pride created their first good chance of the second half in the 54th minute when Olivia Van der Jagt fouled Marta. The Pride captain took the set piece, sending a dangerous ball into the box. It somehow went through several players before going out for a goal kick.

In the 57th minute, King knocked the ball out of play while trying to shield it from Lemos. The Pride rookie took the corner kick, which was punched out wide by Ivory. It went right back to Lemos, who sent in a shot that went over the arm of Ivory and off the crossbar. The ball was sent out of play by a Reign defender and the Pride had a corner kick on the other side.

The second corner kick was taken by Marta and headed through by Alana Cook. However, it didn’t get very far, enabling Banda to get her foot on the ball. The defense gave the star striker too much space and Banda turned to score her second goal of the game, taking back the lead for the Pride.

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 62nd minute through their captain. Banda made a good run down the right, beating her defender, and sent a cross into the box. It was a little behind Marta, but she was able to get her foot around the ball and put it on target. Ivory made an excellent save with her foot to keep it out of the net and her team’s deficit at one goal.

Hines made his second change in the 63rd minute and it was a defensive one, as Cori Dyke came in for Adriana.

In the 73rd minute, Lemos committed an unnecessary foul on Phoebe McClernon, giving the Reign a free kick in a dangerous position. Ji played it short for Huerta, who sent the ball towards the far post. It looked like the ball was going out of play, but stayed in. It resulted in a shot that was blocked and the Pride were able to clear.

A Pride throw-in in the 75th minute resulted in an interesting situation as Abello sent Banda down the left. Cook was unable to keep up with the striker, but pulled her back and then put her studs into Banda’s stomach. Banda required medical attention, but was able to continue. While the play was checked for a possible red card, it wasn’t given.

When Banda got up, Hines made two more changes. Brianna Martinez and Ally Watt came into the game for Marta and Lemos.

After being booked late in the first half, Balcer received her second yellow card in the 83rd minute. Upset with a foul call, she approached the referee while her team made a substitution. Arreguin clearly wasn’t happy with what she said, giving her a second yellow card and a subsequent red card. As a result, the Reign had to finish the game with 10 players.

The Pride had chances to make the player advantage pay off. In the 88th minute, they had a three-on-three, but Abello lost control before she could play one of her teammates on either side of her. In the 90th minute, Banda made a strong run and had Watt to her right. Unfortunately, the pass was too soft and the Pride lost possession.

The Pride made their final change after the missed opportunity as Amanda Allen entered the game for Banda.

The Pride did well defensively to limit opportunities, but the Reign had a good chance in the seventh minute of stoppage time. A long ball into the box by Cook was headed out by Sams, but only to Emeri Adames. The substitute had plenty of space to shoot from just outside of the box, sending the attempt over the target.

That was the last chance for either team as the Pride held on for their seventh straight win and their first in Seattle. At full time, the Reign had more possession (52%-48%), shots (15-8), and shots on target (10-6), with better passing accuracy (81%-80%). The Pride had more corner kicks (4-2), crosses (18-14), and most importantly, outscored the Reign 3-2.

“I thought the first 43 minutes of the game, we were really good. I thought we played some terrific football, playing between the lines, caused a lot of problems, and to concede so late on in the first half is something that we need to reflect and review moving forward,” Hines said about the game. “And then the second half, I mean it was a grind. It was great determination. Going through that adversity as well. conceding so early on in the second half, to come back and get that third goal was really important for us.”

“I think the first half was definitely the better half. I think we did well, got those two goals, but letting in the goal at the very end, I think kind of gave them some momentum,” Sams added about the performance. “And then I think the second half we kind of let our standards drop and we had to fight for that win. We got the win and that’s amazing (and) shows our character. So obviously we’re satisfied with that.”

The win extends the Pride’s winning streak to seven games — the longest in team history — and ties the league record held by, coincidentally, the Seattle Reign in 2014. Their unbeaten run extends to 10 games and they move into sole possession of first place after the Kansas City Current drew yesterday.

“It’s a great feeling to have that record and it just shows the world how strong we are,” Rafaelle said about the seven straight wins. “A lot of people doubted us in the beginning of the season. Now, we’re proving that we’re a good team and we have a good chance to win the shield, but also we want to break the record. We’re going to play at home next game. We’re going to try everything to win that game and break the record.”

Additionally, this is the first time that Pride have ever won a game in Washington. The two teams have now faced off nine times in the Evergreen State and the Pride are 1-5-3 all-time. It’s another first in what is quickly becoming the best season in team history.


The Pride will look to break the NWSL record for consecutive wins, remain unbeaten, and stay in first place Friday night when they host the Portland Thorns.

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