The 2018 NWSL season is about to begin and Tom Sermanni’s Orlando Pride welcome back the majority of last year’s playoff team that finished third overall in the regular season. With several quality additions over the winter, the Pride seem poised to make another postseason run in 2018 and perhaps challenge for some hardware in the club’s third season.
There were only two major losses in the off-season, with the trades of left back Steph Catley and forward Jasmyne Spencer to Seattle, but the Pride got good value in return and simultaneously filled the position Catley vacated by acquiring Carson Pickett in the deal. Orlando also added a few other key players who are expected to make an impact in 2018.
Let’s meet this year’s Pride team.
2 Sydney Leroux, Forward
The biggest name of the off-season acquisitions, Leroux was acquired from Utah on Feb. 2 in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick. No longer an allocated player by the U.S. Soccer Federation (i.e. the USSF no longer covers her league salary), Leroux had to sign a deal with the club prior to the season, which she did.
Sydney wasted no time getting up to speed with her new team, scoring a goal in each of the Pride’s preseason matches and led the team in scoring. At the Pride Media Day she said she feels like the old Syd is back and that’s tremendous news for Orlando fans. Nearly all of her teammates we spoke to this preseason mentioned how her physical play and tenacity inspired them to play harder and tougher. If that is the case, this could be a special year for the Pride. The former FC Kansas City and Western New York Flash forward has lots of international experience, with 77 USWNT caps, and a history of playing with Alex Morgan. Her style of play should create more space for players like Morgan and Marta.
3 Toni Pressley, Defender
Pressley enters her third season with the Pride after being selected eighth in the 2015 NWSL Expansion Draft from the Houston Dash. She started 11 times in 14 appearances during the Pride’s inaugural season but transformed herself physically through a new approach to diet and fitness and entered 2017 looking like a completely different player. Pressley appeared in 18 games (13 starts) last season and smashed in her first goal with Orlando, a screamer that earned her NWSL Goal of the Week honors.
B💣💣M 😈 pic.twitter.com/PN8ppaapcN
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) July 16, 2017
Sermanni was able to utilize Pressley in order to change shape to three in the back late in games to go for the win and it will be interesting to see if that continues. It will be tougher to earn minutes on this year’s Pride team than ever before, so Pressley will need to work on her passing percentage and eliminate the errors in the box that led to two second-half penalties which cost Orlando points last season.
4 Shelina Zadorsky, Defender
Another of Orlando’s off-season acquisitions, Zadorsky was acquired from the Washington Spirit on Jan. 23 in exchange for backup goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and the Pride’s natural first-round pick in 2019. The 25-year-old Canadian international was brought in to bolster a defense that shipped 31 goals in 24 games last year. The Pride’s attacking style puts the defense under pressure at times and the acquisition of Zadorsky should help shore things up. She started two of her 30+ games with the Canadian Women’s National Team in the recent Algarve Cup and her side recorded shutouts in both, which she said at Media Day will give her confidence and serve as a springboard as she heads into her first season with Orlando. Shelina is allocated to Orlando by the Canadian Soccer Association.
5 Emily van Egmond, Midfielder
One of two Australian internationals on the squad, van Egmond will not actually join the Pride until late April due to World Cup qualifying in the Women’s Asian Cup. The attacking midfielder was signed on Valentine’s Day. Van Egmond is blossoming into one of the world’s top play-making midfielders despite being just 24 years old. Her presence will either allow Marta to play on the forward line or complement the Brazilian star if Sermanni wants more bodies in the midfield. She brings to the Pride more than 75 games of international experience on some of the biggest stages, as well as previous professional experience in Australia, Europe, and the United States (Western New York Flash, Seattle Reign, Chicago Red Stars). Emily will require one of the Pride’s five international slots.
6 Chioma Ubogagu, Forward
Chi enters her second season with the Pride after her rights were acquired from the Houston Dash in January of 2017 for a third-round pick in the 2018 draft. She was out of contract after the 2017 season and re-signed in mid-January. Ubogagu appeared in 19 matches with the Pride last season (16 starts), scoring four goals and adding three assists. Chi filled a lot of gaps last year. Nine of her starts came on the forward line, six were in the midfield and one was on defense — a position she also switched to a few times during games depending on substitution patterns. She played well enough to earn a call-up to the USWNT at left back, although she did not get a cap. With more attacking pieces in place for Sermanni this year, look for Ubogagu to serve as the club’s Swiss Army knife, doing a number of different jobs.
7 Christine Nairn, Midfielder
The Pride picked up Nairn from the Seattle Reign on Jan. 29, along with defender Carson Pickett, in exchange for Catley. Nairn brings a veteran presence to the Orlando midfield, as the 27-year-old has played more than 100 NWSL games with the Reign and the Washington Spirit, scoring 18 combined goals for those clubs. Nairn is an underrated player who does a lot of little things well and has a big leg, as she displayed twice in the preseason, scoring on a free kick against UCF and chipping the goalkeeper from the center circle against South Florida. She’ll provide a veteran presence to Orlando’s midfield.
8 Danica Evans, Forward
Evans enters her second season with the Pride after being drafted 22nd overall out of Colorado in 2017. Evans was used sparingly during her rookie year, appearing in 11 matches (one start) but only playing 195 total minutes. She scored one goal, but it was a big one, tying the match late against the Washington Spirit in Orlando’s home opener. Danica earned NWSL Goal of the Week for her calm finish. Evans will provide attacking depth for a club that has a treasure trove of options.
9 Camila, Defender/Midfielder
After suffering a serious knee injury in the final regular-season match of 2017, Camila Pereira (simply known as Camila) begins the season on injured reserve and therefore won’t count against the club’s international slots or roster limit until she returns. The Brazilian international’s recovery has seemingly gone well and a return in June is expected for the second-year Pride player. Camila was Orlando’s breakout player of the year in 2017, after signing with the club in December of 2016. She appeared in all 24 regular-season matches with the Pride in 2017, starting 22. She played just about everywhere, starting four games at right back, three at forward, and 15 in the midfield. She’ll only have about half a season to do it, but Camila will look to build on her four-goal, five-assist season of a year ago.
10 Marta, Forward
Marta Vieira da Silva, known globally simply as Marta, is one of the world’s most recognizable soccer players. She returns for her second season with the Pride after arriving early in the 2017 campaign. After a few games to settle in, Marta started delivering the goals and assists she’s known for, and, if not for someone named Sam Kerr, she might have been the NWSL MVP last year. After signing with Orlando last April, Marta arrived in time to dress for the home opener, despite having arrived via international flight less than 48 hours earlier. Playing both forward and midfielder in 2017, Marta played in 23 of the club’s 24 regular-season games, starting 21, as well as Orlando’s playoff match in Portland. Marta scored a team-high 13 goals (second in the NWSL) with six assists (also second in the NWSL). She created a league-high 64 chances for her teammates and her goals + assists total of 19 was second only to Sky Blue’s Kerr (17/4), who is now with Chicago. Marta was a four-time member of the NWSL Team of the Month, and she’ll again be expected to contribute heavily to the attack and team’s possession in 2018 and perhaps she’ll have more room with Leroux to clear more space for her. She will occupy an international slot for the Pride.
11 Ali Krieger, Defender
No longer allocated by the USWNT, Krieger, like Leroux signed a contract with the Pride prior to the NWSL season. She now enters her second year with Orlando since being acquired from the Washington Spirit on Nov. 2, 2016, in exchange for the Pride’s spot in the Distribution Ranking Order. She played every minute of the Pride’s 2017 season, mostly at center back, moving over from her more familiar right back spot. She led the NWSL in passing attempts (1,300), completing 82.5% of them. She did not score a goal but did assist on two. With the additions of Zadorsky and Poliana, Krieger could again play both fullback and center back in 2018, but, regardless of where she is on the field, the Pride will rely on her leadership, experience, and calm demeanor.
12 Kristen Edmonds, Midfielder
One of the longest tenured members of the Pride, Edmonds has been with the club since her rights were acquired from the Western New York Flash — along with Becky Edwards — in December of 2015. She enters her third season with the club, having led the team in goals in 2015, but filling in as more of a role player in 2016. She played 22 games (20 starts) last season, scoring two goals without an assist, just one year after scoring six times and adding two assists. She seems destined once again to slot in wherever Sermanni needs her in 2018, whether at fullback or in the midfield but that role fits in well with her whatever-is-needed demeanor.
13 Alex Morgan, Forward
Morgan enters her third season as a player allocated to Orlando by the USWNT. She became the cornerstone of the team’s roster in October of 2015, when the Pride traded a sizable list of assets to the Portland Thorns for both her and Kaylyn Kyle. Orlando parted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft (which became Emily Sonnett), the rights to Orlando’s first pick in the 2015 Expansion Draft (Meghan Klingenberg), and an international roster spot for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Morgan missed several matches in both previous seasons with Orlando due to international play and a loan spell with Lyon. Still, she’s amassed 13 goals in 18 games across two seasons with the Pride so far. Of those, nine came last year, along with four assists, as she torched the NWSL in the second half of the season. Those numbers could climb if she remains healthy on this 2018 team.
14 Alanna Kennedy, Defender/Midfielder
Like van Egmond, Kennedy is going to be a late arrival in 2018, as she tries to help her country qualify for the World Cup through April’s Women’s Asian Cup. The Australian still requires one of Orlando’s precious international slots. The Pride traded its first ever draft pick, Sam Witteman, to the North Carolina Courage to acquire Kennedy on Jan. 19, 2017. Her deal expired after last season, but the Pride re-signed the Aussie to a new deal earlier this month. At the time of the trade, Sermanni called her “one of the best center backs in the league,” but she only played in that position for seven games before moving into the midfield. She played in all 24 matches (plus the playoff game) last year, starting 23 times in the regular season. She was second only to Krieger in minutes played, scoring four goals and adding an assist. She also scored Orlando’s first ever playoff goal at Portland. Kennedy was a ball winner, a safety-first defender (80 clearances), and a provider of timely offense. Sermanni will be happy when she returns from international duty.
15 Rachel Hill, Forward
The Pride sent two 2018 draft picks to Portland in January of 2017 for the rights to Hill, who joined the club late after finishing school at the University of Connecticut. Hill started eight matches in 2017 and appeared in 14 over the course of her rookie season, playing 713 minutes, while scoring three goals and adding an assist. This past off-season, she went on loan to Australia to continue her professional development and made a big impact with Perth Glory, where she played alongside — and learned a lot from — Kerr. She started all 12 matches in which she appeared for Perth, scoring nine goals and assisting on six more, and earning a league Player-of-the-Month honor. Hill will be looking to use that breakout performance as a springboard into the 2018 NWSL season.
16 Carson Pickett, Defender
Pickett, a 24-year-old Florida State product and Florida native, returned to her home state in the trade that sent Catley to Seattle. Pickett is a capable replacement for the Australian international left back, earning W-League Best XI honors this off-season with Brisbane Roar, for which she appeared 13 times, scoring once. Pickett enters her first season with the Pride, after two years with the Seattle Reign, where she made 36 appearances with one assist but is still seeking her first NWSL goal. She was part of Florida State’s national championship team in 2014, anchoring a defense that did not concede in the NCAA tournament. Like Catley, she’ll look to get forward and cross balls in for Morgan, Leroux, and Marta.
For more info on Pickett, check out this week’s PawedCast.
17 Dani Weatherholt, Midfielder
Weatherholt enters her third season with Orlando, after the Pride drafted her in the fourth round in 2016. She was out of contract after 2017 and re-signed with the club in January. She has appeared in 31 matches (26 starts) over the past two seasons, notching her first professional goal and assist in 2017 as she locked down a holding midfield role in her sophomore season. The 23-year-old Santa Clara product has gained confidence from playing with the U-23 USWNT and has made great strides in her first two pro seasons.
19 Poliana, Defender
The pride shipped a second-round pick in 2019 to the Houston Dash to acquire Brazilian international Poliana Barbosa Medeiros (more commonly known as Poliana) on Feb. 6. One of Houston’s more dynamic players over the past two years, Poliana notched five goals and added two assists in 37 appearances. Capable of playing both fullback and in more advanced attacking positions, Poliana shares some similarities with Camila, aside from her Brazilian heritage. She’s tested on the international level, playing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League play with Icelandic club Starjnan and winning the Copa Libertadores Femenina three times (2011, 2013, and 2014) with Brazilian side São José. She also has more than 30 international caps with Brazil. Poliana will require an international roster slot.
21 Monica, Defender
Monica Hickmann Alves (or just Monica) enters her third season with the Pride since being signed on Dec. 8, 2015. The Brazilian international, who is working on securing her green card before Camila returns from injury, according to a team spokesperson, has played both center back and holding midfield for the Pride over the last couple of years. She appeared in 19 of the team’s 24 regular-season matches (16 starts) and started in the team’s playoff game in Portland. She has made a total of 35 regular-season appearances (31 starts) in two seasons. Though she has yet to register a goal or assist with the team and has only 10 shot attempts, Monica’s defending (she won or shared the NWSL Save of the Week twice last year, despite not being a goalkeeper) and passing — she led the team at 84.4% — are her greatest strengths.
22 Bridget Callahan, Midfielder
Signed earlier today as a National Team Replacement player, Callahan enters her first professional season. The former University of Central Florida standout was a nonroster invitee to preseason camp and played well enough to at least earn a temporary deal with the club. She scored nine goals and accumulated two assists in 75 games. She scored three of those goals and added one of those two assists last year. With the Aussies gone until the end of April and the Brazilians leaving after the season opener, Callahan could be with the club through the first four games of the year or so. She will not count against the roster limit.
24 Ashlyn Harris, Goalkeeper
Allocated by the USSF, Harris enters her third season with the Pride, after being selected No. 2 in the 2015 NWSL Expansion Draft from the Washington Spirit. She’s made 28 appearances over the past two seasons as a starter, posting a record of 11-11-6 (6-2-5 last year) and notching six shutouts She missed time due to the Olympics in 2016 and a quad injury last year. Harris became the first player from an expansion team to win an NWSL season award when she was named the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016, when she recorded four shutouts and won the NWSL Save of the Week a whopping nine times. In 2017, Harris only won six weekly NWSL save awards. The 32-year-old USWNT goalkeeper may be Alyssa Naeher’s primary backup with the USWNT, but she’s Orlando’s star between the sticks, and she’ll again be counted on to make big saves when the team needs them — which will hopefully be less often with the additions the team has made on defense.
25 Lotta Ökvist, Defender
Ökvist, 21, enters her first season with the Pride after her rights were acquired from the Houston Dash on Wednesday in exchange for the club’s 2019 natural third-round draft pick. The Swedish international was the No. 13 pick of the Dispersal Draft after the Boston Breakers ceased operations in January. As a 2018 NWSL Dispersal Draft selection, Ökvist will not count against the Pride’s salary cap or roster maximum for the 2018 season, and her international roster spot from Houston (via Boston) will transfer with her to the Pride (effectively giving Orlando an extra for 2018). Before signing with the Breakers during the off-season, Ökvist featured for Pitea IF in her hometown of Piteå, Sweden. She made 25 appearances with Piteå during the 2016-17 Damallsvenskan season — her second stint with the club. The 5-foot-5 defender has also played one season with Umeå IK. Ökvist led her country to the 2015-16 UEFA U-19 Women’s Championship. Prior to that, she was a member of the U-17 Swedish Women’s National Team. The left-footer will bolster the Pride’s defensive depth and can also play in the midfield.
28 Haley Kopmeyer, Goalkeeper
Kopmeyer, 27, enters her first season with the Pride after being acquired from the Seattle Reign on Jan. 29, along with Seattle’s natural third-round pick in 2019, in exchange for Jasmyne Spencer. She provides a veteran backup for Harris, having made 46 NWSL appearances, with a high of 20 during the 2017 season. The University of Michigan product has kept 11 clean sheets and made 185 saves in her five-year career. Kopmeyer previously had loan stints with Brisbane Roar and Canberra United in Australia’s W-League and with Apollon Limassol in Cyprus.
Now you know the 2018 Orlando Pride. The club enters the NWSL season with its deepest and most talented roster to date, although not all the players are here now and more will soon depart for international play. With Women’s World Cup qualifying ramping up, this will be a common theme during the 2018 season. But the club has accounted for this as best it can by securing more domestic talent and inviting more college talent than usual to preseason training.
One notable name missing is draft pick Nadia Gomes (pictured in team photo, above). She isn’t officially signed as of now, and with no current roster space, she may end up being a National Team Replacement player at some point unless she’s dealt to another team or finds her way to another team/league.
This is a team expected to challenge for the NWSL Cup by season’s end. If it can stay healthy, survive the pockets of international duty, and build upon a strong 2017, the sky is the limit.
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 2-1 as Ally Watt and Adriana Lead Pride to Vital Win
The Pride used two first-half goals to beat the North Carolina Courage, moving up to seventh in the NWSL.
The Orlando Pride (8-10-1, 25 points) returned home in a must-win game and took care of business, beating the North Carolina Courage (8-7-4, 28 points) 2-1 at Exploria Stadium. Ally Watt scored the earliest goal in Pride history, giving the hosts the lead inside the first minute. Adriana doubled the advantage in the 32nd minute, which was all the Pride needed. Manaka Matsukubo got one back in the 52nd minute, but North Carolina couldn’t find an equalizer and the Pride took all three points.
Despite being on the road, the Courage dominated possession in this game. The Pride played like the typical visiting team, defending fiercely and hitting the opposition on the counter attack. It was successful, as they scored twice with that method and nearly had more. The task became easier when Malia Berkely was sent off in the 78th minute, enabling the Pride to control the dying minutes.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 to OL Reign on Sept. 3 in Seattle. Carly Nelson started in goal for the suspended Anna Moorhouse, who was sent off in the third minute in the team’s most recent game. Watt entered the lineup in the striker’s role for Messiah Bright, and Adriana returned to the lineup after missing the trip out west, replacing Kerry Abello. Bright and Abello started this game on the bench.
The back line in front of Nelson was Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Madril, and Haley McCutcheon. Mikayla Cluff and Jordyn Listro were the starting defensive midfielders behind Julie Doyle, Marta, and Adriana. Watt was the lone forward up top.
Cluff and Viviana Villacorta started the season as the defensive midfield partnership. That changed to a Villacorta and Abello partnership with Cluff and Listro coming off the bench. However, Cluff and Listro have started the last two games, an interesting switch as the season nears its end.
“It’s tough decisions, right? There’s not a lot (of separation) between the four midfielders, between Jordyn, Kayla, and Vivi. They’ve all done really well this season,” Hines said about the change. “So it’s being adaptable, giving players opportunities. We felt like it was a good balance in the midfield with Kayla and Jordyn.”
The Pride got off to the best possible start in this game. Listro intercepted a Matsukubo pass at midfield and played Adriana forward. Watt ran around left back Emily Fox, reaching the ball at the top of the 18. Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy came out and got a piece of the shot, but not enough as the ball rolled in to give the Pride an early lead.
“Ally took her goal really well,” Hines said about Watt’s strike. “Very pleased for Ally because she’s put so much work into her craft the last couple of weeks. And she gets a reward with a goal.”
“I think you just realize you have — we have — full trust and faith in them with anything,” Watt said about playing with Marta and Adriana. “Adriana is called the wizard for a reason. She gets balls off in the most magical way I’ve ever seen, honestly. So, I think we just have full trust in them. So when we make the run, we fully know that we’re going to get that ball if we execute properly. And when they’re on the ball, they might do some magic on their own, but they’re going to feed it to you as well. So, we always have to be prepared for whatever they’re going to be providing, because they’re very unpredictable players. And that’s what we love about them.”
The goal crossed the line 38 seconds after kickoff, making it the earliest goal in Pride history. It was only 16 seconds off of the league record of scoring 22 seconds into a game.
“We talk about starting the game quickly,” Hines said. “You know, the first pass, first dribble, setting the tone straight from kickoff. And it’s the best way to start a game, scoring a goal.”
The Courage had their first chance of the game in the eighth minute when Ryan Williams’ cross was headed out of play by McCutcheon. Haley Hopkins jumped over Doyle to reach Berkely’s corner kick at the back post, but sent it straight to Nelson.
In the 13th minute, Williams received the ball from Kerolin and dribbled into the Pride box. The right back cut inside and played a short pass where Kerolin had run past Rafaelle. The midfielder found forward Tess Boade wide open at the top of the six-yard box, but Boade couldn’t get over the shot and sent it over the target.
A Pride goal kick in the 16th minute ended up with Rafaelle, who attempted to play it short to Strom on the side. But Kerolin intercepted it. After quickly playing a pass to the middle for an open Boade, Rafaelle took down her international teammate, earning the game’s first booking.
The ensuing free kick by Narumi Miura was short to Kerolin and the Brazilian lifted the ball to the top of the six. Nelson came out strong, initially fumbling the ball after midair contact with an opposing attacker, but eventually collecting it. Kaleigh Kurtz charged into Nelson and both players went to the ground. Referee Danielle Chesky called a foul on Kurtz, ending the North Carolina threat.
The Pride had a chance to double their lead in the 24th minute when Watt found Adriana in the box from the left. Miura got in front of the shot, blocking it back to the midfielder. Adriana took a second shot, but Miura got in front of that one as well, enabling the Courage to clear.
The Pride scored their second goal right after the restart of the first-half hydration break. Nelson restarted with a goal kick to Strom, who sent the ball forward for Adriana. The attacker left it for Marta, whose back heel was blocked by Berkely, but it went right back to her. The second pass attempt by Marta was wide to Doyle, who sent Adriana behind the Courage back line with her first touch. As Miura attempted to catch up with the Brazilian, Murphy stayed on her goal line. Adriana put it into the corner of the net from the top of the six-yard box, giving the Pride a 2-0 lead.
“I saw Marta get it, and whenever Marta gets it on her left foot, that means I’ve got to run into the back space, because I know that she can find me through. And that’s what she did,” Doyle said about her assist. “And then I saw Adriana had a ton of space in behind, because they were really high. And Adriana’s so fast. I’m just like, all I have to do is get it to her and I know that she’ll do great things. And that’s what we saw.”
Poor passing in the 44th minute nearly gave the Pride a chance for a third when Murphy played a short ball to Berkely in the Courage box. The center back nonchalantly sent it back to her goalkeeper, wide of the target. Watt, one of the league’s fastest players, attempted to beat Murphy to the ball and got a piece as Murphy attempted to clear it. But the visitors were able to get it away without any damage.
At halftime, North Carolina had far more possession (69.4%-30.6%), but couldn’t do much with it. Meanwhile, the Pride were happy to hit them on the counter, resulting in a halftime lead. While both teams had four first-half shots, the Pride put two on target and the Courage put one on frame. North Carolina also led the Pride in corner kicks (1-0) and crosses (6-1), and passed more accurately (91.6%-74.2%).
“Going into the second half, we changed our formation a little bit when we had that water break, so we just went over it again. Because passing information is difficult in that kind of situation,” Watt said about the halftime message. “(Hines) was telling us that I’m going to put the pressure on you. You guys are 2-0 up, and that’s a dangerous lead to have. They can come in and score and get momentum, and they certainly did score, but we did a really good job hanging onto it. And then the red card happened and we were just able to take control of the game and everything.”
The Pride created a pair of chances within the first five minutes of the second half. In the 48th minute, a Kurtz pass across for Miura was intercepted by Watt. The forward sprinted towards the Courage box, pulling up when Berkely got in front of her. Adriana called for the ball, but Watt took the long-distance shot herself. It didn’t cause any trouble for Murphy at the near post, who easily collected it.
A minute later, the Pride went on another counterattack. Doyle turned her defender and played a give-and-go with Marta on the left. The midfielder sent a low cross into the box for Adriana, but it was too far in front of her and Fox cleared it away.
The two missed opportunities proved costly in the 52nd minute when North Carolina got a goal back. Hopkins played the ball wide for Fox and the defender sent a cross into the box. Hopkins had made a run, but let the ball run past her to Matsukubo waiting behind, unmarked. The 19-year-old didn’t miss her opportunity, putting it past Nelson to cut the Pride lead to 2-1.
Three minutes later, the Courage had a chance for an equalizer when Kerolin sent a cross toward Fox in the middle of the box. The left back redirected the ball towards goal, but couldn’t get over it and the attempt went over the crossbar.
Shortly after the miss, Hines made his first substitution of the night. Regular starting striker Bright entered the game for Watt. The Pride made two more changes in the 64th and 65th minutes, replacing Doyle and Cluff with Abello and Villacorta.
A controversial moment occurred in the 66th minute when Adriana dribbled into the North Carolina box. She cut inside to beat Kerolin, before Fox came back to win the ball. The ball popped up and appeared to hit Fox’s arm at the edge of the box, which was up to shield her face. The play is only reviewable for a penalty, but the video assistant referee didn’t call for Chesky to take a look.
“In the 66th minute, the referee observed the ball hit the NC Courage player’s hand, which was in a natural position,” Chesky responded after the game. “At the next stoppage, the VAR checked the incident and confirmed no clear or obvious error.”
The comeback got more difficult for the Courage in the 78th minute when Berkely was sent off. A short free kick to the center back resulted in a bad pass into the box. Madril got to it first, sending it downfield. Adriana was the first to the ball and used her speed to get behind Berkely. The center back, who was clearly the last defender, took down the midfielder and Chesky immediately issued a red card. The VAR checked the play and confirmed the decision, giving the Pride a player advantage for the final 12 minutes.
The Pride nearly took advantage and scored a third in the 82nd minute when Marta’s shot was blocked out by Kurtz. The ensuing corner kick by Adriana found a wide-open Rafaelle beyond the back post. The center back’s header was off the outside of the post, keeping the score at 2-1.
The fourth official showed five minutes of second-half stoppage time, but that was increased when Rafaelle’s inadvertent elbow found the head of Courage substitute Tyler Lussi. Blood was dripping down her face, so the forward needed to change her shirt and shorts. Hines took the opportunity to make two final changes, replacing Adriana and Listro with Brianna Martinez and Celia.
While the Pride had a defensive lineup for the final minutes, the 10-player Courage were unable to create any chances. The Pride did well to maintain possession, continuously taking it to the corner to run the clock out. It was a successful strategy as they held on for a crucial win.
North Carolina ended the game with significantly more possession (67.2%-32.8%), but was unable to create more chances with it. Both teams had 10 shots and the Pride put more on target (3-2). The Courage had more crosses (14-11) and passed more accurately (88.7%-73.2%). The Pride had more corner kicks (4-2).
“Massive win tonight,” Hines said. “Running out of games now. Only three games to go and we have to give absolutely everything. I think looking back, you know, some of the performances are brilliant. We haven’t rewarded ourselves with the three points and you know, I’m so happy that we were able to get up in the game, take our opportunities. And a lot of credit has to go to the players, because they’re the ones who are competing, going out there day in, day out in training and performing at such a high level in the field. We’ve made it uncomfortable for North Carolina, going up in the game and then not giving them too much to try and play through the lines and stop that rhythm. But you have to have the right mindset to do that, and I felt everyone from back to front did their job and they were brilliant at their job.”
“We’ve been working so freaking hard, and it’s so nice to finally get the reward, because I think you’ve seen this team have games like this and sometimes it just doesn’t go our way,” Doyle added. “So for it to finally go our way, it’s just such a relief.”
It was a unique home game for the Pride because the hosts usually have the majority of possession. It was the opposite in this one because the Courage dominated possession and the Pride had to maintain their concentration. That’s something the team has had trouble with this season, especially on set pieces.
“We knew they’re a team that gets 500 passes per game. So credit to them,” Doyle said. “They’re a super good football team, so we knew we had to be disciplined in our defensive shape. That’s what we’ve been working on all week and we really just had to stay compact.”
The win sees the Pride jump the Houston Dash, Racing Louisville FC, and Angel City FC, from 10th to seventh place. They’re now only one point behind the Washington Spirit for the sixth and final playoff spot. While they’re tied with Angel City on points, the Pride currently hold the tiebreaker on goal difference.
The Pride now have a two-week break before they take the field again. They were supposed to play Angel City in Los Angeles on Thursday night, but that game was delayed until Oct. 2 because of the upcoming international break.
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
The Orlando Pride return home after a two-week break to face the North Carolina Courage at Exploria Stadium.
Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (7-10-1, 22 points) welcome the North Carolina Courage (8-6-4, 28 points) to Exploria Stadium. This is the fourth meeting between these two teams this year and the second in the NWSL regular season.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Courage have played 22 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage. The Pride are 4-13-5 in those games (4-10-1 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 a July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina. The Pride didn’t show up for that one, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Radcliffe 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 game prior to that was on June 17 in North Carolina and, again, 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. On April 19 at Exploria Stadium, the Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up Ally 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.
Prior to that game, they last played on Sept. 21, 2022, at Exploria Stadium. The Courage got off to a great 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 previous 2022 meeting 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.
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 in this one, 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 Apr. 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.
Three games ago, the Pride were in a great position to qualify for the NWSL playoffs for the second time in team history. They were two points out of sixth and facing the team occupying that spot in two consecutive games. They fell 2-1 to San Diego Wave FC at home on Aug. 25 and fought valiantly, despite being down a player for almost all of the 1-0 loss against OL Reign.
The Pride now find themselves in a tough position. They’re four points behind the Washington Spirit with four games remaining, but there are three teams between them. Angel City FC and Racing Louisville FC are two of those three teams and the Pride will face both in the coming weeks. Regardless, they’ll likely need to finish the season on a four-game winning streak to qualify for the postseason.
The quest for their longest winning streak of the season and the longest since 2017 begins tonight. The team will be without starting goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse, who was sent off in the third minute against OL Reign two weeks ago. Carly Nelson will take her spot in the lineup after a terrific display in Seattle.
The key attacking player missing against OL Reign was Adriana, whose four league goals are second on the Pride behind Messiah Bright’s six, and her three assists lead the team. She wasn’t on the availability report prior to the game in Seattle but didn’t make the trip. Her return tonight would be a boost to a team that desperately needs three points.
The Courage suffered back-to-back 2-1 losses to Angel City FC and the Portland Thorns on either side of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup break, but have grabbed draws in their last two games against the Chicago Red Stars and NJ/NY Gotham FC. The latter of those games saw the Courage take a 2-0 lead into halftime only to give up three goals in the second half, drawing 3-3.
While the Pride were off last weekend, the Courage hosted Racing Louisville in the Challenge Cup final. North Carolina won the trophy in a storm-delayed game with goals by Kerolin and Japanese international Manaka Matsukubo.
The player to stop for North Carolina is Brazilian international Kerolin, who leads her team with nine goals and three assists. She’s been a terror against the Pride in the previous games and keeping her off the scoresheet will be key if the Pride hope to get anything from this final meeting between the teams.
The Courage have a balanced lineup with a consistent back line that has resulted in them having the second-best goal difference in the league. Their 26 goals scored is tied with the Wave for second-most, and their 19 goals conceded is tied with Gotham and Louisville for second fewest.
“Obviously, they’ve had some success with winning the Challenge Cup. So they’ll have some good momentum, high spirits,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s opponent. “But, as always, we have to focus on ourselves. We’ve lost our last two games, but in that, the performances have been good. Obviously, different circumstances, but the performances have been pretty consistent all season. We want to continue to make this a difficult environment to play. We’re playing against arguably the best footballing team in the league, so it will be a really good challenge for us, but our mindset is win every game that comes towards us.”
North Carolina is without six players tonight. Emily Gray (knee), Clara Robbins (lower leg), and Meredith Speck (knee) are out for the season. Estelle Johnson (thigh), Rikako Kobayashi (knee), and Brittany Ratcliffe (thigh) are also out for this game.
The Pride are only missing two players tonight and both were expected. Carrie Lawrence (knee) is out for the season and Moorhouse is serving her one-game suspension after being sent off last week.
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Carly Nelson.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Madril, Haley McCutcheon.
Defensive Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff, Jordyn Listro.
Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.
Forward: Ally Watt.
Bench: McKinley Crone, Erika Tymrak, Megan Montefusco, Messiah Bright, Mariana Larroquette, Kerry Abello, Viviana Villacorta, Brianna Martinez, Celia.
North Carolina Courage (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Ryan Williams, Kaleigh Kurtz, Malia Berkely, Emily Fox.
Defensive Midfielders: Narumi Miura, Denise O’Sullivan.
Midfielders: Kerolin, Manaka Matsukubo, Haley Hopkins.
Forwards: Tess Boade.
Bench: Katelyn Rowland, Brianna Pinto, Sydney Collins, Kiki Pickett, Olivia Wingate, Mille Gejl, Frankie Tagliaferri, Tyler Lussi, Rikke Madsen.
REF: Danielle Chesky.
AR1: Bennett Savage.
AR2: Cameron Siler.
4TH: JJ Bilinski.
VAR: Alexandra Billeter.
AVAR: Joel McKell.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!
Orlando Pride Sign Tori Hansen and Kaylie Collins To New Deals
The Pride have signed center back Tori Hansen goalkeeper Kaylie Collins to new contracts and sent them on loan to Australia.
The Orlando Pride announced tonight that defender Tori Hansen and goalkeeper Kaylie Collins have signed new contracts through the 2024 NWSL season. Both players were subsequently sent on loan, with Hansen going to Melbourne Victory FC and Collins to Western Sydney Wanderers FC of the A-League Women in Australia for the 2023-2024 season.
“Tori has worked hard this season, and we believe she has a bright future ahead. So we’re excited to agree to a new contract and to work with her further on her development,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “It was a priority that we find a high-performance environment where Tori can get valuable match minutes and leadership opportunities and the team and staff at Melbourne Victory offer just that. We are excited for Tori for this next step in her career and look forward to supporting her upcoming season in Australia.”
The Pride selected Hansen with the first pick of the third round (25th overall) in the 2023 NWSL Draft out of the University of North Carolina and signed her on March 29 to a one-year deal with an option year. The center back played sparingly during her first three seasons with the Tar Heels, but started 26 games during her senior year, recording eight goals and two assists. That one season was enough for selection into the first-division league.
Hansen started the first two Challenge Cup games during her rookie season with the Pride, playing all 180 minutes. She surprised everyone during the second game of the competition, scoring the opening goal in the 10th minute of a 4-2 loss at the Washington Spirit on May 10. Despite only making those two appearances, she was on the bench for the other four Challenge Cup games and nine league games. But she didn’t appear on the team sheet after the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup when Rafaelle was signed and Megan Montefusco was sent to the bench.
Collins was initially selected by the Pride in the 2021 NWSL Draft in the fourth round (34th overall) out of the University of Southern California, where she was named to the All-Pac 12 team twice. She didn’t appear in her rookie season with the Pride, but played one Challenge Cup game last year, a 1-1 draw against NJ/NY Gotham FC.
Despite the departure of starter Erin McLeod prior to this season, Collins remained the third choice goalkeeper behind Anna Moorhouse and the newly-signed Carly Nelson. She’s made two appearances, a league start on April 15 against Gotham and a May 10 Challenge Cup start against the Spirit. She’s conceded seven goals in her three professional games, saving 10 of her 17 shots faced.
“Since joining the club in 2021, Kaylie has been a valuable member of our goalkeeping corps and has continued to grow as both a player and a person. We believe she has the potential to become a top goalkeeper in this league, and gaining competitive experience and meaningful game minutes while in Australia is critical to her development,” Carter said about Collins in a press release. “We’re looking forward to cheering her on during the A-League season and keeping track of her progress over the next few months.”
What It Means for Orlando
It might seem odd to give these players new contracts and immediately send them out on loan, but both contracts run through the 2024 NWSL season and they’ll be playing through the winter months. These new contracts enable the Pride to keep them on their books while they play during the off-season and bring them back in the for 2024 campaign. Both will have the chance to develop in a good, competitive league.
Since Hansen’s been on the team sheet 15 times this season, the Pride clearly think she can contribute. They currently have six defenders that can play center back, including Carrie Lawrence, who suffered a season-ending injury during preseason. Three of those six players — Caitlin Cosme (24), Emily Madril (24), and Hansen (22) — are 24 years old or younger, and Hansen is the youngest of the group. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said during the draft that Hansen was a long-term project, and at just 22, there’s still plenty of time for her to develop.
Collins is the third-string goalkeeper and, at 24 years old, the youngest of the goalkeeping group. Moorhouse is only 28 and Nelson is only 25, but Moorhouse’s contract expires after this season. Meanwhile, Nelson’s runs through 2024. Whether Collins will be second or third on the depth chart next season largely depends on whether Moorhouse returns next season.
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