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Orlando Pride

Meet the 2018 Orlando Pride



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.

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

Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Summer Yates to New Contract

The Pride have signed midfielder Summer Yates to a new two-year deal though 2025 with a mutual option for 2026.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed midfielder Summer Yates to a new contract. The deal keeps the second-year professional in Orlando through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

“Summer’s growth over the last season has been evident, and her contributions on the field this year are a clear result of the work and dedication she has put into both herself and the team,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “She is incredibly deserving of this new contract, and we are thrilled to reward her with it. We’re excited to see what Summer will achieve over her career here in Orlando and thankful to have her as part of our club for the foreseeable future.”

While many thought Yates would be a first- or second-round selection in the 2023 NWSL Draft, the University of Washington product dropped to the fourth round, where the Pride took her with the third pick (39th overall). It was seen by some as possibly the steal of the draft. Despite her low selection, the club signed her to a two-year deal with an option for 2025 on March 7, 2023.

Yates played sparingly during her rookie season, primarily seeing time during the NWSL Challenge Cup. However, she’s had a breakout year during her sophomore campaign, becoming a key contributor to the team. After making 10 league appearances in 2023, she’s made 15 appearances this year with 11 starts, scoring four goals.

The 24-year-old made her professional debut on March 26, 2023, coming on for Marta in the 53rd minute of the season-opening 4-0 loss to the Portland Thorns. She made 10 appearances and recorded 108 minutes in league play a year ago. The rookie was more prominent in the NWSL Challenge Cup, appearing in six games (two starts), while recording 259 minutes and two assists.

This year, Yates came on in the 70th minute of the season-opening 2-2 draw against Racing Louisville for Morgan Gautrat, scoring the equalizing goal in the 86th minute. She earned her first start on April 12 in a 1-0 win over the Utah Royals. Following her late goal that secured a point in the season opener, Yates scored the lone goal of a 1-0 win over San Diego Wave FC on April 19 and converted the eventual game-winning penalty against the Washington Spirit on April 26. Those performances have earned her the opportunity to extend her stay in Orlando.

“I am so honored to be staying in Orlando,” Yates said in the club’s release. “From day one, this organization has believed in me and helped me develop my game in so many ways. This team is so special, and I am grateful that I get to continue to be a part of it. Vamos Pride!”

Prior to being drafted by the Pride, Yates was the playmaker of the Washington Huskies. She made 93 appearances (86 starts) during her collegiate career, scoring 27 goals and recording 23 assists in five years. She was named to the All-Pac-12 team four times, Second Team All-American by the United Soccer Coaches, and twice named to the All-Pacific Region Team.

Internationally, Yates has appeared on the United States U-20 Women’s National Team, helping the side win the 2020 U-20 Concacaf Championship.

What It Means for Orlando

Yates was a low-risk and high-reward draft pick for the Pride. She was expected to go in the low first round or early second round, but continued to fall as the draft continued. Fortunately for Orlando, she was still available in the fourth round, where the Pride were able to take what might be the steal of the draft.

It was tough to judge Yates with her limited playing time in 2023, but she’s taken a major leap this season. She had the tough task of replacing Marta and Adriana earlier in the year when the Brazilians were out, taking advantage of those opportunities. She’s also been asked to take on more defensive roles due to multiple injuries to defensive midfielders.

Marta is currently on the final year of a two-year deal, so this could be the final season for the 38-year-old superstar. When the Pride captain does decide to end her career, Yates is an option to take over the number 10 role. She’s proven she can play the position and, at only 24 years old, still has room to grow.

Regardless of her future role in the team, Yates has proven this year that she can be a key contributor. The Pride’s recent success has been based on hitting on several trades and draft picks, both by Carter and former general manager Ian Fleming. Yates is another one of those good selections and has now dedicated herself to the Pride for the near future.

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Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Cori Dyke to New Contract

The Pride have signed rookie midfielder Cori Dyke to a new deal through 2025 with a mutual option for 2026.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed rookie midfielder Cori Dyke to a new contract. The deal runs through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

“Cori has stepped up and contributed in big moments this season, playing with composure and professionalism well beyond her years. Her versatility has been a very important part of our team, as well as her commitment to growing and learning each day,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “We’re happy to be able to provide her with the support and environment she needs to continue her growth as a player, and to also see her continue as an important piece of what we are building here in Orlando.”

Dyke was selected by the Pride with the eighth pick of the second round (22nd overall) in the 2024 NWSL Draft. She was subsequently signed to a one-year deal on March 11, ensuring she would be on the team this year. The 23-year-old midfielder was an unused sub on March 22 against Angel City and wasn’t in the team until April 26 when she came on in the 81st minute in a 3-2 win over the Washington Spirit at Audi Field. However, she’s since become a regular for the team, taking part in every game since. The rookie has made 11 appearances this season with one start and recorded 269 minutes.

The one-year deal she signed in March was an audition to see if she would be a part of the team in the future. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines has spoken glowingly about the midfielder and used her more and more as the season has gone on. Those performances have earned her a new deal that could keep her in Orlando for another two years.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this new contract and to be staying in Orlando,” Dyke said in the club’s release. “I am so grateful to the staff and my fellow teammates for my experience thus far. I know I will only continue to grow and learn more from them while in this environment. This really is a special group and I feel blessed to continue to be a part of it.”

Prior to being drafted by the Pride, Dyke played five years for the Penn State Nittany Lions, gaining an extra year of eligibility due to the global pandemic. She made 108 appearances (all starts), scoring nine goals and recording nine assists in her collegiate career. During her senior season, she moved to center back and was named Big Ten Defender of the Year while helping Penn State to a league-best nine goals conceded in 17 games. For her success at the collegiate level in both academics and athletics, Dyke recently was named Penn State’s female Big Ten Medal of Honor winner for the 2023-2024 academic year.

At the international level, Dyke has competed for the U.S. Women’s National Team at the U-14 through U-23 levels, including winning the 2017 CFA Tournament with the U-19 side.

What It Means for Orlando

The Pride have built a strong side the last few years, enabling them to reach the top of the NWSL standings. Now, the goal for Hines and Carter is to keep those players together. While Dyke is unlikely to start much for the Pride during these next two years, she’s done well in her role as a substitute, coming on late to help the team see out games.

Dyke is a defensive-minded midfielder that can slide back into the back line when needed. That versatility is valued by Hines and Carter and has been crucial to the Pride’s success this season. Her former college and current Pride teammate, Kerry Abello, played in the attacking midfield until this year, when she moved back to left back, with Kylie Strom taking a central role. Dyke’s ability to play in the midfield or on the back line makes her valuable to the team.

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Orlando Pride vs. Kansas City Current: Final Score 2-1 as Pride Win Battle of Undefeated Teams

Despite going down to 10 players in the first half, the Orlando Pride beat the Kansas City Current on the road.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride (11-0-5, 38 points) went on the road and handed the Kansas City Current (10-1-5, 35 points) their first loss of the season, winning 2-1 at CPKC Stadium in Kansas City. The Pride’s Barbra Banda and the Current’s Temwa Chawinga — the two top scorers in the NWSL — traded goals in the first half, and Marta scored the winner with a penalty kick in the second half.

Orlando was reduced to 10 players in the 42nd minute after Carrie Lawrence received her second yellow card, but the Pride were still able to win their 11th game of the season, claiming the battle of the league’s last two remaining unbeaten teams. The result extended the Pride’s unbeaten streak this season to 16 games — 17 dating back to last year’s season finale — and they are now first in the league standings.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the lineup that won 3-0 against Angel City FC, with Angelina replacing Haley McCutcheon in the midfield. It was Angelina’s first start since undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on her knee on May 9. Anna Moorhouse started in goal behind a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Lawrence. Julie Doyle, Angelina, Summer Yates, and Adriana made up the midfield, while Marta played a bit further up the pitch with Banda up top.

The Pride wasted no time in attacking and created the game’s first chance in the second minute. Banda charged toward the end line on the right and her shot forced a save from Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. Orlando cycled the rebound around until it wound up at the feet of Angelina, who took a low, driven shot from distance that Franch was able to gather.

It was just the start of a frantic battle between the league’s top offenses, as the match featured plenty of counterattacking. The duel between Strom and Michelle Cooper was one to watch up and down the wing and highlighted the back-and-forth nature of the match. Strom defended well against Cooper, but the 21-year-old had the Current’s first real chance in the sixth minute when a decent cross found her in the box, only for her to send it over the bar. Abello then went the other way, winning a corner after her cross was blocked.

Another important battle between individual players was Lawrence’s defense against Chawinga. It was just Lawrence’s second start this season after her injury in last year’s preseason, and stopping Chawinga is arguably the toughest assignment in the league. Chawinga is particularly lethal when counterattacking and Lawrence picked up the first yellow card in the 14th minute when she pulled the Malawian forward’s shirt to slow her down on the break. Though the Pride were able to safely deal with the ensuing free kick, the card put Lawrence in a tough spot early.

Sams made a critical tackle against Chawinga soon after, one of many great contributions from the defender. However, Chawinga was relentless in this match and had another chance in the 17th minute, nearly getting on the end of a loose ball in the box. However, Moorhouse was there to collect it and see out the danger. Moorhouse was called to action again in the 20th minute, making a save but spilling the rebound before chasing it down to push it out of play.

It was a physical match, and Marta received a yellow card in the 23rd minute for her reaction to a hard foul from Claire Lavogez. Marta will likely be heading back to Orlando with some bumps and bruises as it was just one of many times during the match that she was knocked down. Strom spoke after the match about how Marta’s passion in this match was a rallying point of sorts for the team.

“You saw the fire in her eyes today, and that is so contagious,” Strom said. “We see her fighting, and she’s the one throwing her body in front of everything, putting everything on the line. Everybody gets behind that, everybody in the locker room. We are so connected and that’s something so special with this team.”

That passion was evident soon after that foul, as Marta hustled to get in the way of an attempted clearance by the Current soon after. Banda was quick to get to the loose ball in the box, but she was forced into a tough angle and sent her shot wide.

In the 28th minute, the Current picked up their first yellow card of the night after Claire Hutton kicked the back of Marta’s leg while defending her.

The hydration break did little to slow down the breakneck pace of the game. In the 32nd minute, Marta didn’t get all of the ball on an attempted shot and the Current sprinted the other way. Lavogez took a crack at goal herself from outside the box, but the shot went just over the ball. A minute later, Marta was fouled yet again, this time in a decent area from distance. Angelina lobbed the free kick over the Kansas City defense, but Franch was there to catch it.

The Pride finally broke through in the 37th minute. Adriana found a nice pocket of space between Kansas City defenders and Marta found her fellow Brazilian with a nice pass. Adriana didn’t take long to shoot and it never had a chance at going in, but it did deflect off of Elizabeth Ball and Banda was there to jump on the opportunity. The Zambian forward was on it in an instant and beat Franch to give the Pride the lead.

It was Banda’s 12th goal in what has been a fantastic first season in Orlando. With that goal, she took the lead in the NWSL Golden Boot race as well.

That lead, both for the Pride and Banda, lasted all of two minutes. Chawinga bested Lawrence and was then off to the races, dribbling through Orlando’s defense and putting her shot past Moorhouse for the equalizer in the 39th minute. It was Chawinga’s 12th goal of the season as well.

The game wasn’t done changing though, as Lawrence received her second yellow card in the 42nd minute and was sent off. Lawrence had been defending Chawinga yet again and left her feet to tackle the forward from behind, leaving the Pride with just 10 players for the remainder of the match. Even though halftime was looming, Seb Hines immediately made a change with his first substitution in the 44th minute, bringing off Doyle to add another defender in Rafaelle. Hines has spoken often about the importance of goals right before halftime, so it made sense for him to bring on Rafaelle immediately to prevent conceding a late, first-half goal.

Chawinga nearly had her brace in the 46th minute after a nice first touch to beat Sams and set up a shot. Moorhouse redeemed herself with a phenomenal diving save to nudge the curling shot just wide and out for a corner. While she had some worrying moments in this match, this save was one of Moorhouse’s best of the season.

Although down a player, the Pride didn’t stop pushing for a goal offensively to close out the first half. However, despite a flurry of corner kicks from Orlando, the first half ended with the game tied 1-1 and the Pride at a disadvantage due to Lawrence’s exit.

The Pride had more possession (53%-47%), shots (7-6), shots on target (5-4), corner kicks (4-1),and crosses (9-8). The Pride also completed 76% of their passes, while the Current were successful on 72% of theirs.

Hines made another change at halftime, replacing Yates with McCutcheon in the midfield.

It didn’t take long into the second half for Marta to be fouled again, with Lo’eau LaBonta receiving a yellow card this time. The medical team came out as she stayed down, but Marta was ultimately able to continue.

It was hard to tell that the Pride were down a player at times, as Banda and Marta required plenty of attention from the Current and the team remained organized and consistent with its pressure. This wasn’t the first time the Pride have played well after a red card this season and it showed.

“You have to manage those moments. You have to not find excuses,” Hines said. “It could have been very easy to give up and say, ‘You know what, we’re playing the top of the table tonight at their grounds, we’re down to 10 players.’ That could have been your excuse, but we’re not like that. That’s not the attitude. That’s not the character that we have in this group. They embrace it. They use it as fuel. Even when things are going against them, they step up and have great attitudes throughout the whole game.”

Adriana, Banda, and Marta all had their shots blocked in a barrage of chances for Orlando in the 51st minute, earning a corner for their efforts. That corner was cleared by the Current and Chawinga was wreaking havoc at the other end in a flash. Her cross skipped in front of goal, but Moorhouse collected it before the Current could capitalize. In the 55th minute, Chawinga sent a shot directly at Moorhouse. The goalkeeper couldn’t handle it, but her back line was able to clear away the danger during the panic.

Kansas City Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski made his first substitution in the 56th minute, bringing in Bayley Feist for Lavogez. In the 57th minute, Hailie Mace was shown a yellow card for yet another foul against Marta.

Things took an unexpected turn in the 60th minute. Sams came up with another important tackle to spark a counterattack that sent Banda downfield in a hurry. The forward dribbled towards the box and then slipped a nice pass in to tee up a shot for Adriana. The Brazilian’s first shot was blocked, and she rushed to poke at the rebound, getting fouled by Franch in the process. Franch was shown a yellow card while Adriana remained down and the Pride were awarded a penalty. Marta took it and beat Franch to give Orlando an unlikely lead while down a player on the road. Purists may say her penalty kick was too driven to be a panenka, but it was crafty, deceptive, and wound up in the back of the net all the same.

The goal showcased Orlando’s commitment to keep attacking for a winner despite being a player down in the second half.

“It didn’t change,” Hines said in regards to the team’s game plan after the red card. “We came into this game with the intention that we wanted to win. Whether we have 10 players or 11 players, it doesn’t matter. We always feel like there’s an opportunity for us to win.”

Chasing a result, Feist had a shot from distance in the 66th minute. It took a deflection, but Moorhouse was able to make the save without any trouble. Hutton had a shot from distance in the 68th minute, but it went over the crossbar. The Pride’s defense did a great job limiting the Current to tougher shooting opportunities and pressed when needed to stop Kansas City from gaining momentum.

Hines then added some fresher legs with a pair of substitutions in the 69th minute, with Cori Dyke and Ally Watt replacing Adriana and Angelina. Watt did fairly well when defending and applying pressure, although she did concede a foul in the 74th minute that gave the Current a free kick in a dangerous area. Debinha is lethal from set piece situations, but the Pride’s wall did its job to stop the shot.

Banda had a chance to expand Orlando’s lead in the 80th minute, but Franch managed an impressive kick save to deny her. She had another chance in the 84th minute while surrounded by Kansas City players, but her shot went wide.

Andonovski made another change in the 85th minute, with Brazilian defender Lauren coming on for Ball. The Current started to pick up the pace, creating better opportunities as the game neared its end. Feist had a shot from distance that went over the bar like many others, but it wasn’t off by much.

Hines responded by bringing in another defender, with Bri Martinez coming off the bench for Marta to help see out the match. Moorhouse came up with another big save in stoppage time against Ellie Wheeler after the ball took a weird bounce off of Abello. The Current were relentless, but the Pride proved why they have the best defense in the league.

“I think it says so much about our mentality,” Abello said after the match. “Going a player down obviously isn’t the best situation, but you can still get points. We’ve played some of our better football when we’re a player down. We still found the spaces. We still played well. It’s all about making good decisions and just being gritty in the defensive third.”

Mace had a shot with plenty of heat on it that went just off target and Chawinga put a header wide of goal in the final moments in the Current’s best chances of an onslaught of attacks successfully endured by the Pride. The final whistle blew after a little over 10 minutes of stoppage time and the Pride claimed all three points on the road.

Lawrence’s red card shifted things as far as statistics go, but it was far from one-sided, as the Current finished with more possession (57%-43%), shots (23-15), shots on target (13-11), and crosses (26-11). The Current also completed 74% of their passes while the Pride completed 68% of theirs. Both teams had five corner kicks. Moorhouse finished the game with seven saves, and Franch ended up with three.

“We showed so much character, so much heart,” Strom said. “To be honest, even when we went a man down, we were never in doubt. We knew we could win this game. From the beginning of this year, we knew we had something special with this team and we just proved it.”

There was plenty of attention on this match as it pitted the league’s two previously undefeated sides against each other for the first time this season. It was the most impressive result yet for a team that has far exceeded expectations this season. Seb Hines has spoken often this year about the team’s tenacity and this match was a testament to the work the Pride have put in to reach the top of the table.

“To go down to 10 players so early in the game and show the character that we’ve been talking about all season long is just incredible,” Hines said. “To come into this environment, we knew that was going to be a tough game. Same amount of points, same amount of wins, same amount of ties, there was nothing between us going into this game. I think we showed our character, our personality.”

The win gives the Orlando Pride sole possession of first place in the NWSL standings after 16 games. They are in a great spot as the league takes a break for the Olympics and the Summer Cup. Marta, Adriana, Rafaelle, Angelina, Banda, and Grace Chanda will all be in Paris for the tournament.

The Pride’s next game will come in the group stage of the inaugural NWSL X Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup when they take on the North Carolina Courage on July 20. Their next NWSL match isn’t until Aug. 23, when they face the Houston Dash on the road.

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