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Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns FC: Final Score 2-0 as Pride Drop More Critical Points

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The Orlando Pride dropped more crucial points at home, falling 2-0 to the Portland Thorns in a match with heavy playoff implications in front of an announced crowd of 6,012 at Orlando City Stadium. The Thorns (9-6-5, 32 points) came out of the locker room on fire to start the second half, getting goals from Lindsey Horan and Hayley Raso and went on to take three vital points to jump ahead of Orlando (8-7-6, 30 points) with a game in hand.

With just three regular-season games left, the Pride fall to fourth place, just a point ahead of Chicago, which has two games in hand.

“The second half it looked like we put a different team out on the park — same bodies but a different team — on the field and the game was over within seven minutes,” said Head Coach Tom Sermanni after the match. “In reality, we were luck to get away two-nil at the end. And again it’s just down to our frailty.”

The overriding theme in the postgame press conference was that nobody seemed to have an answer for why the Pride played so well to start the game and then so poorly after halftime. Sermanni even quipped that maybe someone drugged the team’s water, as he had no good answer for the team’s lack of energy and commitment in the second half.

Sermanni made only minor changes to the team that drew against Sky Blue FC last weekend, inserting Shelina Zadorsky into the midfield in place of Christine Nairn and putting Alex Morgan up top for Rachel Hill.

Orlando came out strong, playing hard and forcing several early corner kicks. The Pride were getting the ball into good positions but had trouble getting shots through the Portland defense. Marta connected with a shot that went just wide in the sixth minute.

The first good Portland chance came off a mistake by Alanna Kennedy who didn’t get enough oomph on her back pass for Ashlyn Harris. Raso, Kennedy’s Australian international teammate, picked off the pass and hit the near post with her shot in the 17th minute.

A minute later, Kristen Edmonds took the first of several heavy challenges she suffered in the first half and the Pride were given a free kick just to the right of the penalty area. Adrianna Franch got a hand on Marta’s delivery to keep the game scoreless.

A few minutes later, Dani Weatherholt and Edmonds fizzed a couple of crosses through the box but no one could get onto them.

The Thorns started coming into the game more as the first half wore on, earning a few corners of their own. One fell dangerously in the box but Portland was whistled for a foul before anyone could pounce on it and Christine Sinclair was booked for fouling Morgan.

The Pride got a flurry of chances just past the half hour mark, but Marta and Weatherholt fired right at Franch and Emily van Egmond sent her effort over the bar.

“We started off terrific the first 15-20 minutes, probably stretching into the first 30 minutes,” Sermanni said. “We dictated the game. The tempo was good, attacking was good, movement was good, but then we don’t score.”

In the 37th minute, Raso again hit the woodwork, this time firing a cross that Harris couldn’t reach but it found the crossbar. Harris made a save on a header by Ana Maria Crnogorcevic in the 41st minute, which was fortunate, because the flag never came up although she appeared to be offside.

Van Egmond fired a shot that Franch grabbed in stoppage time and the whistle blew on a tense first half. Orlando led in shots, 9-5 (3-1 on target), but Portland ended up with 58% of the possession and the better passing accuracy (78%-70%).

It didn’t take the Thorns long to pounce after the interval. Portland earned a corner right out of the break and made the most of it. The short corner was played back to Heath, who crossed it in and the ball went through a lot of traffic in the box before it found its way to Horan for the tap-in just two minutes into the second period.

Meghan Klingenberg sent a cross in for Crnogorcevic in the 48th minute but the Portland attacker collided with Harris and a foul was given. Four minutes later, Chioma Ubogagu tried to clear a ball at the top of the box but it was blocked and Heath slipped it to Sinclair, who fired just wide.

A minute later, the Thorns doubled the lead. Sinclair won a ball in traffic and Crnogorcevic nodded it to Raso, who blazed by half the Pride defense and beat Harris to make it 2-0 in the 53rd minute.

The second goal took a lot of steam out of the Pride. Sermanni put Camila and Hill into the game to try to find a spark, but Orlando just didn’t look a threat at all in the second half and could barely keep any possession.

“The first seven minutes of the second half our defending is embarrassing,” Sermanni said. “A lack of willingness to just simply defend is just so poor. And then we go into a malaise where nobody seems to be able to get the team, pick them up, and get us back in the game. To be honest for most of that second half performance, I apologize to the crowd for coming and keeping supporting us because our team on the field didn’t deserve that support in the second half. It was extremely poor.”

Marta sent a shot through traffic that hit van Egmond in the 63rd minute and it nearly fooled Franch, who made a diving save. That was the Pride’s best opportunity of the half. Portland controlled the ball and kept the Pride hemmed in their own half throughout the second half, making any comeback attempt impossible.

Marta did get a late opportunity to find a consolation goal in the 89th minute when she smashed a shot on target from a severe angle but Franch got her fingertips to it and kept it out. After just two minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew and Orlando had fallen in a critical battle for playoff positioning.

Portland ended up winning just about all the statistical categories, including shots, 17-13, although the Pride had a 6-3 advantage in shots on target. The Thorns held 60% of the possession and a 77%-66% edge in passing accuracy.

“Tonight was a difficult one, clearly,” Harris said. “It was an important three points. It’s unfortunate. It’s heartbreaking. I thought we had a great 45 minutes and then we had a really poor 45 minutes. We made things, looking ahead, now tough on ourselves. This is the path we chose so we’ve got to deal with it and we’ve got to move on.”


It doesn’t get any easier for the Pride, as next up is a trip to Shield-winning North Carolina next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage: Three Keys to Victory

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

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

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

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

Shut Down the Courage

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

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

More Better Moorhouse

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

Help Banda to Help You

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


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

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Orlando Pride Summer Transfer Window: Notable Free Agents

A look at the Pride’s roster and which players could solidify Orlando’s title aspirations by joining this summer.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride are now 12 matches into the 2024 NWSL season, and they are performing at or near the highest levels seen in the club’s history. The Pride continue to pace the league, tied for first with the Kansas City Current, but continuous improvement is required to stay at the top. 

After the record-setting victory against the Portland Thorns, Marta summed up what it means to be top of the table, “we now look behind and see everyone running after us, so we just need to run [faster].”

The hard work of Orlando’s squad and coaching staff is showing on the field. Behind the scenes, Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter is closely monitoring the contract situations of the top players in Europe as many seasons abroad come to a close. On that front, Carter and staff have hit the ground running this summer by securing the signature of Grace Chanda, a highly-talented Zambian attacking midfielder meant to add new dimensions to the Pride in front of goal. Even after this signing, there may be room on the roster within the salary cap to add more talent to this squad.

Current Roster and Rules

The NWSL has three key limits on roster construction by which each team must abide. The first is the salary cap, which sits at $2.75 million for 2024, double the limit from the year prior. Unfortunately, NWSL salary details are not typically reported publicly. One salary that is known is that of Barbra Banda, who earns a $525,000 annual salary after she arrived on the second-largest transfer fee in league history. Despite her price tag, the increased cap space from 2023 should leave additional room to add more top players to the roster. 

The second rule is that each team was given seven international roster slots at the beginning of 2024. The Pride gained an additional slot in a trade with Utah Royals FC that included Carly Nelson, bringing their total to eight. Six of these slots are currently occupied by Luana, Amanda Allen, Barbra Banda, Grace Chanda, Evelina Duljan, and Sofia Manner, leaving the Pride with two slots remaining. 

Lastly, the Pride are allowed 26 players on their active roster, a category that excludes certain players such as those with a season-ending injury (SEI). Of the 30 players on Orlando’s roster, four — Luana, Simone Charley, Megan Montefusco, and Viviana Villacorta — are on the SEI list. In the case of Villacorta, club training videos posted to social media hint that Pride fans might not have to wait too long for her return to action. 

Regardless of the seemingly full roster today, Carter and staff do have levers at their disposal to create room in the squad. They may choose to loan out players in need of minutes or mutually agree to terminate the contracts of players not in the club’s current or long-term plans.

Available Free Agents and Potential Roles

Because the Pride are playing so well, it is especially tricky to find the right players to sign to add depth or upgrade a starting role. However, there are a few areas that the club could target. Listed below are several high-profile, out-of-contract players that fit these roles.

Laura Freigang – Forward

The Orlando Pride attack is currently performing at a high level, and Banda is a big reason why. Since her debut, she has scored, assisted, or drawn a penalty for 13 of the Pride’s last 15 goals. However, there has been a lack of production when Banda is not on the pitch, as Sean Rollins recently wrote. Adriana has typically been an attacking focal point for the Pride, but she has been hampered by knocks and fitness this season. To make Orlando’s attack more resilient to these absences, someone like Laura Freigang would add more goal-scoring depth to the front line and help carry the load.

Freigang is a 26-year-old German international with 27 caps to her name. For the past four seasons, she has starred for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Frauen-Bundesliga, where she scored 48 times and assisted 15 times in 82 career appearances. She pairs these creation numbers with a 76.4% pass completion percentage, making her one of the better all-around forwards in Europe.

Prior to her time in Frankfurt, she played collegiately for Penn State, sharing an alma mater with current Pride players Kerry Abello and Cori Dyke. This familiarity with the U.S., as well as the increased finances available to NWSL clubs, can make playing in the States an appealing option for Freigang, as well as other players abroad. 

Julia Grosso – Attacking Midfielder

Orlando has played in a handful of different formations so far this season, sometimes to maximize a weakness that Head Coach Seb Hines sees in the opposition, and sometimes to cover gaps created by injury. The midfield has been the area of the pitch that has had to deal with the most absences, namely Luana’s season-ending illness and Angelina’s ongoing recovery from a knee injury. 

As mentioned above, the Pride have already signed Chanda to add depth and versatility to the midfield. From the club’s comments when she signed, it is obvious they view her as a gifted attacker that can cover multiple positions. If the Pride do not feel they are done reinforcing the midfield, they may take a long look at Julia Grosso.

Grosso is a 23-year-old Canadian who has just completed a three-year stint at Juventus in Italy, the same club from which the Pride signed Duljan. At Juventus, Grosso featured in 50 matches, scoring nine times. Despite her young age, she already has 63 appearances for Canada, but has fallen down the pecking order as of late and there have been rumors of her moving to the NWSL to be closer to home and national team scouts. 

Grosso’s passing and goal-scoring numbers are among the top for midfielders in Europe, though her defensive metrics show a player that prefers to join the attack. This profile could make her a different and intriguing option for Pride staff, depending on how they view the evolution of the midfield and the role of Chanda.

Lucy Bronze – Right Back

The Pride could improve their midfield depth in an unexpected way, by signing a new defender. In recent weeks, Hines has solved the issue of Orlando’s injured midfielders by pulling Haley McCutcheon from right back to defensive midfield and moving each member of the back line one position to the right to cover. This game of dominoes could be avoided altogether by adding another starting caliber right back and moving McCutcheon to the midfield on a more permanent basis. This could also shift the back line back to the left one space, allowing Abello to move forward.

One of the most exciting players in the world, Lucy Bronze, is out of contract at Barcelona and could be available, although she is sure to have many clubs interested in signing her. The 32-year-old English international was voted Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020. For Barcelona, Bronze won just about every trophy possible in the past two seasons, including each of the last two UEFA Women’s Champions League, Liga F, and Spanish Supercopa trophies, as well as the most recent Copa de la Reina.

Despite all of the success, Barcelona is struggling to afford contract renewals for their top players, the same issue plaguing Barcelona’s men’s team. It is already rumored that U.S.-based clubs are interested in Bronze’s signature if she does not renew. Given that she could start for almost any club in the world, the Pride should do what they can to jump the queue for Bronze.

Sandra Panos – Goalkeeper

The last role that Orlando may consider adding is an additional goalkeeper to compete with Anna Moorhouse. While Moorhouse boasts four clean sheets and a 76% save percentage, she has been error prone in her time in Orlando, leading to crucial dropped points. 

In the winter window, the Pride signed Sofia Manner to the goalkeeper position, stating they “expect [her] to challenge for the starting position,” but she has yet to make an appearance for the club. McKinley Crone has been the bench option. Manner and Crone are on one-year deals, club options notwithstanding, so the goalkeeper position is one that will need attention soon.

It just so happens that another great Barcelona player is available due to the team’s financial constraints. To truly elevate Orlando’s goalkeeping core, 31-year-old Sandra Panos would be an excellent addition. Panos spent the last nine seasons in Catalonia, but local reports have hinted at interest from teams in the U.S., England, and Mexico. Similar to Bronze, a player of this caliber cannot be ignored when they are available. It just remains to be seen if a top club in the NWSL can entice the Spanish international to cross the Atlantic for a new opportunity.

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Orlando Pride Need Goal Production When Barbra Banda is Off the Field

Barbra Banda has been a goal-scoring machine, but the Pride need an alternative when she’s not on the field.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride made waves in the women’s game when they signed Zambia international striker Barbra Banda from Chinese Women’s Super League club Shanghai Shengli. It’s been an incredibly successful acquisition with Banda immediately becoming one of the most impactful players in the NWSL. However, the club needs to figure out how to succeed without her contributions as well.

Following the 2021 NWSL season, the Pride began a complete rebuild under former general manager Ian Fleming. Using the Washington Spirit as a model, they traded stars like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger for draft picks and Allocation Money. While the moves caused frustration among the team’s fanbase, the club used the money to acquire Brazilian international Adriana, re-sign club captain Marta, and sign Banda.

The deal for Banda came close to breaking records. The $740,000 transfer fee is the second highest in the history of the women’s game. A move like that — along with her international scoring record — comes with enormous expectations and, so far, Banda has lived up to the hype.

It took some time for Banda to arrive in Orlando because the signing came while she was taking part in Olympic qualifying for Zambia. Once she arrived, the goal contributions began. She made her debut on April 19, coming on in the 61st minute for Ally Watt. While she didn’t score in her debut, she looked dangerous and the goals soon came.

The Pride have scored 15 goals in the last seven games and Banda has been part of 14. This includes eight goals, three assists, two penalties drawn, and a goal following the blocking of one of her shots. The only goal she wasn’t directly part of was Emily Sams’ opener against the Seattle Reign on May 19. However, she had a brace in that game.

To say that the Banda signing has been a successful one would be an understatement. While the Pride were a playoff caliber team without her — they narrowly missed the postseason last year — the striker’s addition makes them arguably the best team in the league. But her success this season also raises some questions about the rest of the squad.

It’s incredibly rare that a field player plays every minute of every game. That’s even more so for an attacking player that runs as much as Banda during games. Players need rest to avoid overuse and possibly seeing a dip in form later in the season. This is one of the reasons why Banda was taken off at halftime against San Diego Wave FC Friday night.

The Pride have scored multiple goals in five games this season. They netted two late in the season opener against Racing Louisville FC, before Banda’s arrival. The other four have been in Banda starts and she’s contributed to all but one of those goals. Clearly she had a significant impact on the team’s ability to score, so what happens when she’s not on the field?

Prior to May 24 against the Portland Thorns, Banda had played over 80 minutes in all of her starts for the Pride. The two most recent games she’s been replaced at halftime. In the first one, she had already netted a first-half brace and the Pride had a commanding 2-0 lead at home. However, they were only leading by a goal in San Diego when she was replaced by Marta.

The absence of Banda on the field was apparent Friday night. San Diego had chances in the first half, but the Pride created problems for the Wave’s back line throughout the first 45 minutes. After recording six shots in the first half, they only had three in the second. Makenzy Doniak equalized in the 62nd minute and, despite losing the lead, the Pride still looked lifeless in the attack. That leads to the question of whether the Pride can find goals without their star striker.

The most obvious go-to player when Banda is off the field is Watt. The speedster is the only other striker to play significant minutes this season, but she’s only scored once this year. Other than Banda, the only Pride players with multiple goals are Summer Yates (3), Julie Doyle (2), and Marta (2).

While no other players come close to Banda’s goal production, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Several players contribute to goals, which can cause problems for opposing defenses. The bigger problem is that the Pride aren’t converting when Banda isn’t on the field. That’s not a concern when Banda comes off in the final minutes with a multi-goal lead. However, the Pride have been in one-goal games without the striker in the last two matches and been unable to score a goal that would put the game away.

When Banda is on the field, she’s the go-to attacker, a large reason why she has a league-leading eight goals this year. The Pride need to find a dependable goal scorer when the striker isn’t on the field. Potential goal scorers can be overlooked when a player like Banda is scoring at the rate she has this season, but those players should show up when she’s not on the field. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening.

The Pride have had a fantastic start to the 2024 NWSL season, including a 12-game unbeaten run and a league record eight-game winning streak. Much of the success can be attributed to the play of Banda, but the Pride need to find goals when she’s not on the field. If they can figure out that last piece, they might be unstoppable.

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