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2018 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Rachel Hill

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A lot — perhaps too much — was expected from Rachel Hill entering the 2018 NWSL season. The University of Connecticut product had come off a promising rookie season in which she scored three goals and assisted on another in just 14 games (eight starts). That was followed with a standout season in the Australian W-League, where Hill played lights out for Perth Glory over the NWSL off-season, scoring the third-most goals (9) in the league and leading all players in assists (6).

Maybe it was an unfair expectation, but it seemed like Hill would slot into the forward line next to Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux to form one of the most dynamic attacking trios the NWSL had ever seen. That obviously isn’t what happened in 2018.

Acquired in January of 2017 for two draft picks — a first and a fourth in 2018 — from the Portland Thorns, Hill entered her second season with Orlando this spring. A nagging groin injury came back with her from Oz, and it cropped up throughout the season, limiting Hill’s minutes and effectiveness. It forced her to completely miss the April 15 match against Portland and the June 3 meeting with Seattle.

Statistical Breakdown

After starting eight matches and appearing in 14 over the course of her rookie season, Hill played in 21 games in 2018, but started just seven. Her minutes rose from 713 last year, but only to 813 this season, despite playing in seven additional games. Hill scored four goals, tying for third best on the team with Marta and Chioma Ubogagu, but did not record an assist on the season.

She shot 20 times (10 on target), completed 67% of her passes, attempted 35 crosses, made just two clearances, committed 16 fouls while drawing only four, and saw her first NWSL yellow card. Some of those numbers track well based on slightly increased minutes, but her passing accuracy dropping 5% and her drawing six fewer free kicks in 100 more minutes is a bit troubling.

Best Game

Hill’s best game came in a 20-minute spurt of play off the bench on May 2 in a 2-0 road win over the Chicago Red Stars. She came on for Leroux and brought the energy off the bench that she’s been known for in her brief professional career, firing three shots — all on goal — including this nifty move to clear Alyssa Naeher and slot home a late insurance goal.

Although she didn’t have a great passing night (43%), she only attempted seven in her limited time on the pitch. But she was a difference maker the entire time she was on the field and that’s something we can’t say about all of her performances in 2018, particularly the starts, where she tended to have trouble finding her way into the match.

2018 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Hill a 5.5 for her second season, a full point down from 2017. Maybe we expected too much from her or maybe the groin injury forced Tom Sermanni to manage her minutes more carefully, preventing her from finding a groove in 2018.

It seemed there were two Rachel Hills on the Pride — the one who came off the bench to provide good energy and dangerous scoring chances late in games, and the one who started matches and never seemed to quite have the same impact on the game over longer stretches as she did when coming on to add some late offense.

Hill will need to produce more as a starter to earn more minutes moving forward and prove she can do more than be a super sub in the NWSL. She’s shown an ability to produce as a starter with Perth Glory, and she’ll need to bring that back to the U.S. with her after she once again returns from Australia. She must also continue to get stronger and be more physical. At times she would be satisfied getting to the end line and if nothing was there, boot the ball off the fullback to try to win a corner. Adding some new moves to try to work her way around the fullback would be a great asset, especially when she comes off the bench and can use her speed against the more tired opponent.

2019 Outlook

After having her option exercised by the club last October, I’m not sure if Hill is out of contract or if there’s another option year. We should hear more about contract situations with the Pride in the coming weeks, but without a coach in place it is difficult to predict who will stay and who will look elsewhere.

This is a young player the club should absolutely bring back. Hill has tremendous upside. She’s shown she can be a proven goal scorer and also set up goals in the Australian league, although being Sam Kerr’s teammate no doubt helps a lot, especially with the latter. Her time with the U-23 USWNT shows she can produce at the international level as well.

Last year, I wrote this in Hill’s season in review grade:

If Hill can continue to develop in Australia and carry that form into the NWSL in 2018, she could give a huge boost to an offense that already was the league’s best, although it will be without Camila for a portion of the 2018 season.

I expected a big leap in 2018 that didn’t come, but that could be related to whatever malaise affected the entire team and it could be due in part to her injury. I’ll hold to the belief that Hill can develop into a top level player in the NWSL and she should be an important part of the Pride’s future.


Check back with The Mane Land for more Orlando Pride player season reviews.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride return home and welcome the last-place Utah Royals.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (8-0-5, 29 points) return home to face the last-place Utah Royals (2-10-1, 7 points). This is the second and final scheduled meeting between the two teams during the 2024 NWSL regular season.

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

History

The Royals first played in 2018 and 2019 before the team was purchased and relocated to Kansas City. The new owners of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake bought an expansion side, so it’s the first season the two teams have met since 2019, although this is an all-new side. The Pride are 2-3-2 against the Royals all-time, with all games coming in the NWSL regular season.

The last time the Pride met the Royals was on April 12 in Sandy, UT. Marta started on the bench and came on for Adriana in the 62nd minute. It didn’t take long for the Pride captain to make an impact, netting the game’s lone goal in the 68th minute as the visitors left the Beehive State with a 1-0 victory.

The 2019 season was the final one for the original Royals and the Pride faced this opponent three times. The first game between the teams was on April 27 and the difference was Christen Press, who netted the lone goal early in a 1-0 result. On May 25 in Utah, Amy Rodriguez opened the scoring from the penalty spot and Makenzy Doniak made it 2-0 late. The third meeting was on Aug. 17 in Orlando. Press gave the visitors the lead in the 60th minute and Rodriguez doubled the advantage late as the Royals won 2-0.

The 2018 campaign was the Royals’ inaugural season, and Orlando got the better of the newcomers, going unbeaten in three matches (1-0-2). In the 2018 season opener, Utah and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw. The Royals scored on their first chance of the game. They had an excellent spell of possession and, in the third minute, Diana Matheson put in a cross, and Gunny Jonsdottir — who later played for the Pride for two seasons in 2021 and 2022 — volleyed it into the back of the net. Marta tied things up from the spot in the 21st minute, and the game ended 1-1. 

About a month and a half later, the teams met again, playing to a 0-0 draw, this time in Rio Tinto Stadium. It was a relatively dull night with no goals and the majority of the action in the middle of the field. Both teams struggled on the attacking end. There were no shots on target in the first half and just three in the second.

While those first two matches ended in draws, the last meeting of 2018 finally saw a winner. On July 14, 2018, there was end-to-end action, and both teams saw chances in front of the net. Utah found an early goal from Rodriguez, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime. In the second half, a good through ball from Ali Krieger found Kristen Edmonds one-on-one with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith, who was caught out of position. Edmonds chipped the ball past Smith for the game-winner, and Orlando got its first-ever victory against the Royals.

Overview

The Pride enter this game after ending a two-game road trip that saw their league record eight-game win streak come to an end, but the extension of their season-opening unbeaten run to a club-record 13 games. They drew 1-1 with San Diego Wave FC and played to a scoreless draw with the North Carolina Courage, becoming the first visiting team to get points in North Carolina this season.

The two most recent games have seen the team’s defense remain strong. The Pride held a 1-0 halftime lead in San Diego and ended up conceding just once against a potent offense. The Pride backed that up by keeping the Courage — who’d won their first five home games — off the scoreboard.

In the two games prior to the North Carolina contest, Barbra Banda came off at halftime. The team’s star striker played until the 90th minute in this one, a positive going into tonight’s matchup. However, she didn’t score or create any goals against the Courage. It was the first time in nine games that Banda didn’t score a goal, assist on one, or draw a penalty.

The Royals are coming off four straight 1-0 results. The first three were losses to the Courage, Kansas City Current, and Washington Spirit. They flipped the trend on June 16 by beating fellow league newcomers Bay FC away from home.

Tonight’s opponent has struggled offensively and defensively this season. Utah is the only team in the league to have scored single-digit goals, with seven, and one of four teams with more than 20 goals conceded. The Royals’ 21 goals against are third most behind Bay FC and Seattle Reign FC, both with 25.

As you might expect from a team with only seven goals on the season, nobody has stood out as an attacking threat. Kate Del Fava and rookie Ally Sentnor lead the team with two goals each. Meanwhile, Cameron Tucker, Olivia Griffiths, and Dana Foederer have one each. Sentnor has also been the most prolific provider for Utah, recording a team-leading three assists.

Utah’s defensive unit has been much better in recent weeks. The Royals conceded multiple goals in six of their first nine games, including a season-high five goals against Racing Louisville FC on April 20. However, they’ve only given up one goal in three of their last four games and are coming off a shutout.  The recent success can be attributed to a defensive unit that’s getting used to playing together. The last three games have seen the same four in front of goalkeeper Mandy Haught, including Lauren Flynn, Ana Tejada, Del Fava, and Zoe Burns.

“We’re excited to be back at home in front of our fans,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s game. “It’s been a while, so it’s exciting. Friday night should be nice, should be good. You know, after Utah’s last result, we can’t take them for granted. We have to be on top of our game. After the game against North Carolina, we were disappointed not to come away with three points. But the performance was terrific. You know, their attitude, the commitment going into an environment like that. I am proud of them and I was really impressed with the players. So we have to continue with that same attitude, same mentality against Utah, and hopefully get a couple of goals and the three points.”

The Pride will have to win those points without several players, including Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Morgan Gautrat (concussion), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), Rafaelle (leg), and Viviana Villacorta (knee). 

Utah will be without four players for tonight’s game, including Imani Dorsey (Achilles), Olivia Griffiths (hamstring), and former Pride players Carly Nelson (excused absence) and Mikayla Cluff (foot).


Projected Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, Bri Martinez.

Defensive Midfielders: Haley McCutcheon, Angelina.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.

Forward: Barbra Banda.

Utah Royals (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Mandy Haught.

Defenders: Lauren Flynn, Ana Tejada, Kate Del Fava, Zoe Burns.

Midfielders: Dana Foederer, Amandine Henry, Frankie Tagliaferri.

Forwards: Paige Monaghan, Ally Sentnor, Brecken Mozingo.

Referees

REF: Alyssa Nichols.
AR1: Ethan Buege.
AR2: Rhett Hammil.
4TH: Russell Miller.
VAR: Laura Rodriguez.
AVAR: Kaili Terry.


How to Watch

Match Time: 8 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV: None.

Streaming: Prime Video.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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Orlando Pride

The Pride’s Favorite Hunting Ground Is the Middle of the Box

A look into the Pride’s goals in 2024 and why it is really not a riddle why so many of their goals have come from the middle.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

In my article last week I took a look at Orlando City’s offense, or lack thereof, and so this week I am going to focus on a far more pleasant topic — the undefeated Pride and where their goals have been coming from thus far this season. Let’s take a look at this heatmap (the darker the red, the more goals in comparison to other locations) that I made below, sourced from data I took from fbref.com for the distance away from the goal and from espn.com for the general location on the field for each goal:

Now, a few things you’ll notice about this heatmap:

  • The Pride have scored 19 goals themselves thus far this season (opponents have gifted them two own goals), and 16 of the 19 (84%) have been from inside the 18 and pretty much right in front of the net. The one goal from outside the 18 was a rocket from Emily Sams on May 19 at Seattle, and that too was basically from the center of the goal, just 23 yards away, so it shows up in that very pale pink stripe outside the 18-yard box.
  • Most of the goals were scored from in between the six and the 18 (average distance for those 14 goals in the dark red = 11 yards).
  • The Pride have not scored any goals on the left side of the field all season. This is interesting, because they do have several offensive players who are left-foot dominant (you may have heard of Marta, for example), but at least through 13 games, nobody has been able to get loose on the left side of the box and finish into the net.
  • The heatmap looks like it came from Microsoft Excel…because it in fact did come from Microsoft Excel. I know that there are programs and websites out there that can provide better graphics and which may have much more detailed tracking on the exact locations shots were taken. Our team at The Mane Land will happily do all the research and share what we find. All you have to do is buy us some coffees and we will invest that right into giving you the content you desire!

Being that most of the goals scored this season by the Pride have all been in that same central location, there is not a lot of suspense in looking at the leaders in goals by location. As you surely guessed, since she leads the team in goals, Barbra Banda also leads the team in goals scored in the center of the box. What I found more interesting, however, was how those goals came about.

The website fbref.com’s shot tracking, provided by Opta, includes the last two offensive actions prior to the goal for every goal scored in every match. They call these “goal creating actions,” and here are the possible actions: live-ball pass, dead-ball pass (i.e free kick), take-on (beating a player off the dribble), taking a shot, drawing a foul, and stealing/intercepting a ball while on defense. Shown below are all 16 of those goals scored in the middle of the box, listed in order from the start of the season, and what you will see is that every goal pattern is unique, highlighting the diversity of ways the Pride have put the ball into the back of the net:

  1. Pass (Live) by Amanda Allen – Goal by Summer Yates.
  2. Pass (Dead) by Angelina – Goal by Marta.
  3. Shot by Kerry Abello – Goal by Summer Yates.
  4. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Angelina.
  5. Pass (Live) by Julie Doyle – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  6. Foul Committed on Barbra Banda – Goal by Summer Yates (penalty).
  7. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Ally Watt.
  8. Pass (Live) by Ally Watt – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  9. Take-On by Barbra Banda – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  10. Pass (Live) by Emily Sams – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  11. Foul Committed on Barbra Banda – Goal by Adriana (penalty).
  12. Pass (Live) by Marta – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  13. Shot by Haley McCutcheon – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  14. Shot by Rafaelle – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  15. Take-On by Barbra Banda – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  16. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Julie Doyle.

While there are no goal patterns that have emerged yet for the location on the field where the Pride score the most goals, there is a name that jumps off the page when you look at that list — the aforementioned leading goal scorer, Barbra Banda. The Zambian is clearly far more than just a clinical finisher, though. She also drew two fouls that led to penalties, took on and beat two defenders to give herself openings to score, and also played three passes in open play for goals, including the most recent goal scored by the Pride — a Julie Doyle volley on a beautiful cross from Banda.

For the season, Banda is third in NWSL in total goal creating actions with 10, and first in goal creating actions per 90 minutes (GCA90) with 1.39, a value that is more than double the player currently in eighth (let me repeat, she is averaging more than double the person ranked in eighth!) place in the NWSL. Her GCA90 of 1.39 is also 16% higher than that of Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, who finished ranked first in England’s Women’s Super League last season with a GCA90 of 1.2. This article was not originally intended to be a Banda lovefest, but it is quite difficult to write about the Orlando Pride’s offensive success without a brief trip down the middle of the rabbit hole to look at just how good she has been this season.

Channeling my inner yoga instructor and returning us to center, the last piece to look at around the Pride’s goal scoring is to look at their shot locations and how they are doing from all sections on the field. The side-by-side heatmaps below use different colorings. The left heatmap shades from white to red as the total shots taken increases, and the right heatmap is styled more as hot/cold, with low percentages of success being blue and high percentages of success (read: goals) turning red.

I expect that were we to look at the heatmaps of most soccer teams, they would all likely look very similar to the Pride’s heatmaps above. It is highly likely that teams will try to shoot most frequently from the middle of the areas closest to the goal, and it is highly likely as well that they will achieve higher percentages of success from shots in the middle of the field and close to the goal. Just like teams in the NBA have identified that corner 3-point shots and shots in the paint are the primary places that they want to look for their shots, most soccer teams are game-planning their offenses around creating shots right smack in the middle of the 18.

Opposing teams know this, of course, and that is where the battle of wills and wits comes into play that we love watching so much. So far this season, the Pride have clearly been winning these battles, as evidenced by the fact that even though defenses are trying to stop them, they have still managed to take 76 of their 195 shots (39%) from the most dangerous spots on the field and have scored 16 goals on those shots, a conversion rate of 21%.

If they keep up their current goal-scoring pace the 2024 Pride are on pace to surpass their total goals scored from 2023 (27 goals) within the next 4 games, and they have an outside chance to score the most goals of any Pride team ever (current leader = 2017 Pride with 45 goals) if they can slightly increase their goals/game rate during the second half of the season. I think they have a legit chance to do this, and if they do I expect it will be because they continue to excel at pouncing on the opportunities they create in the center of the box.

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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final score 0-0 as the Pride Remain Unbeaten

The Orlando Pride remain undefeated after taking a road point against the North Carolina Courage.

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Photo Courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

It wasn’t the result that the Orlando Pride wanted, but the team remains unbeaten in 2024 after a 0-0 draw against the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park. Orlando (8-0-5, 29 points) had plenty of chances but was unable to score a goal for the first time this season. The Pride were the first team this year to take any points away on the road against North Carolina (5-7-1, 16 points), which is now 5-0-1 at WakeMed Soccer Park in 2024.

The Pride had an opportunity to go top of the table as the Kansas City Current drew the Chicago Red Stars Friday, but the 0-0 draw wasn’t enough to do so. This was first time the Pride were shut out since September 9, 2023 on the road against OL Reign. Halfway through this season, the Pride are only two points shy of their point total from 2023.

“The positives are, you know, a point on the road, (which) it’s probably something we would have taken before the game,” Hines said. “No other team has done that against North Carolina. Clean sheet as well. It’s really important that we get that going as well. But, I think after the game it’s a bittersweet taste in our mouths because we thought that we played really well.”

Brianna Martinez echoed Hines’ comments.

“We’re proud to be the first team to kind of give them a tough game at home but also disappointed, because I think we know we could have beat them and walked away with three (points),” the defender said. “Our effort was there, just technically it could have been a little bit better if we kept the ball.”

Hines did not have a full-strength squad for the match, with starters Rafaelle and Morgan Gautrat out with injuries. Anna Moorhouse started in goal behind a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Brianna Martinez. The midfield in the 4-4-2 consisted of Adriana, Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, and Haley McCutcheon, with Barbra Banda and Marta up top.

After the start of the game was delayed due to field conditions, the Pride didn’t wait very long to get into the attack with a takeaway in the first minute, moving the ball up to Banda into the box, but she lost possession. The Pride got their first chance in the fourth minute as the ball was worked up the left side to Banda, who crossed it in to Marta , but the shot went right into the arms of Courage keeper Casey Murphy.

The Pride’s second shot on goal came in the seventh minute on a break that saw Banda once again cross the ball — this time to Doyle — who also sent it right at Murphy.

In the 14th minute, Yates tried to make her way into the box where she was stood up. The ball popped out to Banda, who took a shot from outside the box, but it went wide right of goal.

Doyle earned a free kick in the 15th minute, but the attempt went to Murphy again. In the 17th minute, the Pride had another free kick resulting in a corner kick. Unfortunately, Yates sent the ball over the goal and out for a goal kick.

The Courage were able to get some possession, including a ball into the box, but the Pride defense was able to clear. In the 26th minute, Martinez made a good interception but slipped, allowing the Courage to get a half chance off that was easily saved by Moorhouse.

In the 29th minute, Marta took a long-distance shot that sailed over the goal. The Pride followed that up a minute later with another shot that bounced back to Adriana, who headed it right to Murphy. In the 32nd minute, Adriana made her way into the box and crossed for Marta on the back post, but her header went wide left.

The Courage got their first good chance in the 33rd minute when Ashley Sanchez beat Martinez to the ball in the box, but Moorhouse did well to come out, get big, and make the save. The resulting corner kick was headed out by the Courage for a goal kick.

The Courage got behind the Pride defense in the 38th minute. Sanchez took a shot at the top of the box, but it sailed high. One minute later, Narumi Miura took a long-distance shot that went left of goal.

In the 42nd minute, Marta took another shot on goal from outside the box, but again it went right to Murphy. After that, both teams saw out the half with no stoppage time given.

North Carolina held the halftime edge in possession (54%-46%), shots (7-6), and passing accuracy (83%-80%). Despite one fewer shot, the Pride had more shots on target (3-2), with the corners being equal (1-1).

The Courage came out on the front foot to start the second half, but it was the Pride that got the first shot. Once again, Banda muscled her way into the box, but she was unable to get the shot off. The ball bounced out to Marta at the top of the box, but her shot went wide right.

In the 48th minute, Banda again made her way forward, this time earning a free kick when she was fouled from behind. The kick went into the wall and then out for a corner kick. Unfortunately, there was a foul in the box on the set piece and the opportunity went to waste.

The Courage had a few opportunities in the 55th minute, but nothing on goal. In the 58th minute, Moorhouse came out to make a sliding save where a Courage player rammed her. There was no foul called on the play, and the Courage continued the attack. Fortunately, Sams and the rest of the defense kept the Courage out of goal. After some attention from the trainers, Moorhouse continued.

In the 67th minute, Abello earned a corner that was taken by Marta, but nothing came of it. Two minutes later, Doyle made her way into the box and crossed to Adriana, but her shot didn’t have much on it and was handled easily by Murphy.

In the 72nd minute Adriana took a shot that deflected off the defense and out for a corner. The resulting corner kick was cleared. Two minutes later, Hines makes his first substitutions, including Angelina returning from injury.

“I just want to thank the staff and my teammates. They were there for me the whole way,” Angelina said. “It was like five weeks to get back on the field. I just feel great (and) they gave me great support through my injury.”

In the 77th minute, McCutcheon committed a foul resulting in a free kick for Carolina. Moorhouse punched the ball out. The Courage continued to create trouble in the Pride’s area, but were unable to convert.

Banda took another shot in the 80th minute, but it went wide right. Five minutes later she sent a cross to Adriana, but the Brazilian’s shot was blocked. The resulting corner amounted to nothing, despite a few shot attempts. Banda made another run in the 88th minute, but her shot attempt went high. She was subbed out in the 89th minute for Amanda Allen.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Marta took another shot that was deflected out for a corner. The video assistant referee took a look at the play for a potential handball, but it was cleared. Murphy collected the corner kick, as the Pride wasted another chance.

Six minutes of stoppage time turned into nine minutes. The Pride had a flurry of chances but didn’t score. In the last minute of play the Courage earned a corner, but Moorhouse made one more save as time expired, and the teams split the points.

The Pride made up ground on the stat sheet, finishing with the advantage in possession (51%-49%), shots (19-14), corners (6-2), and passing accuracy (80%-77%). Shots on target were even (5-5).

The lack of clinical finishing is not normal for this Pride team. Even Banda wasn’t dialed in against the Courage. Given how stingy the Courage are at home, and how back and forth the match was, a point on the road is acceptable if not ideal.


The Pride are back home on Friday to host the Utah Royals at Inter&Co Stadium.

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