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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit: Final Score 2-1 as Marta’s Late Strike Wins It



After a brief 30-minute weather delay before the match, the Orlando Pride (7-5-4, 25 points) broke their two-game losing streak by beating the Washington Spirit (2-10-4, 16 points), 2-1, thanks to goals by Sydney Leroux and Marta. The win moved them back up to second in the standings.

It was a match that appeared much tougher than it probably had to be as the Pride barraged the Spirit with 31 shots, 12 on target, in what can only be described as a frustrating night at finishing.

On a losing streak and about to head on a two-game road trip, everyone agreed this was a “must-win” as the Pride looked to get back to form.

“I am really proud of the players in a match that ended up being much tighter than it should have been,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the win. “We knew this going to be a must-win match and the players deserve a lot praise for coming back. We deserved that game.”

Forward Sydney Leroux, who had a goal and assist on the day echoed Tom’s words.

“Today was a must-win. That was it,” she said. “We all knew. Going down we knew we were going to come back.”

Despite Tom Sermanni’s talk of needing better chemistry, we saw a different formation from the past match against North Carolina, moving back to a 4-3-3 with Marta playing the No. 9 (for injured Alex Morgan) and Chi Ubogagu coming in on the left. Christine Nairn also picked up the start in midfield triangle, replacing Rachel Hill from the 4-4-2 last week.

Both sides were missing players as Orlando was without Danica Evans (excused absence) and Alex Morgan with a calf strain she picked up in the loss to North Carolina. Washington had a laundry list as out were Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Mallory Pugh (right PCL sprain), Arielle Ship (right ACL), and Tiffany Weimer (left knee Baker’s cyst) — all were not in the 18.

The match started quickly as both teams had opportunities in the attacking half within the first few minutes. Washington started in the first minute with a through ball that created a collision between goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Spirit winger Francisca Ordega. That collision would lead to an early substitution in the ninth minute for Ordega, as Meggie Dougherty Howard replaced her.

The Pride were all over the attack having seven shots in the first 11 minutes but they couldn't find the back of the net. Marta, Ubogagu, and Leroux all had their chances but most sailed wide or right to Spirit — former Orlando Pride — goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. The best chance found Marta rifling a shot to Bledsoe’s left, who made a great diving save from only 16 yards out.

The first half was largely played in the middle third of the field as both teams played very high lines and heavy pressure. This caused a bit of congestion in the middle of the field and neither team seemed to recognize the run or ball over the top to break either down. Rather both teams played a possession-oriented style which led to some nice combination play but a very contested first half.

In the 25th minute the Sprit finally broke through as a corner found Ashley Hatch on the six at the back post. Hatch rose over all the defenders and sent a slow header back across goal. With no defender marking that post, Harris looked like a deer in headlights as she helplessly watched it roll into the goal to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead.

The Pride took 20 more minutes to find their equalizer but did so in the first minute of first-half stoppage time. Kennedy stepped up on a pass in midfield and then found Leroux at the top of the six 1-v-1. Leroux dribbled down to the end line, cut back, and hit a near-post shot that Bledsoe probably should have had but it trickled in for a 1-1 tie at halftime.

The second half was a story of Pride domination with no payoff as they continued to pour it on the Spirit. The Pride had six shots alone in the first 15 minutes, with one of the best opportunities coming via a Pickett shot/cross that forced an awkward save at the Spirit goal line.

From there the play seemed to be nowhere else but in the Pride’s attacking half as they were all over the Spirit defense. With 18 more shots by the Pride, the Spirit were on their heels after that Pickett cross/shot. But to frustration at times, many of the shots found Bledsoe pretty easily or were sent wide.

That frustration hit its climax in the 76th minute when a phantom challenge by Camila led to what at first looked like a Dani Weatherholt goal. However, the ref called the play back after what looked like simulation by the Spirit player. Pride Assistant Coach Khano Smith wasn't pleased at all, apparently kicked a chair, and was sent off for dissent.

A corner in the the 80th minute was the Pride’s next chance at goal as Marta found midfielder Alanna Kennedy, who towered over everyone only to shake the crossbar on a great header.

Finally, the Pride found their goal and it was none other than Marta — arguably the best player on the night — who carried the ball 75 yards after Leroux found her wide open in the middle of the field. She then beat her defender twice inside the box, cutting back to her left and rifling a ball off the top of the crossbar into the back of the net for the Pride to take a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute.

The Spirit pressed for the final few minutes, getting a bit of chances in the last minute on a corner sequence that had a multitude of blocked shots and half clearances but looked more dangerous than it actually was.

Energy and determination was a common theme in the post-match press conference. The Pride played with a fire all night and it was the game plan from the start.

“It was a team mindset, we all were on the same page. We didn’t want to give them breathing room,” Leroux said. “We normally give teams space, and today we shut that down with pressure, and high press.”

“We played with aggression and determination,” Sermanni added. “We set about the game in a determined fashion. We really put the effort in and a real willingness to win. And combined it with good football.”

Sermanni, who has been looking for a more cohesive match said, “it was a complete game in a sense that we were in charge for a large part of the game, we were much more consistent. When we didn’t have the ball we were much more on the front foot. Our Achilles heel has been soft on transition and that aggressiveness paid off.”

Despite being in control for much of the match, the Pride did start off down 1-0 after multiple chances didn’t come through. But it was Marta’s leadership that often calmed the team down as she reminded her teammates that it was going to come.

“We need to learn how to play in these situations where we are down. We can’t be crazy and just put the ball on the ground and just play our game,” she said. “We will get there. We have 25 minutes, it doesn’t matter the time or the score, we have to know we can do it.”

In what was the maybe the best moment of the night, Camila saw her first action after knee surgery in October of last season when she checked into the game in the 60th minute.

“We had always intended to bring in her tonight regardless,” Sermanni said. “It’s really good that she’s come through this well and is ready for selection.”

Camila, who has had her teammates’ support for so long was excited for her first match in 2018.

“I was very happy to get the chance today,” she said. “I was anxious to play. and I came in in a tough game and I got more tired than I was used to. I was happy I could help my team to achieve this win.”

Orlando dominated statistically, out-shooting the Spirit, 31-16 (12-5 on goal) and holding 56% of the possession. The Pride out-passed the Spirit, 77%-67%.

The Pride return to action on short rest Wednesday at the Houston Dash at 8:30 p.m. ET to start a two-game road trip that also see them in Utah against the Royals next Saturday.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride have placed center back Megan Montefusco on the season-ending injury list following surgery on her right foot.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that center back Megan Montefusco has been placed on the season-ending injury list. The defender had off-season right foot surgery, performed by the club’s official medical team, to repair a long-term problem.

“This is an unfortunate situation for Megan, though we’re happy she was able to address an issue that has plagued her for some time, and we are confident she will come out of this a stronger athlete,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Our club is fully behind her and will support her throughout her rehab process, as will our amazing partners at Orlando Health. Our goal is to help Megan get back on the field as safely and smartly as possible, and we are behind her every step of the way. We look forward to seeing her back out on the pitch as soon as she is ready.”

The Pride originally acquired the defender in a trade with the Houston Dash on Jan. 28, 2022 that saw Marisa Viggiano go the other way. She was a regular starter at center back that year and through most of 2023, but lost the starting position when the club signed Brazilian international Rafaelle. Montefusco has made 45 appearances (42 starts) for 3,773 minutes in all competitions over her two seasons in Orlando, scoring one goal.

The 31 year-old signed a new contract with the Pride on June 15, 2023 through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. As one of the team’s main representatives alongside fellow center back Carrie Lawrence, Montefusco appeared at Orlando City’s preseason game against the New England Revolution, signing autographs and taking part in a question-and-answer session while wearing a walking boot.

What It Means for Orlando

This news is a bit of a blow to Orlando’s depth on the back line. Montefusco was the first center back off the bench late last year and was expected to have the same role this year. However, her absence will make room for Lawrence, who missed the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason, and Tori Hansen, who is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory FC in Australia. The duo will now compete for the third center back spot unless the club replaces Montefusco with another veteran, as the NWSL transfer window remains open.

This injury could also open up a spot for the Pride to sign 2024 second-round NWSL Draft pick Cori Dyke, who the club took at No. 22 overall out of Penn State. Dyke has experience at center back in college. She played as a central midfielder for the first four years in college, but moved to center back for her final season. Despite moving to the back line, the 2023 season was her most productive offensively, as she recorded five goals and six assists.

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Orlando Pride

Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024

What are the top five questions for the Orlando Pride heading into the 2024 NWSL season?



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride have begun their preseason training for the 2024 NWSL season and will play their first preseason scrimmage on Thursday afternoon. The team nearly made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2017, narrowly missing out on the final day of the season. The team’s been busy this off-season, looking to improve the squad. However, there are still some questions to be answered before the competitive games start.

Here are five burning questions about the Pride for 2024.

Who Will Start in Goal?

The Pride signed English goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse from French side Bordeaux on Jan. 31, 2022 to back up Erin McLeod. When the Canadian left after the 2022 season, Moorhouse was elevated to starter. She played well at times last year, but was inconsistent. However, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines showed confidence in the 28-year-old, starting her in 19 of the team’s 22 regular-season games.

In December, the Pride traded backup Carly Nelson to the Utah Royals for Allocation Money. The move came 11 days after they signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner, indicating the club was planning for the departure. While Moorhouse will undoubtedly start the season as the team’s number one, Manner could claim the position if Moorhouse’s inconsistency returns. It will be something to keep an eye on this year.

Who Will Start in the Defensive Midfield?

The Pride focused on the team’s back line last year, but much of the effort this off-season has been on the defensive midfield. The team traded for Haley McCutcheon on Aug. 18, 2022 and it appeared as though she would start in the position. However, Hines moved her to right back last year, where she’s become the regular starter. It then looked like recent draft picks Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff would be the duo, but Cluff was traded to Utah on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection and Villacorta tore her ACL late last year.

The club focused on the position this off-season, bringing in Brazilian internationals Angelina and Luana, along with USWNT player Morgan Gautrat. All three will battle to start in the defensive midfield, especially since Villacorta is injured and fellow defensive midfielders Cluff and Jordyn Listro are gone. But it’s still unknown who will start in those positions. It’s a question that will likely be answered in the coming weeks as the Pride build for the start of the regular season in March.

Where is Ally Watt Best Suited?

After tearing down the roster in a full rebuild, the Pride made two significant acquisitions in August 2022. In addition to trading for McCutcheon, the Pride dealt Allocation Money to OL Reign (now Seattle Reign FC) for forward Ally Watt. The speedy attacker quickly became the second option up top for the Pride, typically playing behind rookie Messiah Bright last year and starting the odd game. However, that’s not the only position she played.

Hines has shown he values versatility and illustrated that with Watt last year. In addition to playing up top, Watt was deployed on the right side of the midfield. Her speed and ability with the ball was an asset in the position, and she was praised by teammates in the role. They love having her on the right and Julie Doyle on the left, the two fastest players on the team. The questions now become: which position is she best at, and where does she best fit in with this team?

Who will Replace Messiah Bright?

Possibly the biggest question for the 2024 season is who will replace the starting striker. The Pride drafted Bright with the 21st overall pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft out of TCU, and she quickly became the focal point of the attack. Her six regular-season goals last year tied Adriana for the team lead. However, the forward requested a trade this off-season, citing personal reasons, and was shipped off to Angel City FC.

The club did sign Simone Charley, most recently with Angel City, who could replace Bright. However, she’s coming off a season-ending injury and wasn’t as effective in Los Angeles as she was in Portland. Other options include Canadian international Amanda Allen or Argentina international Mariana Larroquette. Watt might be the most likely to start the season up top as it stands, with Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter recently telling our SkoPurp Soccer podcast that 2024 will be “the season of Ally.” But it remains to be seen who will be the Pride’s new number nine.

Will We Discover the Pride’s New Number 10?

Marta has been the Pride’s number 10 since she arrived in 2017 and the team’s most prolific player. She leads the team all-time in appearances (102), starts (95), minutes (8,456), goals (31), and assists (18) in all competitions. However, she’s on the final year of a two-year deal that’s widely expected to be the last for the soon-to-be-38-year-old midfielder. If she does depart the club following the 2024 season, they Pride will need to find her replacement.

The club could go outside and find her replacement for 2025, but there are options in the current squad. The most talented player on the team currently is Brazilian international Adriana, who has typically played on the right side of the midfield, causing problems for defenses. She’s also switched with Marta at times, moving central, and has played there at the international level. The club also has Summer Yates, the former Washington Husky drafted in 2023. Yates slipped to the fourth round, where the Pride grabbed her, and Carter recently said she’s seen significant development in the second-year player.

While the primary focus is on this season, Hines could show his hand with who plays the most minutes behind Marta in the attacking midfield. While a final decision will probably be left to the 2025 preseason, we can get an idea of who might be in line for arguably the most significant role on the team during the 2024 campaign.

The Pride enter the 2024 season with more expectations than the last two years. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2023 and will be looking to improve this season. While most of the team is intact, there are some questions to be answered during preseason and the coming regular season. It will tell us a lot about the team’s 2024 season and the coming years.

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Orlando Pride’s Summer Yates and Amanda Allen in Line for Breakout Seasons

Summer Yates and Amanda Allen could have breakout seasons for the Pride.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride are in the third year of a full rebuild, although there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last season saw multiple young players take big steps forward in their development and this year will undoubtedly see more. Two players who currently look like they’ll play bigger roles in the team are midfielder Summer Yates and forward Amanda Allen.

Yates and Allen are two young players with bright futures that the Pride brought in during 2023. They drafted Yates out of the University of Washington with the third pick of the fourth round (39th overall) of the 2023 NWSL Draft. You usually don’t find this level of talent that late in the draft, but Yates was expected to go much higher. She began slipping through the second and third rounds, enabling the Pride to complete what could be the steal of the draft.

Rather than coming in through the draft, the Pride were able to sign Allen directly. The teenager made her way through the Canadian national team system, making her senior team debut in November 2022. She was seen as a player for the future but didn’t see much of the field last year.

It’s not a surprise to see young players in this team see significant minutes, as the Pride have focused on it over the past few seasons. It’s something that Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter spoke about with The Mane Land’s SkoPurp Soccer podcast last week. 

“I think you develop through meaningful match minutes,” Carter said on SkoPurp. “Even if you look at some of the signings that we’ve made, young athletes, you look at Amanda Allen for instance, making sure she’s getting meaningful match minutes is really important to us.”

Yates and Allen are both likely to see more minutes this year but face different situations. Yates saw more time on the field during her rookie season, making 10 league appearances and recording 108 minutes. She made a further six appearances (two starts) in the NWSL Challenge Cup for 259 minutes and recorded two assists in the competition.

The Pride signed Marta to a two-year extension following the 2022 NWSL season, so this could very well be the last year of her career. Once the star is gone, the Pride will be looking for a long-term replacement and Yates could be that player. Carter even told SkoPurp that she’s seen development in the midfielder this off-season.

“(Yates) is flying, by the way. Summer Yates is chef’s kiss flying,” Carter said. “She had an unbelievable off-season. She’s like a whole new player this year.”

The midfielder was the primary playmaker for Washington in college and played that role when she appeared for the Pride last year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her play more minutes this season, especially since the club will likely lose Adriana at times to international duty.

Allen is in a different position than Yates but might have a similar opportunity to prove herself this season. At the end of last year, she was the fourth striker on the depth chart behind Messiah Bright, Ally Watt, and Mariana Larroquette. However, Bright asked for a trade this off-season due to personal reasons and was shipped to Angel City FC. The club could still bring in a veteran striker to replace the young forward, but Carter said it’s not a major concern for the team at the moment.

“We feel like we’re in a good place,” Carter said about the striker situation. “It’s not something that we’re terribly concerned about.”

However, she also said that the club has worked at strengthening the back line and midfield positions over the past two seasons. Now it’s time to look for goal scorers that can push the team to be a contender in the NWSL.

“If you look at it from a strategy standpoint, how we’ve approached the last year, we got to improve the back line. And that’s what we did first,” Carter said. “And then the priority became the midfield. And that’s what we did in the beginning of the off-season. And now we’re looking for established goal scorers.”

Watt was the starter at the forward position last year when Bright wasn’t available or needed rest. While it’s fair to assume she would simply move up to the number one spot on the depth chart, Carter further indicated the veteran would be the team’s nine.

“I feel like this is going to be the year of Ally,” Carter said about the forward.

The Pride emphasize versatility, something they’ve shown the past few seasons. While Watt will likely be the starting forward when the season starts, she also played on the right in 2023. Following her appearances last year in the midfield, her attacking teammates gave glowing reviews about having the speed of Watt on the right and Julie Doyle on the left.

The club’s focus on Watt up top might seem like a negative for Allen’s playing time. After all, the teenager didn’t appear much last season, only making three league appearances for nine minutes. She didn’t play much more in the NWSL Challenge Cup, making three appearances, with one start, for 91 minutes.

However, Allen has two things going for her. One is that the club values providing meaningful minutes to young players and Allen is seen as part of the future of this team. It’s also not easy to find proven goal scorers. Unless the club can find a proven goal scorer by the trade and transfer deadline on April 22, Allen will move up on the depth chart.

The focus for the Pride this season is improving on last year and making the playoffs for the first time since 2017. However, they also have an eye on the future with the team still being young. Last year, we saw young players like Bright and Emily Madril prove themselves at the professional level. This year we could see Yates and Allen make a similar jump.

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