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Orlando Pride vs Washington Spirit: Final Score 1-0 as the Pride Earn First Win Since August 2019

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The Orlando Pride beat the Washington Spirit 1-0 at Exploria Stadium in NWSL Challenge Cup play for the club’s first win since Aug. 21, 2019. Alex Morgan connected with Sydney Leroux in the 10th minute of the match for the game’s only goal and Ashlyn Harris had a big game in net to lead the Pride (1-1-1, 4 points) to the victory. Washington (1-2-0, 3 points) had chance after chance in the second half, but the Pride somehow kept a shutout.

“A much better situation to sit in for a result but the best thing for me was the resiliency the group shown,” said Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner. “I don’t think at times that we were the best team. There’s a lot of pressure we had to face. What we showed tonight was the resilience that’s going to be needed for this group to win ugly. And that’s a clean sheet for the first time in a long, long time. And that’s because our goalkeeper came up big. Our defenders came up big and midfielders and our forwards. It was a whole team collective. The substitutes that came in made an impact to the group.”

Both Morgan and Gunny Jónsdóttir were included in the starting XI in their first game back from international duty. Skinner only sent out three natural defenders — Ali Riley, Phoebe McClernon, and Ali Krieger — but Jónsdóttir slotted in at right back. She got forward on the attacking end often, and the Pride looked to play more of a back three while in possession. While defending, it looked like a 4-2-3-1.

“What I love so much about Gunny, and you know not many people know this, but she was put into the position to play right back last minute, and she didn’t have any preparation whatsoever in the position,” said Harris. “But she said, ‘hey it’s football!’ And I think she took on this role incredibly and she played amazing and she always puts the team first. So, I’m really just happy with her performance coming in here and doing whatever she can for the team.”

Jade Moore, Marisa Viggiano, and Taylor Kornieck started in midfield, with Marta, Morgan, and Leroux up top.

The Pride started the match fast. In the 10th minute, Morgan stole the ball from Dorian Bailey in the middle of the field. The striker looked straight down the field and played a perfect through ball to Leroux, who took one touch to send the ball behind a diving Aubrey Bledsoe and give the Pride the 1-0 lead.

There was some drama in the 25th minute. The Spirit won a free kick, took it quickly, and scored. Washington celebrated, but the referee appeared to be talking to her assistants. The referee called the goal back after a minute and the Spirit had to take it again. Harris made an easy save on the retake. After the game, the referee stated:

“The free kick should have been a ceremonial free kick as the referee marked the spot of the ball. The whistle (mandatory when a free kick is ceremonial) was never blown to restart play when the goal was scored so the direct free kick was retaken.”

Neither team had any significant chances in the rest of the half. The Spirit struggled in possession. They held the ball well in their own areas but were sloppy in the attacking third. Trinity Rodman looked like the best player for Washington in the first half but often did not have any options.

Orlando got players forward when in possession. Often, the Pride’s front four — Leroux, Marta, Morgan, and Kornieck — were all lined up with the Washington defenders.

The halftime stats were fairly even. Washington led in shots (8-7) but both teams had two shots on target. The Spirit also had a bit more possession (53%-47%) but did not create many chances with it.

Washington came out of the break with a ton of energy in the send half. After a brief spell of Orlando possession, the Spirit continuously pressed the Pride starting about 10 minutes after the restart. They won the ball up high, and Orlando struggled to cope. Washington had six corners in the first 15 minutes of the half. Harris came up with a couple of saves, but her best was another penalty stop.

“Yeah we had a good conversation [at halftime],” said Leroux. “We thought that we needed to come out strong again. And I feel like we did and then we were kind of on our back foot for a little while. We dealt with a lot of corners and a lot of pressure. And of course, Ash made a beautiful PK save and beautiful saves throughout the game. She stood on our head for us.”

After a McClernon foul in the box, Ashley Hatch stepped up for Washington. She shot to her right, and Harris was there to deny Hatch. Harris, however, saved it with her leg and stayed down after the play. She looked to be in pain and stretched often for several minutes but was able to stay in the match. After the game, she said she fell on her knee making the save and had a dead leg for a bit that took a while to work itself out.

The Pride remained on the back foot for much of the rest of the half. The Spirit were dangerous on the attack but struggled to connect on the final ball. Orlando, meanwhile, did almost nothing on the attacking side. The Pride sent balls forward, but no one was there.

However, Orlando did get an excellent chance to double the lead shortly after Harris recovered from her injury. Marta sent an excellent pass in to Morgan in the area and she seemed certain to score with her first touch, but Bledsoe got over to make a vital diving save to keep the score at 1-0.

Harris was the key player for Orlando. She made nine saves on the night, and was the obvious choice for the Player of the Match.

There was some chaos in the dying minutes of the match. Krieger went down in the Pride’s box after a nasty fall. She looked to be in a considerable amount of pain and had to be subbed out. At the same time, the Pride quickly got down the field. Kelley O’Hara, who was issued a yellow card moments prior, got a second yellow after a foul on Morgan to break up a counter. The Spirit played stoppage down a player.

Orlando was able to hold on and get the win. It was the first win in nearly a year and a half, and just the fifth in the Skinner era. It was also just the second shutout since July 20, 2019. Orlando was out-shot by a wide margin (20-8), thanks to the strong second half from Washington. The Spirit also had more shots on goal (9-3) and more possession (52%-48%).

“It feels great,” said Harris. “I think we’re going to celebrate this and we’re going to enjoy this but come tomorrow when we wake up, it’s time to put in the work and continue building for success. And continue doing whatever it takes to put the team first and this winning mentality we want to keep pushing and moving forward.”


The Pride now have a little break. Orlando next plays on Saturday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. on the road against the North Carolina Courage to close out the NWSL Challenge Cup group stage. They need a lot of help, but the Pride are still mathematically alive to win the East.

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Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave FC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

After their first win of the season, the Pride return home to face San Diego Wave FC.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match preview as the Orlando Pride (1-0-3, 6 points) return home to face San Diego Wave FC (1-1-1, 4 points) tonight at Inter&Co Stadium. This is the first of two scheduled meetings between the teams in 2024, with the return game in San Diego scheduled for June 7.

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

History

The San Diego Wave joined the NWSL in 2022 and have only faced the Pride four times in their existence. The Pride have only lost once in those four games, posting a record of 2-1-1. The most recent meeting came on Aug. 25, 2023 in Orlando. Abby Dahlkemper gave the visitors the lead in the seventh minute before Adriana equalized just before halftime. But Kyra Carusa netted the winner in the 75th minute, giving the Pride their first loss against the Wave.

The first meeting last year was at Snapdragon Stadium on April 29 after Orlando’s 0-4-0 start to the season. It looked like it would be a fifth straight loss for the Pride when Jaedyn Shaw gave the hosts the early lead. But Adriana assisted Mikayla Cluff on the equalizer and Haley McCutcheon scored just before halftime to give the Pride the lead. Adriana later got her first goal of the season to put the game away as the Pride won 3-1.

The first-ever meeting was on Aug. 13, 2022  in San Diego. The lone goal in the game came from the penalty spot after a Julie Doyle cross hit the arm of Kaleigh Riehl in the first half. Meggie Dougherty Howard stepped up and buried the penalty. The Pride held on for 67 minutes to beat one of the top teams in the league, 1-0 away.

The second meeting was on Sept. 25 in Orlando and the Pride got off to a great start. Doughety Howard opened the scoring in the first half and Gunny Jonsdottir doubled the advantage in the second. It looked like the Pride were headed for six points out of six against the expansion side, but San Diego came storming back. Makenzy Doniak cut the lead in half and former Pride attacker Taylor Kornieck equalized late, resulting in a disappointing 2-2 draw.

Overview

The Pride got the 2024 NWSL season off to a good start, claiming three consecutive draws despite losing multiple key players. Last weekend, they traveled west of the Mississippi River for the first time as they faced the Utah Royals, who returned to the league after a four-year hiatus. The Pride were the better team throughout the 90 minutes and got a deserved winning goal when Marta struck in the 68th minute, shortly after coming on.

It’s been a tough start to the season in terms of availability for the Pride this year. They signed Zambian international Barbra Banda to replace Messiah Bright, but she has yet to play, as she was helping Zambia qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The team also lost multiple defenders, as Rafaelle was injured in the Concacaf W Gold Cup and Megan Montefusco underwent surgery to repair a long-term heel problem, ending her season before it began.

As a result of these absences, some players have had to occupy unusual positions. Left back Kylie Strom has been playing in the center alongside Emily Sams, and Kerry Abello, usually an attacking midfielder, is on the back line. The makeshift lineup has done well, only conceding multiple goals in the first game and claiming the first clean sheet of the season last weekend.

There was a bit of a scare to the attack in Utah when Adriana went down in the second half and had to be substituted. However, she’s back this weekend and expected to start tonight.

The Wave have been one of the league’s best teams since joining the NWSL in 2022. They finished third in their inaugural season and won the NWSL Shield last year. The success is largely due to the veteran team they built, taking advantage of the Pride’s rebuild by acquiring Alex Morgan, Emily van Egmond, Taylor Flint (nee Kornieck), and Jodie Taylor. Of those four players, only Morgan and van Egmond remain in San Diego.

This season has seen the worst start to a Wave season in team history. They won their first three games in 2022 and three of their first four last year. However, they lost their first game this season at home to the Kansas City Current and drew last weekend 0-0 against Racing Louisville. The only win was a 1-0 result over Seattle Reign FC on March 29.

Despite having a superstar striker in Morgan, both goals this year have come from the midfield. Sofia Jakobsson netted the goal in the season opener and van Egmond scored in the 1-0 win over Seattle. Morgan has recorded the team’s only assist this year, setting up van Egmond’s conversion.

While they haven’t started as strong as expected, the Wave are a difficult team to deal with. They have one of the NWSL’s best goalkeepers in Kailen Sheridan and an internationally experienced back line that has been together for three years. The attack is also prominent with Savannah McCaskill, Shaw, and Morgan.

Regardless of the opponent, the Pride nearly made the playoffs last year and are a better and more experienced team than they were a year ago. They don’t have their best lineup available yet, but are getting closer and might see the debuts of some key starters. The Pride are also coming off a strong performance in Utah and an undefeated start, providing momentum they haven’t had since 2021.

“The momentum is key,” Hines said going into this game. “I think what we’ve shown in the last four games is different sides who has different scenarios, different situations that the game has presented. Going back to that last game, creating some good opportunities finally taking one and putting it in the back of the net and having the desire to keep the ball out of the net to get well in and get three points and keeping up that momentum, bringing it back home against a good San Diego team, obviously shield winners from last year. It’s going to be a tough ask for the players, but they are fully prepared and know what the task is and what they need to do to win the game.” 

There are two changes to the availability report this weekend with Rafaelle being taken off and Morgan Gautrat (lower leg) listed as questionable. Simone Charley (right leg), Luana (excused absence), Megan Montefusco (right heel), and Viviana Villacorta (left knee) are still out.

Melanie Barcenas (hip) is the only player listed as out for the Wave tonight, though starting center back Naomi Girma (thigh) is listed as questionable.


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

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

Defensive Midfielders: Angelina, Haley McCutcheon.

Attacking Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Summer Yates.

Forward: Ally Watt.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Ally Lemos, Amanda Allen, Barbra Banda, Mariana Larroquette, Celia, Carrie Lawrence, Adriana, Rafaelle.

San Diego Wave FC (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Kaelin Sheridan.

Defenders: Hanna Lundkvist, Abby Dahlkemper, Naomi Girma, Kristen McNabb.

Defensive Midfielders: Daniele Colaprico, Emily van Egmond.

Attacking Midfielders: Sofia Jakobsson, Savannah McCaskill, Jaedyn Shaw.

Forward: Alex Morgan.

Bench: Kimmi Ascanio, Hillary Beall, Elyse Bennett, Kyra Carusa, Makenzy Doniak, Mya Jones, Kaitlyn Torpey, Kennedy Wesley, Christen Westphal.

Referees

REF: Sergii Demianchuk.
AR1: Art Arustamyan.
AR2: Ben Rigel.
4TH: Michael O’Reilly.
VAR: Alexandra Billeter.
AVAR: Katherine McCormick.


How to Watch

Match Time: 8 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV: None.

Streaming: Amazon 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 vs. Utah Royals: Final Score 1-0 as Pride Claim First Win of 2024 NWSL Season

Marta’s 68th-minute goal lifted the Pride to their first win of the season over the Utah Royals on the road.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (1-0-3, 6 points) claimed their first win of the 2024 NWSL season by defeating the Utah Royals (1-3-0, 3 points) 1-0 at America First Field in Sandy, UT. Marta’s 68th-minute goal shortly after coming on as a second-half substitute was the difference between the two teams.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines only made two changes to the team that drew the Chicago Red Stars 1-1 two weeks ago. Julie Doyle and Summer Yates joined the starting lineup in place of Luana and Marta. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Brianna Martinez. Angelina moved from the attacking midfield back to the defensive midfield alongside Morgan Gautrat. The attack midfielders were Doyle, Yates, and Adriana with Ally Watt up top.

The most surprising omission from the lineup might have been Marta. The team captain was left on the bench after playing a pair of games for Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup during the international break.

“She had a different role today,” Hines said of his captain. “We were mindful of her energy levels. She played 90 minutes for Brazil on Tuesday and it was a quick turnaround with the travel also.”

It was also the first start of Yates’ young career. The midfielder played minimal minutes during her rookie campaign but has made a significant impact on the team’s attack this year, earning her first start for the Pride.

“That’s been coming with her,” Hines said about adding Yates to the starting lineup. “With the level that she’s had at the start of the season, she’s been brilliant. So she fully deserved the start today.”

Despite being the visiting team and playing in a difficult climate, the Pride were the better team from the opening whistle. Excellent performances by Yates, Adriana, Angelina, and Marta in the attack kept the Royals on their back foot and the center back pairing of Sams and Strom made it a relatively easy night for Moorhouse.

In the early minutes of the game, the Pride looked to attack through Abello on the left. In the third minute, she sent a cross into the box looking for Watt or Doyle, but Royals goalkeeper Mandy Haught was there to catch it. Three minutes later, Adriana tried to set her up for a cross, but Abello’s first touch was too strong and the ball went out of play.

The Royals nearly had their first chance in the eighth minute when a turnover by Doyle enabled rookie Ally Sentnor to send Hannah Betfort forward. Moorhouse initially was coming out to challenge, but retreated. Fortunately, Strom did well from her center back position to challenge the Utah striker and knock the ball out of play.

The game’s first shot came from an individual effort by Betfort. Receiving the ball from Dana Foederer at the top of the box, Betfort turned to lose Gautrat and get a shot off. It was on target, but Moorhouse was there to catch it.

The Pride had their first good chance in the 15th minute when Yates’ cross was blocked out of play by Madison Pogarch. Angelina’s corner kick was met by Adriana, who flicked it towards the back post with her right foot. Unfortunately, nobody could get on the end of it and the ball went harmlessly out of play.

In the 26th minute, Pogarch lost the ball to Yates and pulled on the midfielder’s arm trying to get it back, receiving a yellow card for her trouble. The ensuing set piece eventually ended up with Angelina outside of the box. The Brazilian took a shot aiming for the near post, but missed just wide. However, Haught wasn’t comfortable with the attempt, diving to ensure it didn’t sneak in.

The Pride had an excellent chance in the 37th minute when pressure by Yates forced a turnover to Angelina. Watt picked up the ball and played it forward for Yates, who found Angelina behind the Royals’ defense. It looked like Angelina had a chance from a tight angle, but she sent the shot wide.

An Adriana shot in the 40th minute was blocked and Pogarch got the last touch as it went out of play for a Pride corner kick. Yates took the set piece, sending it to the back post where Sams was charging in. The center back headed the ball back across the box where Gautrat attempted to redirect it on goal. Unfortunately, she sent her header wide of the target.

While the Pride had most of the attacking chances, Utah had one of its own in the 44th minute when Brecken Mozingo sent a long ball down the right for Paige Monaghan between Sams and Strom. Monaghan took possession in the box and shot from a tight angle, but Moorhouse was there to collect it.

Less than a minute later, the Pride nearly scored the opening goal. Adriana forced a turnover, enabling Yates to take control with her momentum going forward. The second-year midfielder found space between two defenders to shoot and it appeared to be on target, but Haught tipped it wide with a diving save.

Martinez might’ve gotten a little lucky a minute into first-half stoppage time when she lifted her foot near midfield to send the ball forward and caught Sentnor in the face. There was a brief stoppage of play, possibly as the video assistant referee checked for a possible red card. But Martinez was lucky to avoid any booking on the play.

At halftime, the Pride held the advantage in most statistical categories. They had more possession (51.5%-48.5%), shots (7-3), corners (6-1), and crosses (15-1), and better passing accuracy (83.5%-82.7%). However, a common problem early this season reared its head as the Royals put more chances on target (3-1) in the first half.

It didn’t take the Pride long to create a chance in the second half. In the 46th minute, a quick give-and-go between Adriana and Angelina sent Adriana forward. She sent a dangerous cross through the box that went past Watt and to Doyle at the back post. However, the midfielder couldn’t get a solid foot on the ball, sending it off target.

A minute later, Doyle had another chance when she intercepted a lazy pass by Agnes Nyberg. Dribbling into the box, Doyle decided to play it back for Watt at the top of the box instead of taking the shot herself. It was the wrong decision, as Kate Del Fava reached it first and cleared it away.

The Pride had a third good chance in the 53rd minute when Adriana made another long run into the Utah box. She found Doyle on the right, and the winger sent a low cross looking for Abello in front of goal. However, it was too close to Haught, who made the stop.

In the 54th minute, a challenge on Adriana resulted in the ball popping out wide to Watt. The forward carried it to the top of the box where she shot towards the near post. Once again, a long-distance attempt by the Pride was just wide.

Utah did little to trouble the Pride until the 58th minute, when Sentnor took a long shot. It was a strong hit and on target, but didn’t cause any problems for Moorhouse.

In the 58th minute, Adriana had a collision with Olivia Griffitts that resulted in the Brazilian requiring treatment. She briefly came back on after leaving the field, but quickly went back to the ground. As a result, Hines made his first change of the game, replacing Adriana with Marta.

It didn’t take long for Marta to make her mark on the game as she gave the Pride the lead in the 68th minute. It started with a quick pass from Marta to Watt on the right. The forward sent a cross to the back post that landed at the feet of Abello. Yates slid into the box to meet Abello’s first-touch cross, but missed. Instead, it went to Marta, whose first touch was a shot into the far netting, giving the Pride a much-deserved 1-0 lead.

“I saw that Ally (Watt) was getting into a crossing position and I knew that I had to make that back post,” Abello said about the play. “So I got up there and she hit it back post and I knew that we had other players in the box. So my only thinking was just to put it back across and let them do their thing. Someone almost got to it which opened up that path to Marta who put it away.”

“Marta takes a goal really, really well,” Hines added about the strike. “It comes from waves of attacks. One, two, third phase within that moment and then she just finished like perfectly into the corner.”

Hines made his second change shortly after, replacing Doyle with Haley McCutcheon in the 71st minute.

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 74th minute when Angelina sent a long ball for McCutcheon on the right. Cutting inside to beat her defender, McCutcheon played it to the far post where Watt was making a run. Nobody picked up the forward and she redirected the ball on target, but Haught did well to get down and block it out of play.

The ensuing corner by Yates was to the back post where Strom and Foederer both went for it. The collision sent the ball over the crossbar for a goal kick and left Foederer on the ground holding her left shoulder.

The Pride made their final changes in the 83rd minute as Mariana Larroquette and Ally Lemos entered the game for Watt and Yates. A minute later, Utah made three changes that included an appearance by former Pride midfielder Mikayla Cluff. It was Cluff’s first time facing the Pride after being traded this off-season.

Utah had a chance for an equalizer in the second minute of second-half stoppage time when Strom headed Griffitts’ cross out for a corner. The ensuing set piece by Zoe Burns went all the way through the box where Kaleigh Riehl collected it. The defender played it across for Sentnor, who took a long, on-target shot. However, it was too close to Moorhouse, who made the save.

While the Royals had plenty of possession during injury time, they struggled to threaten the Pride. As a result, the visitors were able to hold on for the 1-0 win, their first of the young season.

At full time, the Pride had more shots (14-5), corners (10-3), and crosses (22-5), and better passing accuracy (83.4%-82.6%). Utah had more possession (50.2%-49.8%) and shots on target (5-4), but Marta’s 68th-minute goal was the only conversion.

“We’ve obviously set out at the start of the year, considering how well we did last year, we knew that we needed to pick up more points away from home,” Hines said about the win. “What a great example today with three points away from home under tough conditions. Obviously, after an international break as well, and so I just love the commitment and the desire for the players to keep going and play the right way. And it’s a massive reward for them to come away with three points after having a really good performance tonight.”

“We were just missing that kind of final piece,” Strom added about getting a win after three consecutive draws. “We were knocking on the door, knocking on the door, and we finally got one through. What a goal by Marta. Are you kidding me? So I think we just needed that confidence and self belief. We knew it was coming. We were never in doubt. We were not leaving this field without three points. So, so happy we got it.”

The Pride arguably had their best performance of the young season tonight, controlling the game for the entire 90 minutes. It was a defensive accomplishment to get the first shutout of the season and holding onto the lead to claim all three points.

“I’m really pleased with the, obviously, shutout. That’s something that we need to continue to grow on,” Hines said after the game. “I do feel like both in possession and out of possession, we controlled the game for the most part. I thought Summer (Yates) and Ally (Watt) did a really good job with dictating the press for us in errors from Utah. And then I think what we can do to improve more is being a little bit more threatening in transition. You know, maybe get a few more shots at the opponent’s goal. But other than that, I’m just so pleased for them.”

The Pride were trying to avoid being the first team in NWSL history to draw its first four games of the season and did so with this away win. They also move to six points on the season and move into fifth in the league standings.


With a win under their belt, the Pride will now return home to Orlando, where they’ll welcome San Diego Wave FC next Friday night.

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

The Pride return to action tonight as they travel west to face the Utah Royals.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (0-0-3, 3 points) travel west to take on the Utah Royals (1-2-0, 3 points). This is the first of two games the teams will play against each other this season with the return meeting in Orlando scheduled for June 21.

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 time the two teams have met since 2019, although this is an all-new side. The Pride were just 1-3-2 against the original Royals, with all games coming in the NWSL regular season.

The last time the Pride met Utah was on Aug. 17, 2019 in Orlando. Christen Press gave the visitors the lead in the 60th minute and Amy Rodriguez doubled the advantage in the 77th minute as the Royals won 2-0. Prior to that game, the teams played in Utah on May 25 with the same result. Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 31st minute from the penalty spot and Makenzy Doniak made it 2-0 in the 89th minute. The first game between the teams in 2019 was on April 27. The difference was a familiar goal scorer, as Press netted the lone goal in the 19th minute in a 1-0 result.

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, this time from Rodriguez in the eighth minute, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime. In the 52nd minute, 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 have claimed points in all three of their games so far this season, though they’ve drawn each one. It started with a late Summer Yates goal to draw Racing Louisville FC 2-2 on the road before returning home for a two-game homestand. Marta’s late strike enabled the hosts to draw Angel City FC 1-1 and they drew the Chicago Red Stars by the same score two weeks ago.

Injuries and a lack of goals have been problematic for the Pride early this season. While their back line is almost completely healthy, the team is still missing Barbra Banda, who will likely be the starter after she arrives in Orlando Sunday morning. In the meantime, they’ll need other attacking options like Ally Watt, Marta, and Adriana to step up.

Utah is one of the NWSL’s two expansion teams, returning to the league after a four-year hiatus. As a result, they have a roster that’s trying to get used to playing with each other. Former Royals star Rodriguez is the head coach and has built the team with a combination of veterans and young players. The Royals lost two of their first three games, but beat the North Carolina Courage 2-1 on March 22, placing them even on points with the Pride.

The Royals used the first overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft on former North Carolina Tar Heel Ally Sentnor and the selection has been paying off. The rookie has scored two of the three goals for the Royals this season, coming in the two most recent games. The other goal was scored by Kate Del Fava in the team’s win over the Courage.

Tonight’s opponent has two former Pride players on its roster. Mikayla Cluff was traded on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection, and Carly Nelson was sent west on Dec. 12 for an international spot and Allocation Money. Both players grew up in the Salt Lake City area and went to local colleges, with Cluff attending Brigham Young University and Nelson the University of Utah. For this reason, the trades weren’t very surprising.

Nelson started the team’s first game, a 2-1 loss to the Red Stars, but has been on the bench for the two most recent games. So far, Cluff has only made one appearance, coming on as a late substitute against the Courage.

While the Royals have had a tough start to the season with two losses, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines likes what he’s seen from the league newcomers and believes that claiming points will be a tough task for the Pride.

“You look at Utah being a new team, (but) they have been in every game that they have competed in,” Hines said. “We looked at their first game against Chicago. I felt they controlled a majority of the game against Chicago and were unlucky not to get anything out of the game. They played North Carolina at home and managed to get a win against a difficult team, so they showed that togetherness and their willing to battle and fight. Even without the ball, they managed to get points, and then Washington could have gone either way. They have got three points out of three games and been unlucky in a couple of games, so it is going to be a challenge for ourselves to go to Utah and try to get something out of the game.

“It is more about ourselves and what we can do and what we can produce on the day. If we play some of our best football and we reward ourselves by getting ourselves in those areas of the field where we can be threatening and execute in that final third, then I think everyone will walk away with what we feel we deserve. Utah is going to be a tough game, obviously going to Utah is going to be a challenge with the altitude, but the players will be more than prepared and know what is at stake in the game.”

The Pride are still without three players that have suffered season-ending injuries in Simone Charley (right leg), Megan Montefusco (right heel), and Viviana Villacorta (left knee). Luana is also listed as out with an excused absence. While Rafaelle (foot) is listed as questionable, she’s been upgraded after a fractured foot has kept her sidelined for the first three games of the season.

Utah has two players out for tonight’s game, including Imani Dorsey (Achilles) and Ifeoma Onumonu (ankle). Additionally, Nelson is listed as questionable (illness).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

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

Defensive Midfielders: Angelina, Morgan Gautrat.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, Adriana.

Forward: Ally Watt.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Ally Lemos, Amanda Allen, Evelina Duljan, Mariana Larroquette, Celia, Carrie Lawrence, Haley McCutcheon, Marta.

Utah Royals (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Mandy Haught.

Defenders: Madison Pogarch, Kaleigh Riehl, Kate Del Fava, Olivia Griffitts.

Midfielders: Agnes Nyberg, Paige Monaghan, Dana Foederer.

Forward: Ally Sentnor, Hannah Betfort, Brecken Mozingo.

Bench: Lauren Flynn, Michele Vasconcelos, Zoe Burns, Addisyn Merrick, Frankie Tagliaferri, Cameron Tucker, Mikayla Cluff, Emily Gray, Cristina Roque.

Referees

REF: Thomas Snyder.
AR1: Noah Kenyawani.
AR2: Darren Bandy.
4TH: Jordan Downs.
VAR: Laura Rodriguez.
AVAR: Tom Felice.


How to Watch

Match Time: 9:30 p.m.

Venue: America First Field — Sandy, UT.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

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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