Connect with us

Orlando Pride

Lineup Consistency Has Been Key to the Orlando Pride’s Undefeated Start

Published

on

For the first time in franchise history, the Orlando Pride are undefeated four games into the season. Actually, the Pride previously had never even been undefeated after two games in their NWSL history. But now the Pride (3-0-1, 10 points) are in first place in the NWSL and have won their last three games.

There have been a few themes during this run. First, Alex Morgan has had a goal contribution in every game this season. It had been a while since Morgan scored for the Pride before 2021, but the USWNT regular now has three goals and an assist in four matches. Her three goals lead the league.

Orlando has also used an imposing defense at the start of the season. The Pride have only allowed three goals and have yet to allow multiple goals in a game. In the last match against Kansas City, Ashlyn Harris was not forced into any saves. While the Pride are tied for the second-most goals scored in the NWSL, this defensive effort has allowed Orlando to remain unbeaten.

But the biggest reason for Orlando’s success has been because of consistency in player selection. Through Orlando’s first four games, there have only been 13 different starters. One of those changes was Erin McLeod in goal for Harris at North Carolina.

“It tells you about a mentality more than a physicality,” Marc Skinner said. “You have to go and be prepared to go to battle with each other, and that’s what we’re trying to do. There are psychological tests in any game — you have to defend, you have to be psychologically strong. The focus for our players was to be together throughout.”

Having the same players available for selection is something that Skinner has not had during his time in Orlando. In 2019, the World Cup took almost the entire starting XI for a huge chunk of the season. Skinner was left with a bunch of young, inexperienced players and National Team Replacement Players.

The following year, most of the Pride went out on loan. Orlando only played in four Fall Series games in 2020, so players went abroad to get game time.

Now, Skinner can keep players in the team. The Olympics will cause a few players to leave, but it shouldn’t be as big of an impact as a few years ago. The players will continue to improve individually but also as a collective team.

This is perhaps most evident in the back line. It is a vital part of soccer that the center back pairing understands each other well. When teams are constantly changing the center backs and back line, it is much more difficult to find results.

“It’s hard to be fair to the other players that were here in year one. I think we had 18 back lineups within the 24 games, so it was hard to get that consistency,” said Skinner. “What we’ve got [now] is that consistency. What then happens is you start to read. You know what that other person is probably going to do as that ball turns blind. ‘If I follow up this way, I know what she’s going to do.’ So that allows us then to shoot spaces, effectively — they’re brave, they’re committed.”

The big question now is what happens when it is necessary to go to the bench, or when players are out of the starting XI due to international call-ups or injury? Will the Pride be able to compete at this high level still? That remains to be seen, as Chelsee Washington and Marisa Viggiano are the only players to consistently make appearances from the bench — Viggiano has made multiple starts as well.

“We have quality on the players on the bench as well, but we’re trying to get that consistency,” said Skinner. “I’ve spoken to the group about ‘your opportunity will come, but we just need to get these games in where we get that consistency of what we want, where you can then come in and express what who you are, with what we want.’ We were never able to do that in the first year, so maybe that’s the key difference.”

Orlando Pride

NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup: Growing the Game

A look at how this Summer Cup contributes to the growth of women’s soccer in North America.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium, the Orlando Pride (0-0-1, 1 point) play their first-ever competitive fixture against an international opponent, Rayadas de Monterrey (0-1-0, 0 points). This match is part of the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, a short tournament featuring teams from the U.S. and Mexico during a break in NWSL league play for the Olympics.

While the American teams are already 4-0 against Mexican opponents, the Pride should not overlook Monterrey, the 2024 Liga MX Femenil Clausura Champions, especially not when many key Pride players are away with their respective national teams. Later in the week, The Mane Land’s Sean Rollins will publish a preview of the match details, storylines, lineup predictions, and more for this match. Today’s piece will instead show how this relatively modest tournament during the Olympic break demonstrates, and contributes to, the overall growth of women’s soccer in North America.

The Summer Cup is the first time that Liga MX Femenil and NWSL clubs have met competitively, but the leagues, and their respective national soccer federations, already have shared history. In the early 2010s, after the folding of the previous professional women’s soccer league in the U.S., the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) sought to create a more sustainable model for the sport. To do so, the USSF planned to allocate U.S. Women’s National Team players to NWSL clubs and pay their salaries to reduce costs and ensure domestic talent stayed home.

Without domestic professional leagues of their own, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Federation of Mexican Football (FMF) joined the USSF in this effort, and more than 50 national team players from the three nations were allocated to the first eight NWSL clubs. While this framework is no longer used for the NWSL, it was critical for the early success of the league and strengthened ties between the North American federations.

As the NWSL grew in talent and popularity, it also demonstrated the viability of professional women’s soccer to its neighbors. After three years of allocating players to the NWSL, the FMF founded its own professional league in 2017, the Liga MX Femenil, composed solely of clubs affiliated with a Liga MX club from the men’s side. Canada, with the backing of big names such as Canadian national team legend Christine Sinclair, is following suit, with a plan to play the first season of an as-of-yet unnamed Canadian professional league in 2025. 

The growth of women’s soccer in North America isn’t just an abstract benefit for the Orlando Pride. It is leading to new competitions, more matches, and more fans. With a growing international soccer ecosystem, Concacaf will be hosting the inaugural Concacaf W Champions Cup beginning in just under a month. This competition will feature 11 clubs from seven countries and run from August to May, including a winter break. The San Diego Wave, Portland Thorns, and Seattle Reign FC will represent the NWSL in the first iteration of the cup, based on their performance in 2023. Orlando can qualify for the next cup if the Pride continue to play as they have so far this season and win the NWSL Championship or finish in the top two positions in the table.

The one constant for women’s soccer in the U.S. over the years has been change, and more is coming domestically as well. It was announced earlier this year that the United Soccer League (USL) would be applying for professional, division one status for its new league, the USL Super League, slated to kick off this fall. Orlando will soon have a new neighbor, as Tampa Bay Sun FC will be one of the eight founding clubs. The club roster also features two players — Jordyn Listro and Erika Tymrak — from the 2023 Pride roster.

While some fans might be worried about domestic competition diluting the available talent pool or fan attention, Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter sees it differently.

“I think that the USL Super League is a fantastic opportunity for more players in the United States and overseas to be able to come and play here,” she said at the preseason season ticket member open practice in the spring. “There’s just going to be more opportunities, and more opportunities for American players is fantastic. But it also gives us the opportunity to widen the net of athletes that we’re looking at.” 

In the same way that the growth of Liga MX Femenil in recent years has led to the Summer Cup and the Concacaf W Champions Cup, it seems possible, even likely, that the formation of the USL Super League will lead to new domestic competitions, potentially similar to the U.S. Open Cup for the men’s leagues.

Fans of the NWSL should take some personal pride in the growth of the women’s game in the U.S. and abroad. The quality of the product on the field and the number of fans attending games has demonstrated the appetite for women’s soccer in this country and in this hemisphere. This growth is also leading to more opportunities for NWSL clubs, starting with the ongoing NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup and continuing to even bigger things. Rest assured that this Saturday may be the first time Orlando plays a competitive fixture against an international opponent, but it will not be the last.

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage, NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup: Final Score 1-1 as Pride Claim a Point

The Pride drew the North Carolina Courage 1-1 to open the Summer Cup but lost 5-4 in the penalty shootout.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride (0-0-1, 1 point) opened the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup with a 1-1 draw against the North Carolina Courage (0-0-1, 2 points) in Cary, NC. The hosts took the lead just before halftime through Manaka Matsukubo, and Celia equalized in the 82nd minute. The Courage then won the postgame penalty shootout, 5-4, to claim a second point.

The Pride lost six starters from the team’s 2-1 win over the Kansas City Current on July 6 to the Summer Olympics in Paris, including Rafaelle, Emily Sams, Angelina, Marta, Adriana, and Barbra Banda. Additionally, starting goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse was called up by the England Women’s National Team. As a result, there were significant changes to the team for the start of the tournament.

The back line in front of goalkeeper McKinley Crone was Celia, Kylie Strom, Carrie Lawrence, and Bri Martinez. Haley McCutcheon and Morgan Gautrat were the defensive midfielders behind Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, and Amanda Allen with Ally Watt up top.

The fact that the Pride had far more absences than the Courage was apparent in this game. While the Pride dominated most of the previous game in North Carolina, the Courage controlled this one. Crone had a great performance filling in for Moorhouse and kept the game close. The hosts took a deserved lead shortly before halftime and probably should’ve been up more. But the Pride took advantage of their good fortune by finding a late equalizer and taking a point home.

Between the regular season and the Summer Cup, North Carolina has only failed to take three points in a home match twice — both times in draws against Orlando.

The Courage had the first chance of the game in the sixth minute when Ashley Sanchez took the opportunity to shoot from outside of the box. The forward was aiming for the far post and it was close enough for Crone to dive, but the attempt skipped wide.

In the 12th minute, Narumi Miura found Sanchez on her right. After shooting earlier in the game, the forward looked for a teammate during this attack. Matsukubo got her head to the ball, but couldn’t redirect it on target, popping it up and enabling Crone to make the save.

The Courage had a dangerous opportunity in the 17th minute when Yates turned the ball over near midfield. Sanchez darted the other way and found Tyler Lussi on her right. The attacker carried the ball outside and attempted a shot, but Celia was there to block it.

The hosts had a great chance to take the lead in the 24th minute when a bad pass by Strom enabled Lussi to send a long ball forward for Matsukubo. The forward brought it down well and played it forward for Meredith Speck, who got behind Martinez. Fortunately, Crone did well to come off of her line and snatch the ball off of Speck’s foot, ending the attack and keeping the game scoreless.

After sending her teammate through in the previous attack, Matsukubo had her own chance for the opener in the 26th minute when Sanchez sent a great ball to the top of the six-yard box. The forward got her head to the cross and redirected it towards goal, but sent it just over the top.

In the 31st minute, Lussi was sent behind the Pride back line from a long ball out of the back. The attacker was the first to it and it looked like she would have a breakaway, but Lawrence did well to get her body on the forward. The center back put just enough pressure on the attacker to force the shot off target.

In the 32nd minute, Lussi’s shot from the right side of the box was blocked out for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece by Malia Berkely found an open Sanchez. With plenty of time, the U.S. international controlled the ball and shot. Fortunately, it was deflected over the top.

Berkely took another corner kick from the other side and the ball bounced dangerously around the six-yard box, but Crone was eventually able to grab it and clear the danger.

The rain started to come down hard around the 35th minute and it seemed to help the Pride more than the Courage. After playing the entire first 35 minutes behind the ball, Orlando finally started to gain some possession in the opposing third of the field.

The Pride finally got their first shot of the game in the 40th minute when Watt laid the ball off for Yates about 30 yards from goal. The attacking midfielder made a nice move to lose Sanchez and shot from outside of the box, but Miura got in front of the attempt and blocked it.

In the 43rd minute, McCutcheon made an overlapping run around Doyle and the attacking midfielder played her down the left. Watt and Allen were in the six-yard box, but McCutcheon’s cross was a little too close to Courage goalkeeper Marisa Bova. The shot stopper briefly juggled the ball but was able to collect it.

A minute later, the hosts took the lead. A quality give-and-go between Ryan Williams and Sanchez sent Williams towards the end line on the right. Speck made a near post run that opened space for Matsukubo to run into. A perfectly placed ball by Williams made it an easy tap-in for Matsukubo to give the Courage the lead.

The fourth official showed four minutes of stoppage time and the Courage wanted to use that time to add to their advantage. In the third minute, Riley Jackson played the ball wide for Williams. The right back sent a dangerous ball across the face of the goal, but nobody in blue was able to get on the end of it.

The Courage had the last chance of the half in the final seconds. Speck sent a shot towards goal that went off the hand of Lawrence, giving the hosts a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. Sanchez stepped up to take the set piece and sent an excellent attempt towards the far post. It was around the wall and appeared to be heading in, but Crone did well to dive to her left and pushed it away with both hands.

After the first 45 minutes, the Courage had significantly more possession (64%-36%) as well as more shots (7-2) and shots on target (2-0).

The Courage began the second half the way they ended the first half. In the 49th minute, Kaleigh Kurtz sent a dangerous ball across the face of the goal but nobody was there to get on the end of it. Seconds later, Sanchez and Jackson played a give-and-go that sent Sanchez into the box. The forward shot on goal, but it was right at Crone and the Pride goalkeeper caught it to keep the deficit at one.

In the 51st minute, quick passing between Kurtz and Jackson sent Sanchez down the right side of the box. The forward was looking for her teammates making runs into the six, but her pass was deflected into the arms of Crone.

The first second-half attack for the Pride came in the 54th minute when Doyle found herself with the ball dribbling into the Courage box. Two defenders were in front of the midfielder as she used some moves to find some space for a shot. Unfortunately, she was well defended and her shot was easily blocked.

Lussi had a chance from distance in the 57th minute when Matsukubo used her chest to send Speck forward towards the top of the box. Laying it off for Lussi enabled the forward to take a long-distance shot. The Pride let her shoot from about 25 yards out and, while the shot was on target, it went straight to Crone.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made his first change in the 58th minute. Rookie Ally Lemos entered the game for Gautrat, providing the Pride with some much-needed fresh legs.

The Pride nearly found an equalizer in the 59th minute when Doyle was sent towards the top of the box on the right. Doyle took a hard shot that beat Bova, but bounced off the crossbar. Watt collected it on the other side and sent a ball into the six-yard box that couldn’t find any teammates.

The Courage had a great chance of their own in the 61st minute when Matsukubo sent the ball wide for Williams. The right back sent a great ball into the box with Jackson and Speck making runs into the six. The two appeared to run into each other as the ball sailed through, going out of play.

Celia provided a good opportunity for the Courage in the 62nd minute when she unnecessarily fouled Olivia Wingate just outside of the Pride box, earning a yellow card for the challenge. Sanchez took the set piece with Wingate and Speck in the six, nearly connecting with both of them. Fortunately, neither could get on the end of it and the Pride were able to clear.

In the 66th minute, Watt carried the ball to the end line on the right and sent a cross that hit the side netting. Hines used the stoppage to make his second and third changes, as Mariana Larroquette and Alex Kerr came into the game for Allen and Yates.

Shortly after entering the game in the 69th minute, Haley Hopkins had Martinez tugging at her shirt as she dribbled over the midfield stripe towards her own goal. Martinez went down and appeared to be in severe pain as she received attention on the ground. The right back required help coming off the field as she was unable to put any weight on her left leg.

Since Martinez needed to leave the game and it was the final available window for substitutions, Hines made two changes in the 73rd minute. Martinez and Doyle were replaced by Claire Winter — signed on Thursday as a national team replacement player — and Evelina Duljan. For Duljan, a young Swedish international, it was her Pride debut.

In the 76th minute, Watt was sent wide and played a great play into the box. Larroquette was making a run and nearly reached it before Bova, but the Courage goalkeeper got there first. While she struggled to control it, no other Pride players were nearby and the hosts were able to clear.

The Courage got the ball out of the box, but they soon lost possession and Duljan got a chance on the other side. The substitute found space to take a shot from a tight angle, but Bova blocked it out of play for a corner kick.

The ensuing set piece went through the box for Watt on the far side. The Pride forward shot for the near post, but hit the outside of the net.

Jackson bumped into Duljan in the 81st minute and the young attacker went down, earning the Pride a free kick. Lemos sent the set piece into the box, which appeared to be handled by the defense. However, they were unable to clear the ball further than the top of the box. Duljan was there to collect and shot for the far post. It beat Bova, but Miura was there to clear it off the line.

Miura was just trying to keep the ball from crossing the line, but her clearance gave Celia possession on the right side of the six-yard box for an open shot. Despite the tight angle, the right back put the chance in the back of the net to even the game at 1-1.

The Courage came close to retaking the lead in the 83rd minute when one-touch passing by several players resulted in Jackson sending Wingate behind the Pride back line. Crone did well to get down and make the save on the second-half substitute. The ball continued rolling toward the goal and Lawrence cleared it away before it got there.

Williams received the ball on the right in the 87th minute and sent a dangerous ball towards the penalty spot. Victoria Pickett and Miura were there to get on the end of it, with Pickett taking the shot, but Lemos got in front and blocked the attempt.

In the first minute of stoppage time, a dangerous ball into the box found Miura and the Japanese international turned to shoot, but Strom was there to deflect it out for a corner kick. Brianna Pinto took the ensuing set piece, which the Pride were able to handle. That was the final chance for either team as the game ended 1-1.

North Carolina dominated most of the game and it took a great performance by Crone to claim a point. The Courage had more possession (64.2%-35.8%), shots (16-8), shots on target (6-2), and corners kicks (4-2), but Celia’s 82nd-minute strike ensured the Pride would get a point for the second time in North Carolina this season.

“Overall in terms of the game, we’re very pleased to come (out of) here with a point,” Hines said about the game. “There’s no hiding in it, we’ve got a lot of players away on international duty. North Carolina didn’t have that case, so they were a little bit more fluid with how they played. You could see those connections, that team chemistry, which took us a bit. But fair play to the players to come here one-nil down and have the desire and the character to come back and score the goal. It’s brilliant to see. And we continue that momentum that we had in the league into the tournament now.”

“I thought, for us, it was a really good point,” Gautrat said. “It’s hard fought on the road, a lot of people got minutes, which is great, and obviously we’re using every person on our team, which I think is huge and pays dividends in the length of the season. And, for us, it’s a good point and a good time to try and get some penalty kick shootout practice. So yeah, I think that’s a good point.”

While both teams gained a point in the new NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup competition, the game went directly to penalties to see who got a second point.

After Larroquette barely got her shot beyond the reach of Bova to give the Pride the early lead, Crone knocked Riley’s shot off the post and the Pride had a 1-0 advantage after one round. All eight penalty takers converted in the subsequent four rounds, enabling Celia — the Pride’s lone goal scorer during the 90 minutes — to step up with a chance to end it. However, Bova guessed correctly, diving to her right to save the attempt and keep the Courage alive.

Pinto converted her attempt to keep the shootout going and McCutcheon stepped up to give the Pride the advantage. But it was a poor attempt by the defensive midfielder, enabling Bova to make an easy save.

Now it was North Carolina’s chance to win the shootout and former Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt stepped up with an opportunity to end the contest. She was aiming to the right side of the goal — the same side Crone dove to. Similar to McCutcheon’s shot, it was at a good height and position for Crone to block it away.

Duljan took the seventh attempt for the Pride and became the only player in the shootout to miss. She was looking for the right side and Bova dove in that direction, but the ball sailed wide of the post. Miura stepped up with a chance to end the game and sent her shot to the left. Crone guessed correctly again and got her hand to the ball, but the shot had too much power and the Courage won the shootout 5-4 in seven rounds to take the extra point.

“I think the experience of a shootout was one we haven’t experienced ever, so having gone through that, it gives the players that sort of experience going forward,” Hines said. “You can’t replicate a shootout, as much as you can practice putting the pressure on, you just can’t do that in training. I thought the players dealt with it well.”

While the Pride will be disappointed to lose the extra point, there are positives to take away from the game. Several players that have seen few, if any, minutes gained valuable experience in a competitive environment. It’s something that will be beneficial down the stretch of the regular season.

“I think you could see that there were some players who hadn’t played significant minutes during the season,” Hines said. “Also coming after a mandatory break and the travel. I hate making excuses, because that’s a cop-out. But for us, we wanted to stay the same and we wanted to have that same identity regardless who was on the field for us. And I think looking back it’s a good result for us and a lot to continue to work on throughout this time.”

While the Pride were unable to win the shootout, the draw extends their unbeaten run this season to 17 games in all competitions.

The other game in Group E saw Racing Louisville beat CF Monterrey Femenil 3-1 in Kentucky. As a result, the Pride sit in third place after the first round of group games, one point behind the Courage and two points behind Louisville.


The Pride will take the field next on Saturday when they welcome Monterrey to Orlando for the club’s first game against a foreign opponent.

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride begin the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup away to the North Carolina Courage.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride return to action tonight as they begin the inaugural NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup away to the North Carolina Courage. This is the third time the two teams will meet this season, but the first in this tournament.

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

History

The Pride and Courage have played 25 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage in 2017. The Pride are 6-13-6 in those games (6-10-2 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-3-2 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).

The most recent meeting between the two teams was on June 15 in Cary, NC. The Pride were the better team on the night with more possession, shots, and shots on target, but the game ended in a scoreless draw. While they were disappointed with the result, the Pride were the first — and so far, only — team to take points in North Carolina this season. On May 1 in Orlando, Barbra Banda and Ally Watt started up top together for the first time, a move that paid off in the game. Banda set up Watt for the opener in the first half, and Watt repaid the favor just over 10 minutes later, as the Pride went up 2-0. Julie Doyle added a goal just before halftime, giving the Pride a commanding lead. Emily Sams’ own goal was the only scoring for the Courage and Banda’s second of the night gave the Pride a 4-1 win.

The first game between the Pride and Courage in 2023 was on April 19 in Orlando. The Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up Watt for the opening goal, but Denise O’Sullivan equalized in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, resulting in a 1-1 draw. On June 17 in North Carolina it was all Courage. Kerolin and Meredith Speck gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before a Haley McCutcheon own goal made it 3-0 to North Carolina.

The Pride didn’t show up for the July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Ratcliffe and Malia Berkely gave the hosts a 2-0 halftime lead before Frankie Tagliaferri made it three, and a late brace by Haley Hopkins completed the 5-0 result. The Pride finally got a win on Sept. 17, 2023 at home. Watt got the Pride off to a great start, scoring inside the first minute. After assisting on the first goal, Adriana doubled the lead before halftime. Manaka Matsukubo got one back for the visitors, but it wasn’t enough and the Pride won 2-1.

The first meeting in 2022 came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring early. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead with her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win. On Sept. 21, 2022 at Exploria Stadium, it was the Courage that got off to the better start when Debinha scored in the second minute. The Brazilian then assisted Tess Boade in first-half injury time to double the lead, and later added another, dooming the Pride to a 3-0 defeat.

The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place on April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.

The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored late to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha and Havana Solaun goals helped the Courage take home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized moments later and the teams drew 1-1.

The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game in a scoreless draw.

Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, meeting twice. The first was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.

The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on April 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but scored four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by the Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.

The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.

The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on April 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando when the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted a late winner, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.

Overview

The Pride are having their best season in club history, going undefeated through 16 games. The most recent match was a clash between the only two unbeaten teams in the NWSL in Kansas City. The Pride showed they were better than the Current, winning 2-1 despite being down a player for the second half after Carrie Lawrence was sent off just before halftime.

While the NWSL has played through international tournaments in the past, the league is taking a break for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. It’s beneficial for the Pride, as they’ll be missing fiveof their most important players. Captain Marta, leading scorer Banda, playmaker Adriana, starting center back Rafaelle, and starting defender Sams are all at the tournament, joined by Angelina and new signing Grace Chanda. Rather than risking losing their unbeaten run, the Summer Cup will provide Head Coach Seb Hines with the ability to get meaningful minutes for less-used players who can help down the stretch.

The Courage also have players away at the Olympics, but fewer essentials than the Pride. Starting goalkeeper Casey Murphy is with the United States and starting left back Feli Rauch is with Germany. Additionally, 2023 NWSL Most Valuable Player Kerolin was selected by Brazil, despite tearing her ACL in last year’s season finale. The Courage will still be difficult to beat as the Pride’s draw in June is still the only time they’ve dropped points at home.

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of players who are representing their country, which is massive for us as a team but also for the club. It’s not the same case for North Carolina, so they’ve only got I think three players missing from their current squad, which will be a challenge for us,” Hines said about tonight’s game. “They’ve got that consistency within their team selection. We’ll have a lot of changes to this opening game. We know it’s always difficult going to a place like North Carolina, but we’re going to build on what we’ve started this year, so it’s not going to change, regardless of the changes within the selection. We want to go out there and show everyone that even with our internationals away, we are still going to stick to our high standard and level.”

The Pride are without several players tonight due to injuries and international call-ups. Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), Viviana Villacorta (knee), Anna Moorhouse (excused absence), and Cori Dyke (excused absence) are out, while Kerry Abello (knee) is listed as questionable. Adriana (Brazil), Angelina (Brazil), Marta (Brazil), Rafaelle (Brazil), Barbra Banda (Zambia), and Emily Sams (USA) are all on international duty at the Olympics.

Estelle Johnson (maternity leave) and Bianca St-Georges (leg) are the only Courage players out injured. However, Casey Murphy (USA), Feli Rauch (Germany), Kerolin (Brazil), and Sydney Collins (Canada) are on international duty.


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: McKinley Crone.

Defenders: Celia, Kylie Strom, Carrie Lawrence, Bri Martinez.

Defensive Midfielders: Haley McCutcheon, Morgan Gautrat.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, Amanda Allen.

Forward: Ally Watt.

Bench: Sofia Manner, Kerry Abello, Alex Kerr, Ally Lemos, Evelina Duljan, Mariana Larroquette, Claire Winter, Kenna Caldwell.

North Carolina Courage (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marisa Bova.

Defenders: Malia Berkely, Kaleigh Kurtz, Dani Weatherholt, Ryan Williams.

Defensive Midfielders: Narumi Muira, Riley Jackson.

Midfielders: Ashley Sanchez, Meredith Speck, Tyler Lussi.

Forward: Manaka Matsukubo.

Bench: Hensley Hancuff, Brianna Pinto, Haley Hopkins, Denise O’Sullivan, Landy Mertz, Olivia Wingate, Natalia Staude, Victoria Pickett, Jenna Winebrenner.

Referees

REF: Lorenzo Hernandez.
AR1: Kendall McCardell.
AR2: Stephen Milhoan.
4TH: Marie Durr.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.

TV: None.

Streaming: Paramount+.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

Continue Reading

Trending