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Orlando Pride Defense Should Become More Consistent Over Time

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The Orlando Pride back line has had a strong, yet inconsistent start to the 2021 NWSL season. While the Pride defense has looked terrific at times, it’s been shaky in other games. However, the back line’s consistency should improve as the season goes on.

The Pride’s defensive unit is a mixture of young players and veterans. Ali Riley and Ali Krieger on the right side of the back line are in their 30s and have a lot of experience defending at a high level. Phoebe McClernon and Courtney Petersen on the left side are both 23 years old and are in their first full professional seasons.

It’s the first year that these four players have been on the same back line, which has created some inconsistency in performance over the first games of the regular season. While they’ve looked excellent in certain games, in others they’ve called upon the goalkeeper to keep them in contention.

Last week, the Pride back line was great against Kansas City, resulting in no shots on target for the opposition. That was followed up by yesterday’s draw with the Washington Spirit, where the defense probably should’ve conceded three times.

Fortunately for the defense, the team has Ashlyn Harris and Erin McLeod as options in goal. Both goalkeepers have already won NWSL Save of the Week this year and Harris will likely be nominated again after a stellar save in the first half in D.C.

While the back line has yet to show the consistency desired, Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said it will come with time. 

“For me, it’s about getting consistency,” Skinner said after the draw, “I’ve said that over the first 10 games it’s about consistency. And once you get that message about consistency into the group, then you can start to divulge into different areas, look at different ways of playing, and different people coming in because everybody has a bank of games of experience together.”

Either due to personnel changes or missing players to international tournaments, the Pride have yet to display a consistent back line since joining the NWSL in 2016. During the 2019 season, the team lost three defensive starters, with Krieger, Shelina Zadorsky, and Alanna Kennedy all representing their countries in the World Cup.

Since Skinner was hired in January of 2019, this year is the first time the Pride will have a consistent starting back line. However, Riley could represent New Zealand at the Olympics and it is possible that Krieger could be called up for the USWNT, although she hasn’t featured recently and the smaller Olympic roster size means that she’s not guaranteed a spot in Tokyo.

“We’ve never had that (consistency),” Skinner said. “So we’re going to do that and make sure that we’re in together, focused together, and we’re going to make sure that everybody’s focused on what needs to be done in that back line.”

Skinner added that the back line needs to improve and will with time.

“What we’re asking our defenders to do is to be more composed and more focused,” Skinner said. “They’re just going to get these games together. It’s consistency in defending. It’s the first time we’re able to put a consistent back line out.”

Skinner’s insistence is understood by his defensive leaders. Following the team’s 1-1 draw with the Spirit yesterday afternoon, center back Krieger echoed some of Skinner’s comments.

“Most importantly we need to take care of ourselves,” Krieger said. “Our mentality and our knowledge in the back line of communication and staying consistent, connecting our passes and pressure, cover, balance so that we tidy up and keep our line really tight and compact at times. Sometimes we get stretched and teams are trying to pull us apart here and there to find little holes in and around Phoebe and I. As long as we stay compact, stay together, and communicate well, I think we’ll continue to be successful.”

The play of the back line has been inconsistent this year, with stellar performances followed up by gaps in the back, and sometimes that has even been the case within the same game. However, the Pride have a consistent back four for the first time. With more time together, the defensive unit will continue to improve and could lead the Pride to their first playoff appearance since 2017.

Orlando Pride

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

The Pride look for a league-record eighth straight win as they welcome the Portland Thorns to town.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (7-0-3, 24 points) welcome the Portland Thorns (6-3-1, 19 points) to Inter&Co Stadium. This is the first of two times these teams will face off, with the return game in Oregon scheduled for Oct. 11.

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

History

The Pride have struggled historically against the Thorns, with a record of 3-13-2 in 18 games (3-12-2 in league play and 0-1-0 in the playoffs). They’re 2-5-2 in Orlando against tonight’s opponent, all in regular-season matchups.

The most recent meeting between the two teams came on June 11, 2023 in Orlando. Sophia Smith gave the visitors the lead in the 20th minute, but the Pride took over after that. Adriana scored a brace and Messiah Bright’s 69th-minute strike lifted the Pride to a 3-1 win.  On March 26 at Providence Park, Morgan Weaver and Smith opened the scoring inside 22 minutes. Hina Sugita made it three, and Michele Vasconcelos wrapped up the scoring as the Thorns won 4-0.

The teams met twice in 2022, with the first coming on Sept. 9 at Exploria Stadium. Yazmeen Ryan gave the visitors the lead and Sugita doubled the advantage as the Thorns won 2-0. That was the second meeting of the season after the teams met on June 19 in Portland. In Seb Hines’ second game as interim head coach, the Thorns smashed the Pride, 6-0.

The teams met earlier in the year during the 2021 season, playing on May 26 in Orlando. The Pride won for only the second time against Portland since the team’s inception. The Pride won 2-1 and Orlando’s goals came from Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux.

The second meeting that year came on July 18 in Portland, and the home team won again. Smith gave the hosts the lead and Marissa Everett doubled the advantage. Marisa Vigginao got one back in second-half stoppage time, but it wasn’t enough as the Thorns won, 2-1.

They met a third time on Aug. 14. The Pride took an early lead when Courtney Petersen found Jodie Taylor for the opening goal. But Simone Charley equalized and the teams drew 1-1.

The Pride and Thorns didn’t play in 2020 after the season was canceled due to the global pandemic and they weren’t in the same group for the NWSL Fall Series. As a result, the most recent meeting prior to 2021 was in 2019.

The teams opened the 2019 season against each other in Orlando, but the Thorns got the better of the clash. The game was decided on either side of halftime as Caitlin Foord scored just before the break and Tobin Heath scored four minutes after the restart, lifting their team to a 2-0 win. They met again in Orlando on May 11 and the visitors won again. Toni Pressley gave the Pride an early lead, but it was all Portland after that. Dagny Brynjarsdottir equalized, Andressinha gave Portland the lead, and Foord finished it off.

The final meeting between the two in 2019 was a goal fest in Portland and another Thorns win. Hayley Raso gave the visitors the lead just three minutes into the game and Midge Purce’s goal made it look like it would be a dominant performance by the hosts. But Marta got one back to make it 2-1. Christine Sinclair made it 3-1, followed by a Thorns own goal by Emily Menges. It looked like the Pride would get a rare point through Erin Greening’s 90th-minute goal, but Tyler Lussi scored in second-half injury time, dooming the Pride to another loss in Oregon.

The teams faced off three times in 2018, which featured the Pride’s lone win in Portland. The Thorns won the first game, 2-1 on April 15. But on May 12, goals by Morgan and Christine Nairn gave the Pride a 2-0 lead. Sinclair got one back for the hosts, but the Pride held on for their only result at Providence Park. The third meeting went back to usual, with the Thorns winning 2-0 through Lindsey Horan and Raso.

The teams started the 2017 season against each other in Portland with the Thorns winning 2-0. They met again in the penultimate game of the season in Orlando, ending in a scoreless draw. The most important game between the two teams was the Pride’s only playoff appearance. Unfortunately, it was all Portland, as the Thorns beat the Pride 4-1.

The first meeting of 2016 was the Pride’s first-ever game. Steph Catley gave the visitors a surprising lead, but Brynjarsdottir equalized and Horan won it for Portland. They met again on June 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Two second-half goals by Brynjarsdottir and Horan lifted the Thorns to another 2-1 win.

Overview

The Pride are currently the hottest team — not just in the NWSL this season — but in league history. After drawing their first three games, they’ve won an astounding seven straight. Their 3-2 win over Seattle Reign FC Sunday tied the league record for most consecutive wins in NWSL history. Tonight, they’ll look to set a new league record and maintain their place atop the league standings.

Prior to last weekend’s win, the Pride had won back-to-back 1-0 games against Racing Louisville and Bay FC, both at home. In the team’s six home games this season, it has only scored multiple goals once, a 4-1 win over the North Carolina Courage on May 1. Despite the lack of goals at home, the Pride have drawn twice and won four times.

Standing in the Pride’s way of a new NWSL record are the Portland Thorns, a perennial powerhouse in the league. Once again this season, the Thorns are a team to be reckoned with. While they’re not at the top of the standings, they’re currently fourth and five points behind the Pride. Portland has a streak of its own, winning their last six. This will be the first match in NWSL history between two teams that are each on a winning streak greater than four games.

As expected, the Thorns are one of the best offensive teams in the league. Their 23 goals rank second behind the Kansas City Current. While they’re less successful defensively than the Pride, both teams have a positive goal differential of nine, second best in the league.

The biggest attacking threat for the Thorns is Smith, whose eight goals and six assists lead the team. Olivia Moultrie and Janine Beckie are tied for second with three goals, Sinclair, Payton Linnehan, and Sam Coffey have two goals each, and Weaver, Sugita, and Ana Dias have all scored one so far this year.

While the Thorns have conceded 14 goals this season, they gave up five in the opening game of the season against the Current. Since then, they haven’t given up more than two goals in a game, something that has occurred three times. Fortunately for the Pride, they’ve shown an ability this season to win low scoring and high-scoring affairs. They’ll need to continue that tonight in order to win their eighth straight game.

“It’s two teams who are on a winning streak and two teams that want to continue that winning streak as well,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s game. “Listen, it’s a big game for us. It’s going to be a tough game for us. Portland are one of the best teams in this league. You look around their roster, they’ve got internationals all over. So it’s a good challenge for us and we’re embracing it. Every game we’re embracing it. And it will be nice to do it in front of our home fans on Friday.”

The Pride have one addition to tonight’s availability report. Angelina (knee), Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), and Viviana Villacorta (knee) are joined by Summer Yates (illness). The Thorns will be without Gabby Provenzano (Achilles), Bella Bixby (maternity leave), and Morgan Weaver (knee).



Projected Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Sams.

Defensive Midfielders: Ally Lemos, Haley McCutcheon.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.

Forward: Barbra Banda.

Portland Thorns FC (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Shelby Hogan.

Defenders: Marie Muller, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelli Hubly, Reyna Reyes.

Midfielders: Hina Sugita, Olivia Moultrie, Sam Coffey.

Forwards: Sophia Smith, Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie.

Referees

REF: Ekaterina Koroleva.
AR1: Matthew Rodman.
AR2: Joe Suchoski.
4TH: Wes Caouette.
VAR: Karen Coulson.
AVAR: Maggie Short.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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Orlando Pride vs. Seattle Reign FC: Final Score 3-2 as Pride Rebound in Second Half for Seventh Straight Win

The Pride outlast Seattle Reign FC 3-2 for their seventh consecutive win.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (7-0-3, 24 points) continued their undefeated season with a 3-2 win today against Seattle Reign FC (2-7-1, 7 points). The Pride took an early 2-0 lead with goals by Emily Sams and Barbra Banda, but the hosts came back with goals from Angharad James-Turner and Bethany Balcer. Banda’s second of the day in the 58th minute proved to be the difference as the Pride won yet again.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made two changes to the lineup that beat Bay FC 1-0 last Saturday. Ally Lemos and Marta entered the lineup, replacing Morgan Gautrat and Julie Doyle. While Doyle started the game on the bench, Gautrat wasn’t in the team. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, and Sams. Haley McCutcheon and Lemos were in the defensive midfield behind Summer Yates, Marta, and Adriana, with Banda up top.

It looked like the Pride would run away with this one when they took a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes and appeared to have scored a third. However, the Reign didn’t give up and scored on either side of halftime to make it 2-2. Unlike previous years, the Pride didn’t fall apart after losing the lead and found a winner from their star striker. It was another one-goal affair — their sixth in seven wins — in which the Pride had to hold on for dear life as they attempted to see out the victory.

The Reign got off to the more aggressive start, creating two chances inside the first three minutes. In the second minute, Tziarra King blocked a clearance attempt and it went to Jess Fishlock. The midfielder played the ball across to former Pride midfielder James-Turner, who shot on goal. It was heading inside the post, but Moorhouse did well to get down and collect it.

A minute later, Ji So-Yun sent an aerial ball across the field for Balcer, who quickly played it wide for Sofia Huerta. The right back found Fishlock in the box and the Welsh international attempted a first-touch shot, but she couldn’t get solid contact, sending the ball well off target.

The Pride got their first chance of the game in the seventh minute when Reign goalkeeper Laurel Ivory got a little too cute with the ball. Attempting to dribble around pressure, her clearance was blocked, ending up at the feet of Banda. The Pride’s leading scorer’s first touch was a shot, but she sent the attempt over the crossbar.

Two minutes later, the Pride grabbed the lead. It started with a long ball down the right for Marta. The Pride captain sent it to the top of the box where Yates brought it down, but a defender got a foot to it. Fortunately, it went right to Sams, whose first touch was a shot inside the post to give the Pride an early 1-0 lead.

“I just wanted to support the play,” Sams said about her goal. “And it just happened to fall to me and I just took my chance and I scored.”

Since Sams played primarily as a center back last season, she hasn’t had many opportunities to score. However, Hines has deployed her as a right back this year and, as a result, she scored her first NWSL goal in this game.

“She finished it like a forward as some would say,” Hines said about the defender scoring her first goal. “Em has done brilliant in having to shift into a new position and she’s embraced it. I think sort of her one-v-one defending’s been brilliant recently and so she gets her reward for going up and supporting the attack and it’s a lovely finish with her left foot. So yeah, it was a great goal from Em. And if she continues to play that position at right back, maybe there’s a few more down the stretch of the season.”

The Pride’s attacking Brazilians tried to combine for a chance in the 13th minute when Adriana sent a cross into the box for Marta. She got her head to the ball and tried to redirect it on goal, but wasn’t in front of the net at the time. As a result, the header went wide.

The Pride doubled their lead in the 18th minute when a poor clearance was intercepted and sent forward for Adriana. The playmaker used some fancy footwork to create space for a cross, sending it across the face of the goal. Ivory could only get her fingers to it as the ball got past her. Banda was left wide open near the back post and simply headed the ball in to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

In the 25th minute, King tried to catch Moorhouse by surprise after receiving the ball from Balcer. The attacker took a shot from distance, but Moorhouse was able to block it to her side. It was a good stop as the shot was taken from the shadows and into the sunlight.

Balcer had a great chance for herself in the 26th minute when King found her on the far side. The forward outmuscled Abello to get in on goal, but Moorhouse came out strong. Balcer got a shot off, but right into Moorhouse. The attempt bounced off Balcer and out for a goal kick, ending the threat.

The Pride put a third ball in the net in the 31st minute when Marta sent a long ball across the field for Yates. The midfielder took on Lauren Barnes, beating the defender. However, Barnes left a foot out, tripping Yates and giving the Pride a free kick.

The ensuing set piece was sent into the Reign box where Banda got a slight touch to it, but not enough to send it on goal. Instead, it popped up for Strom to get her head on it and give the Pride a 3-0 lead.

Before the game could restart, the video assistant referee called down for referee Elijio Arreguin to take a closer look. After further review, Arreguin determined that Banda was offside on the initial ball as she attempted to get behind the back line, disallowing the goal and keeping the game 2-0.

Moorhouse was forced into another save in the 36th minute when the ball was tipped off of Ji’s foot. It went directly to Fishlock well outside of the box and the midfielder took a long attempt at goal. The shot appeared hard to see, but the Pride goalkeeper tipped it over the crossbar for a corner kick.

The ensuing set piece was cleared out but only to James-Turner, whose shot was aiming for the top corner. Moorhouse wasn’t going to get to the attempt, but it was just over the target.

In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, King attempted a shot from inside the Pride box that was blocked by Rafaelle. The Reign retained possession and a long ball was sent into the box for Balcer. However, it was too far for the forward, who pushed Sams into Moorhouse and was booked.

It looked like Adriana would have a chance to get on the scoresheet a minute later when she received the ball in the box from Banda. The Brazilian attempted to cut back and lose Huerta, going down in the process. There was some contact, but the referee determined it wasn’t enough and the Reign were able to clear.

During the final minute of stoppage time, the hosts got a goal back. Ji sent a pass to the top of the box, where James-Turner met it. The midfielder took a shot that likely would’ve been saved by Moorhouse, but it deflected off Strom and went into the corner of the goal, cutting the Pride lead to 2-1.

That was the final attack of the half. After 45 minutes, the Reign had more possession (54%-46%), shots (8-4), shots on target (6-2), corner kicks (2-1), and better passing accuracy (82%-80%). But the two goals and some good goalkeeping by Moorhouse had the Pride leading at the break.

“Just get closer to our opponent. I think we gave them a little bit too much space. And then tactically, offensively, he told us to do a better job of finding Barbara on the front line,” Sams said about Hines’ halftime instructions. “And I think if we’re able to keep the ball more, we don’t really have to worry about the defending side so much if we can keep it and keep adding goals. So that was kind of the halftime talk.”

Hines made one halftime change, replacing Yates with Doyle.

The goal just before halftime seemed to spark the hosts as they began the second half on the attack. In the 46th minute, King received the ball on the left, shielded her defender, and attempted to send the ball across the face of the goal. However, Moorhouse was able to block it away. The Pride were unable to clear the ball and Ji gained possession. The South Korean shot from distance, but it was off target.

A minute later, the Reign found the equalizer. It started in the Pride box when halftime substitute Shae Holmes won the ball from Banda and sent it forward. Two passes later, Fishlock sent a long ball to Balcer behind the Pride’s back line. The forward lifted the ball over Moorhouse to even the game at 2-2.

The hosts continued their attack and created another shot in the 51st minute. It was Ji again creating space and attempting a shot from long range. However, it was blocked and the Pride gained possession before it got close to Moorhouse.

The Pride created their first good chance of the second half in the 54th minute when Olivia Van der Jagt fouled Marta. The Pride captain took the set piece, sending a dangerous ball into the box. It somehow went through several players before going out for a goal kick.

In the 57th minute, King knocked the ball out of play while trying to shield it from Lemos. The Pride rookie took the set piece, which was punched out wide by Ivory. It went right back to Lemos, who sent in a shot that went over the arm of Ivory and off the crossbar. The ball was sent out of play by a Reign defender and the Pride had a corner kick on the other side.

The second corner kick was taken by Marta and headed through by Alana Cook. However, it didn’t get very far, enabling Banda to get her foot on the ball. The defense gave the star striker too much space and Banda turned to score her second goal of the game and taking back the lead for the Pride.

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 62nd minute through their captain. Banda made a good run down the right, beating her defender and sent a cross into the box. It was a little behind Marta, but she was able to get her foot around the ball and put it on target. Ivory made an excellent save with her foot to keep it out of the net and her team’s deficit at one goal.

Hines made his second change in the 63rd minute and it was a defensive one, as Cori Dyke came in for Adriana.

In the 73rd minute, Lemos committed an unnecessary foul on Phoebe McClernon, giving the Reign a free kick in a dangerous position. Ji played it short for Huerta, who sent the ball towards the far post. It looked like the ball was going out of play, but stayed in. It resulted in a shot that was blocked and the Pride were able to clear.

A Pride throw-in in the 75th minute resulted in an interesting situation as Abello sent Banda down the left. Cook was unable to keep up with the striker, but pulled her back and then put her studs into Banda’s stomach. Banda required medical attention, but was able to continue. While the play was checked for a possible red card, it wasn’t given.

When Banda got up, Hines made two more changes. Brianna Martinez and Ally Watt came into the game for Marta and Lemos.

After being booked late in the first half, Balcer received her second yellow card in the 83rd minute. Upset with a foul call, she approached the referee while her team made a substitution. Arreguin clearly wasn’t happy with what she said, giving her a second yellow card and a subsequent red card. As a result, the Reign had to finish the game with 10 players.

The Pride had chances to take advantage of the player advantage. In the 88th minute, they had a three-on-three, but Abello lost control before she could play one of her teammates on either side of her. In the 90th minute, Banda made a strong run and had Watt to her right. Unfortunately, the pass was too soft and the Pride lost possession.

The Pride made their final change after the missed opportunity as Amanda Allen entered the game for Banda.

The Pride did well defensively to limit opportunities, but the Reign had a good chance in the seventh minute of stoppage time. A long ball into the box by Cook was headed out by Sams, but only to Emeri Adames. The substitute had plenty of space to shoot from just outside of the box, sending the attempt over the target.

That was the last chance for either team as the Pride held on for their seventh straight win and their first in Seattle. At full time, the Reign had more possession (52%-48%), shots (15-8), shots on target (10-6), and better passing accuracy (81%-80%). The Pride had more corner kicks (4-2), crosses (18-14), and most importantly, outscored the Reign 3-2.

“I thought the first 43 minutes of the game, we were really good. I thought we played some terrific football, playing between the lines, caused a lot of problems, and to concede so late on in the first half is something that we need to reflect and review moving forward,” Hines said about the game. “And then the second half, I mean it was a grind. It was great determination. Going through that adversity as well. conceding so early on in the second half, to come back and get that third goal was really important for us.”

“I think the first half was definitely the better half. I think we did well, got those two goals, but letting in the goal at the very end, I think kind of gave them some momentum,” Sams added about the performance. “And then I think the second half we kind of let our standards drop and we had to fight for that win. We got the win and that’s amazing, shows our character. So obviously we’re satisfied with that.”

The win extends the Pride’s winning streak to seven games, the most in team history and ties the league record held by, coincidentally, the Seattle Reign in 2014. Their unbeaten run extends to 10 games and they move into sole possession of first place after the Kansas City Current drew yesterday.

“It’s a great feeling to have that record and it just shows the world how strong we are,” Rafaelle said about the seven straight wins. “A lot of people doubt us in the beginning of the season. Now, we’re proving that we’re a good team and we have a good chance to win the shield, but also we want to break the record. We’re gonna play at home next game. We’re gonna try everything to win that game and break the record.”

Additionally, this is the first time that Pride have ever won a game in Seattle. The two teams have now faced off nine times in the Emerald City and the Pride are 1-5-3 all-time. It’s another first in what is quickly becoming the best season in team history.


The Pride will look to break the NWSL record for consecutive wins, remain unbeaten, and stay in first place Friday night when they host the Portland Thorns.

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

The Pride look to extend their unbeaten run and winning streak as they travel to face Seattle Reign FC.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (6-0-3, 21 points) take on Seattle Reign FC (2-6-1, 7 points) in the Pacific Northwest. This is the first of two games the Pride and Reign are scheduled to play during the 2024 NWSL regular season. They’ll finish the season against each other in Orlando on Nov. 2.

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

History

The Pride and Reign have met 16 times since the Pride joined the league in 2016. The Pride hold a 2-7-7 record in those meetings and have yet to beat tonight’s opponent away from home, with an all-time record of 0-5-3 out west against the Reign.

The most recent meeting was on Sept. 3 at Lumen Field in Seattle. The Pride got off to a terrible start when Anna Moorhouse was sent off in the third minute. Carly Nelson came in and did well, but Jordyn Huitema scored in the 49th minute as the Reign won 1-0.  The game on July 7 at Exploria Stadium featured one of the best performances of the year for the Pride, as they had more shots and shots on target than the opposition. Julie Doyle beat her defenders and found the head of Messiah Bright in the 16th minute for the game’s lone goal as the Pride won 1-0 for their second all-time win over the Reign.

The teams played for the first time last season on Aug. 26 in Orlando. Meggie Dougherty Howard gave the hosts the lead, and the Pride tried to hold onto that one-goal advantage, but Megan Rapinoe found Bethany Balcer for an equalizing header. The visitors pushed for a win and Rapinoe got a goal for herself two minutes into second half injury time, lifting the Reign to a 2-1 win, snapping Orlando’s seven-match unbeaten run.

The return game was on Oct. 1, 2022 at Lumen Field in Seattle. The Pride had already been eliminated from playoff contention and it looked like it as OL Reign dominated the game. Rapinoe opened the scoring just eight minutes in, Huitema doubled the hosts’ lead soon after, and Balcer made it 3-0 after 31 minutes. The Pride held the Reign scoreless in the second half, but fell 3-0.

The teams played twice during the 2021 season and the first game was on July 24 in Orlando. The Reign scored a goal in each half, with Jess Fishlock scoring early and Tziarra King doubling the lead just after the break on the way to a 2-0 win. On Sept. 26 in Tacoma, WA, Balcer opened the scoring in the third minute and Eugenie Le Sommer scored a brace, giving the Reign a 3-0 lead at halftime, ultimately beating the Pride by that score.

COVID canceled the teams’ meetings in 2020, but they played three times in 2019. On April 21 in Tacoma, Alanna Kennedy gave the Pride an early lead. But Balcer equalized and the teams drew 1-1. They met again on Sept. 7 in the same location. This time, the Reign took the early lead as Darian Jenkins scored twice inside the first 12 minutes. Beverly Yanez made it 3-0 soon after, effectively putting the game away early. Camila converted a late penalty but the Reign won 3-1. The final meeting that year came on Oct. 12 in Orlando. The Pride scored first through Rachel Hill, but Jenkins and Jodie Taylor gave the visitors a 2-1 lead going into halftime. Marta equalized late and the teams drew 2-2.

The first meeting in 2018 came on April 28 in Orlando. Allie Long gave the Reign a first-half lead, but Marta equalized, resulting in a 1-1 draw. On June 3, the teams met in Seattle but neither team could find the back of the net as they ended in a scoreless draw. The final meeting that year was on July 21 in Orlando. Toni Pressley gave the Pride a first-half lead but Taylor equalized with 20 minutes remaining and the teams drew for the third time that year.

The 2017 season saw the Pride and Reign play twice, first meeting on May 21 in Seattle. Yanez gave the hosts the lead just before halftime but Marta scored just after the break and the teams drew 1-1. They met again on Sept. 7 in Orlando in a game that looked to be ending scoreless but took a surprising turn. Alex Morgan gave the Pride the late lead in second-half injury time, but Fishlock equalized two minutes later and they drew 1-1.

The first-ever meeting between the two teams occurred on May 8, 2016 in Orlando. Sarah Hagen gave the Pride an early lead and Lianne Sanderson made it 2-0 late, which was the final score. The return game in Seattle was on July 23 and was the highest-scoring game between the two teams. Kim Little and Fishlock made it 2-0 Reign at halftime. Manon Melis scored a third for the hosts. Jasmyne Spencer scored, but Kendall Fletcher made it 4-1 four minutes later. A Pressley own goal and late strike by Kristen Edmonds added one more goal to each team’s tally in a 5-2 Reign win.

Overview

The Pride are off to unquestionably the best start in team history. After drawing their first three games, they’ve gone on a team record six-game winning streak. Five of those six wins have been decided by one goal and four have been 1-0 results. They capped off their sixth win last Saturday night, defeating Bay FC 1-0 through an Adriana penalty.

While the Pride were playing well already, Barbra Banda has been everything the Pride hoped for when they agreed to the second-highest transfer fee in NWSL history to bring in the Zambian international. She scored four goals in her first three starts and has drawn two penalties. She didn’t score against Bay FC, but drew the penalty that resulted in Adriana’s goal.

The Pride have also been exceptional defensively, conceding seven goals in nine games. Only NJ/NY Gotham FC is the one team to concede fewer goals than the Pride, giving up six in their first eight games this year.

The Reign are off to a poor start this season, claiming seven points from their first nine games. They currently sit in 13th in the 14-team league, only ahead of the Utah Royals. Tonight’s opponent has struggled offensively and defensively this season. Their seven goals scored this year is third least and one more than Gotham and Utah. Meanwhile, they’ve conceded 14 goals, fourth most in the league. As a result, they’ve had trouble coming away with results in the early part of the season.

Bethany Balcer has led the Reign in goals this season, scoring three so far. Only three other players have scored and all once. The other goals have come from Ji So-Yun, King, and the Reign’s leading goal scorer last season, Veronica Latsko. Three of the team’s goals have been assisted, two coming from So-Yun and one from Fishlock.

“They’re a good team. They’ve got an experienced coach there as well who has won a lot in this league,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s opponent. “And so we have to be mindful of Seattle and what they can create and it’s going to be a challenging game for us because our record is not great away at Seattle. So that’s something that we want to improve and continue this momentum that we’ve showed early on in the season.”

The Pride will play tonight without Angelina (knee), Celia (hip), Simone Charley (right leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (right heel), and Viviana Villacorta (left knee). Additionally, Mariana Larroquette (lower leg) is listed as questionable. Meanwhile, the Reign will be without Claudia Dickey (knee), Jordyn Huitema (back), and Quinn (knee).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Sams.

Defensive Midfielders: Haley McCutcheon, Ally Lemos.

Midfielders: Summer Yates, Marta, Adriana.

Forward: Barbra Banda.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Ally Watt, Julie Doyle, Evelina Duljan, Amanda Allen, Alex Kerr, Carrie Lawrence, Brianna Martinez, Cori Dyke.

Seattle Reign FC (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Laurel Ivory.

Defenders: Alana Cook, Lauren Barnes, Phoebe McClernon, Sofia Huerta.

Midfielders: Angharad James-Turner, Ji So-Yun, Jess Fishlock, Olivia Van der Jagt.

Forwards: Bethany Balcer, Tziarra King.

Bench: Maia Perez, Ryanne Brown, Lily Woodham, Shae Holmes, Nikki Stanton, Olivia Athens, Veronica Latsko, Emeri Adames, McKenzie Weinert.

Referees

REF: Elijio Arreguin.

AR1: Seth Martin.

AR2: Salma Perez.

4TH: Iryna Petrunok.

VAR: Shawn Tehini.

AVAR: Kaili Terry.


How to Watch

Match Time: 6 p.m.

Venue: Lumen Field — Seattle, WA.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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