The Orlando Pride (4-1-3, 15 points) fell for the first time in the 2021 NWSL regular season, losing 2-1 to the Houston Dash (3-3-1, 10 points) at BBVA Stadium. A poor first half for the Pride was the difference as the Dash scored twice in eight minutes.
After keeping multiple starters out of the starting lineup in Kansas City, tonight’s game in Houston featured a familiar look. Taylor Kornieck’s midweek knock meant she was questionable for this game and ultimately kept out of the lineup. She was replaced by Meggie Dougherty Howard, who moved into an attacking role. Chelsee Washington was given her second NWSL regular season start alongside Gunny Jonsdottir in the defensive midfield.
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) June 26, 2021
The Pride got the first real good chance of the game in the fifth minute. Alex Morgan headed the ball toward the Dash goal twice, forcing Jane Campbell to punch the ball back out. However, the Dash ultimately were able to clear. After that, the first half was all Houston.
In the 10th minute, Allysha Chapman sent a lovely ball into the Pride box, looking for Nichelle Prince near the back post. Fortunately for the Pride, the ball was just over the head of Prince and went out for a goal kick.
The Dash attack continued as the home side won three corner kicks in two minutes. The third corner resulted in two shots as the Pride defense was unable to clear.
The Dash finally converted in the 18th minute. Kristie Mewis sent a cross into the box which found Maria Sanchez. The first shot was right at Ashlyn Harris, who attempted to punch the ball out rather than catching it. Her punch attempt was poor, sending the ball off the post beside her and it bounced right back out front to Sanchez, who put it away for the game’s opening goal.
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) June 27, 2021
Houston nearly doubled its lead in the 20th minute when Mewis found Veronica Latsko in front of goal. The forward took a little too much time, allowing Phoebe McClernon to slide in before Latsko could get a shot off.
However, the Dash did double their lead six minutes later. As happened too frequently in the first half, Latsko found herself wide open between the center backs in the Pride box. Sophie Schmidt found the forward, who put the ball past Harris for the second goal of the game.
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) June 27, 2021
The Pride defense has been stellar this year but struggled in this game. After just 26 minutes, the Pride conceded twice for only the second time this year and the first time in the NWSL regular season. The only other time they’d conceded two goals was the first Challenge Cup game in Louisville on April 10.
“I think we just needed to step up a little bit,” Jonsdottir said about the first half defense after the game. “Not give them the space we were giving them. We were kind of far from each other. That happens with fatigue. Communication wasn’t really there.”
The Pride nearly gave the Dash their third goal in the 30th minute through an own goal. Nichelle Prince beat Courtney Petersen to the end line, as happened often in this game, and cut the ball back in front of goal. McClernon was able to deflect the ball but almost did so into her own net. Fortunately for McClernon and the Pride, the deflection was wide of the goal.
The final chance for the Dash in the first half came from Gabby Seiler. The midfielder slipped in between two Pride defenders, creating space to receive a long pass. She had a great opportunity for a shot on goal, but sent the shot above the target.
“I wasn’t happy with the first half,” Jonsdottir said following the game. “I don’t think we really showed up for the first half. The first half showed that we were fatigued and we were not playing like we wanted to. But we got to halftime. And then we kind of got the team together and decided to give everything we got and we did that. Unfortunate not to put in another.”
The Pride got off to a great start in the second half. Just a couple of minutes into the second period of play, the Pride won three straight corners. While the second corner forced Jane Campbell into a good save, the third resulted in the team’s first goal.
The low corner by Marta found the head of Jonsdottir at the near post. The Icelandic international beat her defender to the ball and headed it toward the far post, bringing the Pride back to within a goal.
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) June 27, 2021
“It was a great corner from Marta and I got a little touch,” Jonsdottir said about her first goal with the Pride. “So I guess it’s half my goal and half hers.”
“We got the goal because of our energy and commitment to each other,” Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said about the goal. “Everything we’re trying to do was there.”
The Pride had another good chance in the 59th minute when Katie Naughton took down Morgan just outside of the box. Marta stepped up to take the free kick and sent it low toward the near post. Campbell did well to get low and caught the bouncing ball before it reached the goal line.
In the 63rd minute, the Dash nearly scored their third as they looked to put the game away. Another dangerous Mewis corner found the head of Latsko, who was looking for her second goal. She made good contact with her head but was unable to get over the ball and sent it just over the net.
While Mewis had set up most of the chances for the Dash, she nearly got a goal of her own inside the final 10 minutes. In the 81st minute, Mewis found some space at the top of the box and sent a low shot toward the far post. Harris’ dive showed how close to the post the shot was but it travelled just wide of the target.
Two minutes into injury time, Morgan had a chance to net the Pride’s second, receiving the ball in the box. It appeared as though she had time to bring it down, but with her back to goal, attempted an acrobatic flick. She wasn’t able to get much on it and Campbell made the save.
The Pride were dominated in every statistical category in the first half, but drew closer with a much better second 45 minutes. In the end, the Dash led in total shots (14-7), possession (55%-45%), corners (8-6), and crosses (26-12). The Pride were able to record more shots on target (4-3).
The struggles of the team can largely be chalked up to playing three games in six days and staying on the road between the second and third of those matches. The players were clearly tired from it and it had an impact on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
“I can only speak for myself. I was a bit tired. I’m not gonna lie,” Jonsdottir said. “I was also coming off of two games in the FIFA window and then these games with the travel, it’s a lot to learn. But as I say, all you can do is your best.”
“You’re gonna suffer when the schedule is put in front of you where it’s almost at risk of your players’ health,” Skinner added. “We found that out against Kansas. So I think it’s a ridiculous way of putting a schedule together where a team has five days of freshness on another team.”
The loss is the Pride’s first of the 2021 NWSL regular season and the second of the year. The other loss came on April 14 in the NWSL Challenge Cup, a 1-0 loss to NJ/NY Gotham FC. The loss ends a seven-game unbeaten run, the second longest to start a season in the Pride’s six-year history. The longest ever unbeaten run was nine games, occurring between Aug. 5 and Sept. 30 of 2017.
Despite the loss, Skinner said that he’s proud of his team for fighting through a difficult week. The final game of a two-game road trip and three games in six days was not an easy task.
“I’m more proud of the players tonight than I am whenever they’ve won a game,” Skinner said. “Because, although the technicality maybe suffered, we had the guile and the togetherness and the focus to try and get back in the game.”
The Pride still sit atop of the NWSL standings. A Portland Thorns loss ensured that the Pride would remain three points ahead of them and two points ahead of the North Carolina Courage.
The Pride will look to bounce back from this loss and begin a new streak when they welcome the North Carolina Courage to Exploria Stadium on July 4.
Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List
The Orlando Pride have placed center back Megan Montefusco on the season-ending injury list following surgery on her right foot.
The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that center back Megan Montefusco has been placed on the season-ending injury list. The defender had off-season right foot surgery, performed by the club’s official medical team, to repair a long-term problem.
“This is an unfortunate situation for Megan, though we’re happy she was able to address an issue that has plagued her for some time, and we are confident she will come out of this a stronger athlete,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Our club is fully behind her and will support her throughout her rehab process, as will our amazing partners at Orlando Health. Our goal is to help Megan get back on the field as safely and smartly as possible, and we are behind her every step of the way. We look forward to seeing her back out on the pitch as soon as she is ready.”
The Pride originally acquired the defender in a trade with the Houston Dash on Jan. 28, 2022 that saw Marisa Viggiano go the other way. She was a regular starter at center back that year and through most of 2023, but lost the starting position when the club signed Brazilian international Rafaelle. Montefusco has made 45 appearances (42 starts) for 3,773 minutes in all competitions over her two seasons in Orlando, scoring one goal.
The 31 year-old signed a new contract with the Pride on June 15, 2023 through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. As one of the team’s main representatives alongside fellow center back Carrie Lawrence, Montefusco appeared at Orlando City’s preseason game against the New England Revolution, signing autographs and taking part in a question-and-answer session while wearing a walking boot.
What It Means for Orlando
This news is a bit of a blow to Orlando’s depth on the back line. Montefusco was the first center back off the bench late last year and was expected to have the same role this year. However, her absence will make room for Lawrence, who missed the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason, and Tori Hansen, who is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory FC in Australia. The duo will now compete for the third center back spot unless the club replaces Montefusco with another veteran, as the NWSL transfer window remains open.
This injury could also open up a spot for the Pride to sign 2024 second-round NWSL Draft pick Cori Dyke, who the club took at No. 22 overall out of Penn State. Dyke has experience at center back in college. She played as a central midfielder for the first four years in college, but moved to center back for her final season. Despite moving to the back line, the 2023 season was her most productive offensively, as she recorded five goals and six assists.
Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024
What are the top five questions for the Orlando Pride heading into the 2024 NWSL season?
The Orlando Pride have begun their preseason training for the 2024 NWSL season and will play their first preseason scrimmage on Thursday afternoon. The team nearly made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2017, narrowly missing out on the final day of the season. The team’s been busy this off-season, looking to improve the squad. However, there are still some questions to be answered before the competitive games start.
Here are five burning questions about the Pride for 2024.
Who Will Start in Goal?
The Pride signed English goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse from French side Bordeaux on Jan. 31, 2022 to back up Erin McLeod. When the Canadian left after the 2022 season, Moorhouse was elevated to starter. She played well at times last year, but was inconsistent. However, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines showed confidence in the 28-year-old, starting her in 19 of the team’s 22 regular-season games.
In December, the Pride traded backup Carly Nelson to the Utah Royals for Allocation Money. The move came 11 days after they signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner, indicating the club was planning for the departure. While Moorhouse will undoubtedly start the season as the team’s number one, Manner could claim the position if Moorhouse’s inconsistency returns. It will be something to keep an eye on this year.
Who Will Start in the Defensive Midfield?
The Pride focused on the team’s back line last year, but much of the effort this off-season has been on the defensive midfield. The team traded for Haley McCutcheon on Aug. 18, 2022 and it appeared as though she would start in the position. However, Hines moved her to right back last year, where she’s become the regular starter. It then looked like recent draft picks Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff would be the duo, but Cluff was traded to Utah on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection and Villacorta tore her ACL late last year.
The club focused on the position this off-season, bringing in Brazilian internationals Angelina and Luana, along with USWNT player Morgan Gautrat. All three will battle to start in the defensive midfield, especially since Villacorta is injured and fellow defensive midfielders Cluff and Jordyn Listro are gone. But it’s still unknown who will start in those positions. It’s a question that will likely be answered in the coming weeks as the Pride build for the start of the regular season in March.
Where is Ally Watt Best Suited?
After tearing down the roster in a full rebuild, the Pride made two significant acquisitions in August 2022. In addition to trading for McCutcheon, the Pride dealt Allocation Money to OL Reign (now Seattle Reign FC) for forward Ally Watt. The speedy attacker quickly became the second option up top for the Pride, typically playing behind rookie Messiah Bright last year and starting the odd game. However, that’s not the only position she played.
Hines has shown he values versatility and illustrated that with Watt last year. In addition to playing up top, Watt was deployed on the right side of the midfield. Her speed and ability with the ball was an asset in the position, and she was praised by teammates in the role. They love having her on the right and Julie Doyle on the left, the two fastest players on the team. The questions now become: which position is she best at, and where does she best fit in with this team?
Who will Replace Messiah Bright?
Possibly the biggest question for the 2024 season is who will replace the starting striker. The Pride drafted Bright with the 21st overall pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft out of TCU, and she quickly became the focal point of the attack. Her six regular-season goals last year tied Adriana for the team lead. However, the forward requested a trade this off-season, citing personal reasons, and was shipped off to Angel City FC.
The club did sign Simone Charley, most recently with Angel City, who could replace Bright. However, she’s coming off a season-ending injury and wasn’t as effective in Los Angeles as she was in Portland. Other options include Canadian international Amanda Allen or Argentina international Mariana Larroquette. Watt might be the most likely to start the season up top as it stands, with Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter recently telling our SkoPurp Soccer podcast that 2024 will be “the season of Ally.” But it remains to be seen who will be the Pride’s new number nine.
Will We Discover the Pride’s New Number 10?
Marta has been the Pride’s number 10 since she arrived in 2017 and the team’s most prolific player. She leads the team all-time in appearances (102), starts (95), minutes (8,456), goals (31), and assists (18) in all competitions. However, she’s on the final year of a two-year deal that’s widely expected to be the last for the soon-to-be-38-year-old midfielder. If she does depart the club following the 2024 season, they Pride will need to find her replacement.
The club could go outside and find her replacement for 2025, but there are options in the current squad. The most talented player on the team currently is Brazilian international Adriana, who has typically played on the right side of the midfield, causing problems for defenses. She’s also switched with Marta at times, moving central, and has played there at the international level. The club also has Summer Yates, the former Washington Husky drafted in 2023. Yates slipped to the fourth round, where the Pride grabbed her, and Carter recently said she’s seen significant development in the second-year player.
While the primary focus is on this season, Hines could show his hand with who plays the most minutes behind Marta in the attacking midfield. While a final decision will probably be left to the 2025 preseason, we can get an idea of who might be in line for arguably the most significant role on the team during the 2024 campaign.
The Pride enter the 2024 season with more expectations than the last two years. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2023 and will be looking to improve this season. While most of the team is intact, there are some questions to be answered during preseason and the coming regular season. It will tell us a lot about the team’s 2024 season and the coming years.
Orlando Pride’s Summer Yates and Amanda Allen in Line for Breakout Seasons
Summer Yates and Amanda Allen could have breakout seasons for the Pride.
The Orlando Pride are in the third year of a full rebuild, although there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last season saw multiple young players take big steps forward in their development and this year will undoubtedly see more. Two players who currently look like they’ll play bigger roles in the team are midfielder Summer Yates and forward Amanda Allen.
Yates and Allen are two young players with bright futures that the Pride brought in during 2023. They drafted Yates out of the University of Washington with the third pick of the fourth round (39th overall) of the 2023 NWSL Draft. You usually don’t find this level of talent that late in the draft, but Yates was expected to go much higher. She began slipping through the second and third rounds, enabling the Pride to complete what could be the steal of the draft.
Rather than coming in through the draft, the Pride were able to sign Allen directly. The teenager made her way through the Canadian national team system, making her senior team debut in November 2022. She was seen as a player for the future but didn’t see much of the field last year.
It’s not a surprise to see young players in this team see significant minutes, as the Pride have focused on it over the past few seasons. It’s something that Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter spoke about with The Mane Land’s SkoPurp Soccer podcast last week.
“I think you develop through meaningful match minutes,” Carter said on SkoPurp. “Even if you look at some of the signings that we’ve made, young athletes, you look at Amanda Allen for instance, making sure she’s getting meaningful match minutes is really important to us.”
Yates and Allen are both likely to see more minutes this year but face different situations. Yates saw more time on the field during her rookie season, making 10 league appearances and recording 108 minutes. She made a further six appearances (two starts) in the NWSL Challenge Cup for 259 minutes and recorded two assists in the competition.
The Pride signed Marta to a two-year extension following the 2022 NWSL season, so this could very well be the last year of her career. Once the star is gone, the Pride will be looking for a long-term replacement and Yates could be that player. Carter even told SkoPurp that she’s seen development in the midfielder this off-season.
“(Yates) is flying, by the way. Summer Yates is chef’s kiss flying,” Carter said. “She had an unbelievable off-season. She’s like a whole new player this year.”
The midfielder was the primary playmaker for Washington in college and played that role when she appeared for the Pride last year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her play more minutes this season, especially since the club will likely lose Adriana at times to international duty.
Allen is in a different position than Yates but might have a similar opportunity to prove herself this season. At the end of last year, she was the fourth striker on the depth chart behind Messiah Bright, Ally Watt, and Mariana Larroquette. However, Bright asked for a trade this off-season due to personal reasons and was shipped to Angel City FC. The club could still bring in a veteran striker to replace the young forward, but Carter said it’s not a major concern for the team at the moment.
“We feel like we’re in a good place,” Carter said about the striker situation. “It’s not something that we’re terribly concerned about.”
However, she also said that the club has worked at strengthening the back line and midfield positions over the past two seasons. Now it’s time to look for goal scorers that can push the team to be a contender in the NWSL.
“If you look at it from a strategy standpoint, how we’ve approached the last year, we got to improve the back line. And that’s what we did first,” Carter said. “And then the priority became the midfield. And that’s what we did in the beginning of the off-season. And now we’re looking for established goal scorers.”
Watt was the starter at the forward position last year when Bright wasn’t available or needed rest. While it’s fair to assume she would simply move up to the number one spot on the depth chart, Carter further indicated the veteran would be the team’s nine.
“I feel like this is going to be the year of Ally,” Carter said about the forward.
The Pride emphasize versatility, something they’ve shown the past few seasons. While Watt will likely be the starting forward when the season starts, she also played on the right in 2023. Following her appearances last year in the midfield, her attacking teammates gave glowing reviews about having the speed of Watt on the right and Julie Doyle on the left.
The club’s focus on Watt up top might seem like a negative for Allen’s playing time. After all, the teenager didn’t appear much last season, only making three league appearances for nine minutes. She didn’t play much more in the NWSL Challenge Cup, making three appearances, with one start, for 91 minutes.
However, Allen has two things going for her. One is that the club values providing meaningful minutes to young players and Allen is seen as part of the future of this team. It’s also not easy to find proven goal scorers. Unless the club can find a proven goal scorer by the trade and transfer deadline on April 22, Allen will move up on the depth chart.
The focus for the Pride this season is improving on last year and making the playoffs for the first time since 2017. However, they also have an eye on the future with the team still being young. Last year, we saw young players like Bright and Emily Madril prove themselves at the professional level. This year we could see Yates and Allen make a similar jump.
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