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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns: Final Score 1-1 as Thorns Equalize on Late Goal



An early Jodie Taylor goal was canceled out by a late Simone Charley header as the Orlando Pride (5-4-6, 21 points) drew with the Portland Thorns (9-3-2, 29 points) 1-1 tonight at Exploria Stadium. It’s a valuable point against the top team in the league, but will be seen by the Pride as a missed opportunity with Portland missing several key players.

The Pride’s starting lineup was as expected for this game, with Alex Morgan being the only regular starter absent. Phoebe McClernon moved back into the starting lineup, setting up beside Amy Turner on the left side. That moved Courtney Petersen into a wingback position, where she’s been playing under interim head coach Becky Burleigh.

The Olympians who played in the bronze or gold medal games during the Olympics didn’t take part this weekend, hurting the visitors much more than the hosts. While the Pride were only missing Morgan (United States) and McLeod (Canada) due to this reason, the Thorns were without Crystal Dunn (United States), Adrianna Franch (United States), Lindsey Horan (United States), Christine Sinclair (Canada), and Becky Sauerbrunn (United States).

The Pride got off to a good start, controlling the early possession and creating some sustained attacks, even if they were unable to get any opportunities on goal. The problem early was attempting to dribble through multiple defenders instead of sending balls into the box. However, that changed in the 13th minute.

Petersen has been a primary supplier for the Pride this season and was again early in this one. In the 13th minute, the left-sided midfielder sent a beautiful cross into the Portland box. After scoring her first goal for the Pride last weekend, it was Jodie Taylor who struck first again tonight. Taylor beat her defender to the near post, getting her head to the ball and putting it past Bella Bixby.

“I’ve just been dying for someone to get on the end of one of my crosses,” Petersen said after the game. “And Jodie was there.”

“That was a great ball by Courtney, a quality, quality ball,” Burleigh added. “And a great finish.”

After having few quality chances in her first two games for the Pride, Taylor has now scored in each of her last two appearances. Both of those goals have come inside the first 15 minutes of games.

The goal seemed to awaken Portland, which immediately went on the attack for an equalizer. They nearly found it in the 25th minute. Meghan Klingenberg, who is always dangerous from the left back position, sent a curling ball into the box for Simone Charley. Fortunately for the Pride, the ball sailed a bit too high for the striker.

The Pride had their second quality chance a minute later. A beautiful ball forward to the top of the box was brought down by Sydney Leroux. However, the forward was unable to fully control it, eventually resulting in the loss of possession.

The Thorns had their closest first-half chance in the 30th minute. The Pride left too much space, allowing Marissa Everett to get a shot off from the top of the box. The strike slammed off the crossbar, just beyond the outstretched arm of Ashlyn Harris.

Six minutes later, it was Harris who made the stop. Natalia Kuikka sent a beautiful ball into the box, which found the head of Charley at the near post. The most dangerous attacker on the weakened Thorns side redirected the ball on goal from the top of the six-yard box. However, Harris reacted well, palming the ball away and allowing the Pride to clear.

The Thorns led most statistical categories at the half. They had more shots (10-4), more passes (212-169), and more possession (55.1%-44.9%). The determining factor in the Pride’s halftime lead was that the Thorns only put one of their 10 shots on target, and Harris made a terrific save.

While the Pride had the majority of possession and chances early in the first half, the Thorns dominated most of the second period.

In the 49th minute, Charley found the first opportunity at goal. After receiving the ball in the box, the forward completed a quick turn and shot, but it was right at Harris. The forward had a nearly identical chance 10 minutes later, but it was the same result.

An even better opportunity came in the 56th minute through Sophia Smith. Relatively quiet to that point, Smith lifted a ball for Rocky Rodriguez, who was making a run into the box. She would’ve been through on goal, but Harris did well to come off her line to collect the ball.

In the 62nd minute, Smith decided to take the opportunity herself. Carrying the ball into the box to the left of goal, she took a low, hard shot, attempting to beat Harris to her far post. However, the ball skipped quickly through and harmlessly out of play.

The first second-half chance for the Pride didn’t come until the 64th minute. Another lovely Petersen cross fell between Taylor and Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby. The first-half goal scorer beat the goalkeeper to the ball, but the sliding shot went wide of the goal.

In the 70th minute, it was second-half substitute Meggie Dougherty Howard that created the opportunity. With her back to goal, Marta played the ball back to Dougherty Howard, who lifted a cross toward goal. Taylor charged into the box and got her head to the ball, redirecting it on target. However, Bixby did well to tip it over the crossbar.

The Thorns dominated the second half and got their just reward in the 78th minute. A Klingenberg free kick toward the back post found the head of Charley, who out-jumped the Pride defenders to redirect the ball on goal. Harris stood frozen to her line as the ball made its way inside the post for the equalizer.

“I have to give props to Portland for getting the equalizer,” Burleigh said about the goal. “That was a pretty good header. She was marked well by Amy, but she still managed to get the header off and score. So impressive by Charley.”

Four minutes later it appeared as though the Thorns might’ve taken the lead. Smith was sent through on goal and beat Harris with a low shot. However, referee Matthew Franz’s arm immediately raised in the air, indicating the dangerous forward was offside.

The Pride did have a late chance to retake the lead a minute into injury time. Marta sent a beautiful cross into the box for Leroux. The forward was able to get her head on it and send it towards goal, but it went over the crossbar. That was the final opportunity as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Despite being short-handed, the Thorns led most statistical categories tonight. They ended the game with more shots (17-8), shots on target (4-3), corners (3-2), total passes (401-335), passing accuracy (74.8%-69.6%), and possession (53.7%-46.3%). The only stat that ended in the Pride’s favor was duels won (51-47).

While the Thorns came into this game with a four-game winning streak and unbeaten in their last six, the Pride will be disappointed not to secure all three points. The Pride were nearly back to full strength and the Thorns were missing key internationals.

“I think it’s a good thing that we’re disappointed that we ended with a tie with the first place team,” said Burleigh, who is still unbeaten as the Pride’s coach (1-0-2). “I think our team felt like there was a big change when our reserves came on and they were game changers, that was huge for us just to see people make a difference like that. And I think that’s something we’ve been able to see even in the last few games, so it’s just great to see that the people who aren’t starting are still able to come on and make such a big difference for us.

“I think we were prepared to come in here and take a win. And, like I said, credit to Portland for bringing it back to level. But I think that our mindset is that we can compete with anyone, and give more than a lot of credit, they’ve been very, very successful, especially as of late, and they’re a tough team. They’re very deep, as evidenced by their reserves and them not even missing a beat with the internationals being gone in terms of their results. But at the same time, I feel really good about what we can do too and I think we can only get better.”

The point moves the Pride up to third place in the NWSL, though they’ve played more games than the teams around them. The Thorns remain atop the league with the point, eight points ahead of the North Carolina Courage.

After this one game back home, the Pride will go back out on the road where they’ll face the Washington Spirit at Audi Field next Sunday afternoon.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List

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



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

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

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

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

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

What It Means for Orlando

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

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

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Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024

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



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

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

Here are five burning questions about the Pride for 2024.

Who Will Start in Goal?

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

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

Who Will Start in the Defensive Midfield?

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

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

Where is Ally Watt Best Suited?

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

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

Who will Replace Messiah Bright?

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

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

Will We Discover the Pride’s New Number 10?

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

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

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

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

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

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



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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