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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit: Final Score 2-1 as Pride Beaten by Late Winner



The Orlando Pride (5-5-6, 21 points) fell 2-1 to the Washington Spirit (6-5-4, 22 points) in Washington, D.C. this afternoon. Ashley Sanchez scored an 89th-minute winner from distance to sink the Pride. The loss is Becky Burleigh’s first in four games as the team’s interim head coach (1-1-2).

Orlando led on Marta’s second-half strike and seemed in good position to get a road win when the roof caved in, starting with a poor clearance by Kylie Strom that handed Pride-killer Ashley Hatch an easy equalizer. Then Sanchez’s late unstoppable shot prevented Orlando from even getting a point. Orlando fell to 0-1-2 in the season series after drawing 1-1 in the previous two league match-ups against Washington.

The Pride only made one change from the team’s 1-1 draw against the Portland Thorns last weekend as Meggie Dougherty Howard entered the lineup, replacing Phoebe McClernon. The move pushed Courtney Petersen back to her natural left back position. Strom also returned to the bench after missing last week with an excused absence.

The Spirit saw their Olympic medalists return for this game. However, Kelley O’Hara (United States), Emily Sonnett (United States), and Julia Roddar (Sweden) all started the game on the bench.

The first good chance of the game came in the seventh minute when a Spirit cross found the head of Hatch, who has a knack for scoring against the Pride. She got her header on goal but it was right at Ashlyn Harris, who made the easy save.

Dorian Bailey nearly gave the Spirit the lead in the 13th minute when she got behind Amy Turner. Aiming for the far post, the ball got behind the diving Harris, but skipped just wide of the target.

It appeared as though the Spirit would take the lead in the 22nd minute when Trinity Rodman came inches away from opening the scoring. After a long run got her in behind the Pride defense, the forward fired from a tough angle. Harris went down and made the save, but the rebound went right back to Rodman. Her second shot attempt beat Harris high but the ball slammed off the crossbar.

In the 27th minute, Rodman created another chance from the opposite side of the field. After muscling past Ali Riley, the forward was able to get a shot off. Harris seemed surprised that Rodman attempted the shot as it nearly beat her near post. However, the Pride were once again saved by the woodwork as the ball bounced off the post, keeping the game scoreless.

While the first half was dominated by the Spirit, the Pride grew into the match in the final 15 minutes of the opening 45 and had a couple of opportunities late. In the 41st minute, Petersen’s cross was deflected and nearly beat Aubrey Bledsoe, but landed on top of the net.

A minute later, Sydney Leroux got sent through on goal. Bledsoe was able to block the first shot, which went right back to Leroux. The former Pride goalkeeper got down to make the second save with her leg, sending it out of play.

Rodman was the most dangerous player in the first half and that continued into the second. In the 51st minute, the teenage forward made a nice run down the right and found enough space to take a shot on goal. Her shot was searching for the back post but rolled just wide.

In the 63rd minute, Rodman had another chance when she carried the ball into the box. As she got closer to the endline, her angle narrowed and she ended up sending the ball into the side netting. It was fortunate for the Pride because Rodman had two teammates in the box with her and passing up the shot might have resulted in the game’s first goal.

The Spirit had failed to convert on some excellent chances and the Pride made them pay. In the 68th minute, Marta received the ball from Jodie Taylor in what seemed like an innocuous space. However, it was Marta who received it and she took advantage of the situation. The midfielder shot toward the corner, knocking the ball off the post and in for the game’s opening goal.

“I remember she just got it in the middle of the field, was able to turn, face, and take an incredible shot from outside the 18,” Marisa Viggiano said about Marta’s goal after the game. “And I think she, this entire game, was really dangerous with the ball on her feet like always.”

The Pride were fortunate to have the lead but it didn’t last long. In the 70th minute, a Kelley O’Hara ball into the box was blocked by a sliding Strom — who had subbed on for Petersen — near the far post. Unfortunately, the clearance attempt was poor and the ball went directly to Hatch, who put it in for the quick equalizer.

“We just gave them an easy goal,” Gunny Jonsdottir said about the equalizer. “Simple as that. We knew that five minutes after a goal, it’s kind of weather the storm and we didn’t do that. I think we need to learn from that.”

The goal was Hatch’s seventh in nine games against the Pride as a member of the Spirit, and her third against the Pride this regular season. She scored one in each of the three meetings during the 2021 NWSL campaign.

The Pride were able to create some chances in the dying minutes with a couple of nice crosses by Ali Krieger and Strom. However, nobody was able to get on the end of those balls and they went harmlessly through the box.

The inability to convert on those chances costs the Pride as the Spirit went the other way. After taking the shot herself earlier in the half, Rodman passed up the difficult angle in the 89th minute. From the top of the box, Sanchez took the pass in some space, easily stepped around Taylor Kornieck, and took a long shot on goal. She beat Harris to the corner, giving the Spirit the late winner.

“We were just too soft,” Burleigh said about the game-winner. “I mean, you cannot give a player of her caliber that kind of time and space.”

While the Pride were dominated in the first half, they ended up leading multiple statistical categories, including possession (59.8%-40.2%), duels won (41-34), passing accuracy (81.1%-74%), total passes (503-342), crosses (24-14), and corners (6-3). The problem came in the final third as the Spirit recorded more shots (20-12) and shots on target (7-4).

“That was a tough one to swallow,” Burleigh said after the game. “You know, I felt like we kind of grew into the game and felt pretty good about where we were and then, credit to them for coming back and for scoring the two goals, because I felt like that was a game that was ready for us to take. So, disappointed with the result, but at the same time, I think we’ll find some good things in there about the way that we played.”

The loss sees the Pride move from fifth to sixth in the NWSL, the final playoff position this season. However, they’re even on points with Gotham FC for fifth and are only one point behind the Spirit and OL Reign, who sit in third and fourth, respectively.

The Pride will take the field again next Sunday when they take on Gotham FC in New Jersey.

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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Orlando Pride

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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