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Orlando Pride vs. Racing Louisville FC: Final Score 3-1 as Leroux, Marta, and Morgan All Score



The Orlando Pride (7-5-7, 28 points) used goals by Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, and Marta to defeat Racing Louisville FC (4-9-5, 17 points) 3-1 tonight at Exploria Stadium. Morgan scored in her first game since June and Leroux came away with a goal and an assist as the Pride recorded their first ever win over Racing Louisville.

Pride Interim Head Coach Becky Burleigh made a couple of changes to the side for this game. Ashlyn Harris was out after suffering a neck injury during last week’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dash, so Erin McLeod got the start in goal. Taylor Kornieck also joined the starting lineup this week after scoring against Houston, replacing Erika Tymrak. It was Kornieck’s first start since July 31 against the North Carolina Courage.

The first half hour looked like Louisville was the home team sitting in a playoff spot rather than the Pride. The visitors got off to a strong start, putting a lot of pressure on the Pride’s back line and their backup goalkeeper.

In the fifth minute, Savannah McCaskill sent a cross into the box for the dangerous striker, Nadia Nadim. The Danish international got her head to the ball, but sent it wide of the target.

Three minutes later, Amy Turner did well to block Jorian Baucom’s cross out for a corner. McCaskill sent the ensuing corner into a crowded box. McLeod got her hands on it first, but dropped it at the top of the six. Fortunately for the Pride, the attackers had already passed the goalkeeper, allowing her to easily collect it on the first bounce.

A scary moment occurred in the 15th minute when a collision sent Nadim to the ground. She tried to get up, but teammates and the Louisville medical staff instructed her to stay down. Eventually, the striker had to be stretchered off the field.

The injury seemed to spark Louisville as the visitors had multiple opportunities at goal shortly after. The free kick that followed the foul was punched out by McLeod, but only to the top of the box. With the goalkeeper down, CeCe Kizer attempted to chip the defense. However, Turner did well to get back and clear it away with her head.

A minute later, Louisville had a couple of chances right in front of the goal. Emily Fox’s shot was saved by McLeod. The rebound went to Lauren Milliet, who immediately fired on target. However, McLeod’s quick reaction allowed her to save the second shot, keeping the game scoreless.

In the first 27 minutes of play, Louisville had five shots with two on target, while the Pride had failed to get a shot off. It appeared as though it would be a long night for the hosts.

“I still felt like we started off a little slow and then we gained momentum, of course,” Leroux said about the start to the game. “But I think we can do better in the first 20 minutes.”

After nearly a half hour of pure domination by Louisville, the Pride came to life. The home side’s first shot came in the 28th minute when Marta sent a lovely ball toward the end line for Jodie Taylor. The striker set up Leroux at the top of the six but the shot soared high of the goal.

Two minutes later, Leroux got another chance and didn’t squander it. Sent in behind the defense on the left, Leroux was 1-v-1 with Louisville goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who made the save on the first shot. The Pride forward collected the rebound, dribbled to the top of the box, and sent a shot past Betos and inside the far post to make it 1-0.

“What so impresses me about Syd is just her relentlessness and that goal was such an epitome of that,” Burleigh said about Leroux’s goal. “She just stayed with it.”

The Pride doubled their lead in the 34th minute, and Leroux had another big part. After getting sent down the left again, Leroux sent a low cross into the box. Nealy Martin got her foot to the ball, but Marta was right there to collect it and put it past Betos, giving the Pride an unlikely 2-0 lead.

“I think we grinded it out a little bit in the beginning of the first half,” Morgan said. “But were able to pick it up once we got that first goal.”

“They played a really high line in the first half and we were able to expose that,” Leroux added. “I think that’s where our goals came from in the first half.”

The second half started similar to the way the first half did, with Louisville controlling possession. In fact, the Pride had trouble getting the ball to the halfway line in the first 10 minutes of the second period.

Shots by Milliet and Yuki Nagasato were blocked inside the 49th and 51st minutes before Louisville finally broke through.

In the 51st minute, Nagasato’s blocked shot went right back to her. Phoebe McClernon was tracking Kizer’s run, but the Louisville midfielder got goalside, leaving McClernon behind. Nagasato timed her ball perfectly, sending Kizer through on goal. The midfielder’s first touch was a chip past McLeod, cutting the Pride lead in half.

Louisville continued to push forward after the goal, looking for an equalizer. Fox had a shot blocked in the 55th minute before Kizer hit the target in the 56th. However, Kizer’s shot was directly at McLeod for the easy save. The stop by McLeod allowed the Pride to clear for the first time in the half and ended the sustained attack by Louisville.

The 61st minute saw the return of Morgan, who hadn’t played for the Pride since June 26 against the Houston Dash. It was a big lift for the Pride and the star striker made her presence felt early.

In the 65th minute, Leroux carried the ball near the Louisville box and sent a pass aimed for Morgan. Freja Olofsson blocked the pass but it went right back to Leroux. Her second attempt to connect with Morgan was successful and the U.S. international sent a lovely shot toward the far post, pushing the Pride lead back to two.

“I was happy to come in and get a goal as well,” Morgan said about her goal. “Get on the scoresheet and just get back to playing with the team because it’s just been way too long.”

The Pride’s third goal took a lot out of the visitors and they were unable to create the same attack they had before the goal. The best chance following Morgan’s strike came from the Pride in the 85th minute. Marta’s corner was redirected by Leroux, who was looking for her second of the night. However, the header was wide of the target.

With a two-goal lead, the Pride were able to hold onto possession for much of the last 10 minutes, holding on for an important 3-1 win.

“A great way to get into a little time off period for us, a brief time off period,” Burleigh said about her team’s performance. “I thought some of the goals were really great efforts. To have Alex score on her return, that’s amazing. I thought Syd really, really battled on the goal that she scored. To get Parker (Roberts) her debut. And just to kind of have a full team effort again. I think this team continues to show their resilience. We gave up a goal but didn’t panic, and were able to continue to apply the pressure and go ahead by (two).”

Despite Louisville dominating the first 30 minutes, the Pride ended up leading most statistical categories, including blocked shots (5-0), duels won (45-35), and passes (448-440). While possession was nearly even (50.1%-49.9%), Louisville ended up with more shots (12-6) and corners (5-2).

The big difference in this game was the shooting accuracy of both teams. While Louisville only put four of its 12 shots on target, the Pride put four of their six shots on the frame and converted three times.

It’s a big three points for the Pride, especially after the Washington Spirit were forced to forfeit their scheduled game this weekend against OL Reign due to COVID-19 protocol violations. The Pride are now alone in fourth, two points ahead of the Chicago Red Stars and one point behind the Courage for third.

“Every game is so important at this point,” Morgan said about getting all three points. “We want to have the best finish possible to get a higher ranking in the playoffs. So all the points matter. There’s a lot of ties going on in the league, Reign just picked up a win from a forfeit of Washington, so we knew that we have to keep climbing the table, getting points that we need, especially at home behind our fans. So this was a very important game for us.”

The Pride will now receive an extended break, not playing again until Sept. 26 when they travel west to take on OL Reign.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Kylie Strom to Three-Year Deal

The Pride have signed starting left back and free agent Kylie Strom to a new three-year contract.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed starting left back Kylie Strom to a new three-year contract. The defender became a free agent following the 2023 NWSL season, but the Pride said they were in negotiations to bring her back.

“Kylie is coming off the best season of her professional career, a season in which she was one of the most underrated defenders in the league, and we believe she deserves much more recognition than she’s received,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “It means a lot to us that she has not only seen what we are building here, but she has completely bought into it and has chosen to stay in Orlando. She is a vital leader within the locker room and on the field, and we couldn’t be more excited to keep her onboard. Our goal is to build off last season’s success and ensuring her return was a key aspect of that.” 

The Endicott, NY, native joined the Pride from Spanish side Atletico Madrid on July 5, 2021, where she spent two seasons. Her initial contract with Orlando was a two-year deal with an option for a third year. The club picked up her option after the 2022 NWSL season and she became a free agent this off-season. However, she says her intention was to remain in purple and be a part of what the club is building.

“I have said it since the beginning of last year, what we are building here throughout the Pride is really special,” Strom said in a club press release. “I think the team that we have, from the players to the people, is all really exciting and I am just excited to continue to be a part of it. I think we can achieve a lot after coming up just short last year. Moving forward, we have learned and grown and have a lot to look forward to.” 

In her first three seasons with the Pride, Strom has made 58 appearances in all competitions, with 46 starts, and has played 4,163 minutes. She made her debut on July 9, 2021 in a 1-1 draw against Racing Louisville. Her Pride career began on the bench, but she took over the starting left back job from Courtney Petersen midway through last season. This year, she started 26 of the team’s 28 games in all competitions and all 22 of the Pride’s leagues games.

The 30-year-old had a breakout year in 2023, starting 26 games and recording 2,281 minutes. She had a goal and an assist, playing the second-most minutes on the team behind center back Emily Madril. Additionally, she was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for both May and August.

What It Means for Orlando

The signing of Strom means that the Pride will have their starting back five returning next season. They previously signed goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse and center back Madril to new contracts, so the next one up is right back Haley McCutcheon. Everyone else is under contract through at least the 2025 NWSL season (McCutcheon is currently signed through 2024).

Finding the right defensive unit has been a struggle for Pride Head Coach Seb Hines since he took over the role on an interim basis midway through the 2022 season. But he settled on Strom, Madril, Rafaelle, and McCutcheon in front of Moorhouse last season. The Pride’s 28 goals conceded last year was sixth in the 12-team league, but they showed improvements as the season went on. They only gave up multiple goals once in their last five games, though it was a key 3-2 loss to Racing Louisville, eventually knocking them out of the playoffs.

Regardless, the team sees this defensive unit as essential to the team’s success next season and there was little question Orlando wanted Strom back. The only free agent from last year’s team now is defensive midfielder Jordyn Listro, who is a restricted free agent. With the club having traded Mikayla Cluff to the Utah Royals for expansion draft protection, bringing Listro back likely becomes the club’s new top priority.

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2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Messiah Bright

The Pride’s rookie striker made a name for herself in 2023.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride selected Messiah Bright with the ninth pick of the second round (21st overall) in the 2023 NWSL draft, and she may have been the steal of that draft. The Pride then signed Bright to a three-year deal on March 2. The Dallas, TX native started all 102 matches she played at TCU during her college career.

Let’s take a look at the rookie striker’s 2023 season with the Orlando Pride.

Statistical Breakdown

Bright appeared in 22 regular-season matches, starting 16, logging a total of 1,379 minutes. She scored six goals on 41 shots with 12 on target and 10 blocked. She did not have an assist, but she made seven key passes. Bright completed 184 of her 273 total passes (67.4%). She was accurate on 52.7% of her passes in the opponent’s half, and 83.7% in her own half. She was three of four on her long passes (75%). She also completed two of her 25 crosses. Defensively, she made one interception and five blocks, won 14 of her 26 tackles (53.8%), won 99 of her 211 duels (46.6%), and won 38 of her 64 aerial duels (59.4%). She also committed 20 fouls, suffered six fouls, and was booked twice.

The 23-year-old made six appearances in NWSL Challenge Cup play, starting three games and playing 307 total minutes. Bright scored one goal on seven total shots with three on target. She attempted four crosses, though none were successful, and registered no assists. Bright completed 48 of her 72 total passes (66.7%). She was accurate on 58.5% of her passes in the opponent’s half, and 73.9% in her own half.  Bright was one for three on her long passes (33.3%), and made nine key passes. Defensively, she won two of her four tackles (50%), 20 of her 45 duels (44.4%), and eight of her 14 aerial duels (57.1%). She also committed four fouls, suffered one foul, and was not booked in the tournament.

Best Game

Bright’s best match was the 5-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars on Aug 20. She scored the first brace of her professional career with the first goal coming in the 23rd minute on this absolutely stunning volley into the upper right corner of the goal.

Bright followed up that goal with her second early in the second half. In the 49th minute she received a gorgeous through ball from Marta, went around the keeper and then calmly put it inside the left post past the surging defenders. 

Bright only played 60 minutes, but she made the most of each minute. Her goals came on four shots with three on target. She also completed seven of her eight passes (85.7%) on 19 touches, committed no fouls, suffered no fouls, and was not booked.

2023 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Bright a composite rating of 6 out of 10 for the 2023 season. She had a very solid rookie season, but she was still a rookie and thus made some mistakes. Bright has all the tools to be a great striker in the NWSL and perhaps eventually for the USWNT. Given this was Bright’s first season, she did not receive a grade in 2022.

2024 Outlook

Bright is signed through the 2025 season, though if she continues to develop as expected she may get a new contract before then. She will be a consistent starter for the Pride in 2024 as she was in 2023, and I expect her production to increase despite teams now knowing what she is capable of doing. Her size and strength can’t be taught, though she can learn to use those attributes more effectively.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Emily Madril

The first-year defender played almost every single minute available in the 2023 season.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride selected former Florida State defender Emily Madril with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2023 NWSL Draft. The 5-foot-7 Navarre, FL native decided to forego her last season of eligibility in Tallahassee to begin her professional career. A two-time national champion (2018 and 2021), Madril left FSU, signing a contract with the National Women’s Soccer League through 2025 and was loaned to Swedish side BK Hacken FF.

Following a standout first NWSL season in which she played all but three minutes in the regular season, Madril was rewarded by the Pride with a new contract through 2026.

Let’s take a look at her first season with the Orlando Pride.

Statistical Breakdown

Madril started all 22 of the Pride’s regular-season games in 2023, leading all rookies in minutes played (1,977), and coming off only moments before the end of the club’s season finale against the Houston Dash when the Pride were desperately trying to score a game winner to stay in playoff contention. The defender did not record a goal or an assist on the season, attempting just one shot, which was off target. Madril completed 814 of her 953 passes (85.4%), 46 of her 103 long passes (44.7%), and one of her three crosses, while recording five key passes. There wasn’t much drop-off in her passing rate related to position on the field, as Madril completed 88.7% of her passes in the defensive half and 75.6% in the attacking half. Defensively, she added 19 blocks and 19 interceptions, won 17 of her 28 tackles (60.7%), and was successful on 76 of her 122 duels (62.3%). She also won 54.5% of her 33 aerial duels. She won 23 fouls while conceding only nine and was booked twice during the regular season.

In the NWSL Challenge Cup, Madril appeared in five of the team’s six matches (all starts), and played 450 minutes. She did not score a goal or assist on one and did not attempt a shot. She completed 193 of her 224 passes (86.2%), including 13 of her 25 long passes (52%). Madril passed at an 89% rate in her own half and a 78.3% in the attacking half, recording one key pass, but not attempting a cross in the competition. She recorded 10 blocks and four interceptions on defense, winning 55.6% of her tackle attempts, 68.1% of her duels, and 71.4% of her aerial duels. She committed five fouls, drawing six on the opposition, and was not booked in the tournament.

Best Game

With a number of standout games to choose from, I’ll go with the Pride’s 1-0 win over OL Reign on July 7. Paired with Megan Montefusco as the center back tandem, Madril and her teammates limited the Reign to just five shot attempts (two on target) across the 90+ minutes of the game. Madril had 55 touches and completed 89.1% of her 46 passes. She recorded two tackles and drew two fouls on her opponents while not committing any. Madril and her teammates helped Messiah Bright’s 16th-minute strike hold up over the remainder of the match without constantly being under siege. It was a complete performance and one of the team’s best defensive efforts of the year. It was also just the Pride’s second win ever against OL Reign.

2023 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Madril a composite rating of 6.5 for the 2023 season. There were several shaky moments early in the year for the first-year NWSL defender that prevented that score from rising higher (such as conceding a penalty against Angel City), but as the season progressed and she became more comfortable with Seb Hines’ system, the league, and her teammates, Madril was a solid player on the Pride’s back line. She showed her versatility in being able to play both center back positions as well as right back for a couple of matches. A 6.5 is a good rating for a first-year NWSL center back, and Madril showed that she has the potential to develop into one of the league’s best defenders.

2024 Outlook

Madril is obviously highly regarded by the organization and has a huge upside. She has expressed on multiple occasions how happy she is to be with the Pride, and I would expect her to be in Orlando until/unless the Pride get an offer they can’t refuse from a bigger club or if Madril decides to leave once she’s eligible for free agency. Madril should be a starter on the back line for the Pride in 2024 barring something unforseen.

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