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Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars: Final Score 1-0 as Pride Fall to Red Stars on Early Goal



The Orlando Pride (7-8-7, 28 points) fell 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars (9-8-5, 32 points) tonight in Bridgeview, IL after allowing yet another goal within the opening few minutes of the game. The hosts had several opportunities to take a multi-goal lead, but in the end it was Kealia Watt’s sixth-minute goal that was the difference. Alex Morgan also missed a penalty attempt that could have earned the Pride a road point.

The Pride displayed the same starting lineup as Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to NJ/NY Gotham FC. Only two changes were made to the bench, as Carrie Lawrence and Crystal Thomas made the trip. Parker Roberts stayed in Orlando and Meggie Dougherty Howard was suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

After giving up a goal in the third minute of each of the last two games, the Pride had a horrible start again in Bridgeview. In the fifth minute, Watt beat Ali Krieger into the box, creating a chance on goal. However, Amy Turner did well to get back, sliding in and blocking it out of play.

The ensuing corner kick was headed to Watt at the back post. The dangerous striker fired off a shot that slammed off the bottom of the crossbar and in for the opener. Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris had no chance to stop the blast.

The Red Stars nearly doubled their lead in the 10th minute when Mallory Pugh sent a low free kick into the box. It traveled through several players but nobody could get on the end of it as the ball went harmlessly out of play.

In the 17th minute, Pugh tried to do it herself. Beating Ali Riley into the box, the forward sent a low shot across the face of goal. Fortunately for the Pride, it was a tough angle for the U.S. international, and the ball rolled beyond the far post.

Former Pride forward Rachel Hill got in on the action from the right side in the 29th minute. Doing well to shield the ball from Krieger, Hill was able to get a shot off. But Harris cut down her angle and made the big save. The rebound was collected by Hill, who immediately fired a second shot on goal. By the time the shot was taken, Krieger had gotten into a defensive position, making the block.

The Red Stars thought they had a penalty in the 31st minute. Watt beat Turner into the box, forcing the defender to chase from behind. Turner made a late lunge, attempting to win the ball and Watt went down. The hosts thought they had a penalty but the referee waved play on.

The Pride had a golden chance to get back into the game in the 43rd minute when Sydney Leroux was played through into the box. She got behind Casey Kreuger and went down. It was questionable whether there was any contact, but the referee pointed to the spot.

Morgan stepped up to take the kick but missed it well wide left. It was the second missed penalty for Morgan this season.

Having Morgan take the penalty in a one-goal game was a questionable decision. The striker had missed her only other penalty this season and Marta, who was also on the field, took a perfect penalty last week against Gotham FC.

“We definitely have a couple people who are sort of in the rotation to take it,” Pride interim head coach Becky Burleigh said about the penalty. “But when it actually comes in game situation, we sort of leave that up to the players because I think it’s tough to dictate that because penalties, I think, you kind of feel it when you’re ready to take a penalty and I wouldn’t want to identify that without letting them have some opportunities. So it’s not like it’s open to anyone, but there’s definitely a few people who are in that rotation. And Alex is one of them.”

Statistically, it would appear as though the Pride had a strong first half, leading in possession (57%-43%), passes (229-176), passing accuracy (72.5%-68.6%), crosses (13-8), and corners (5-2). However, much of their passing and possession was in their own half and had little meaning. Meanwhile, the Red Stars got behind the Pride defense several times. That resulted in the hosts having a commanding lead in shots (8-2) and shots on goal (5-1).

After a slow start to the first half, the Pride were on their back foot in the second as well. Nine minutes into the second period, Pugh almost doubled the lead for the hosts. Beating Turner and Krieger into the box, Pugh hit a high shot on target. The ball bounced off the crossbar, allowing the Pride to clear.

It appeared as though Harris might’ve gotten a finger to it to make the save. Either way, the Pride were fortunate not to concede a second and remain just a goal down.

The Red Stars already felt they had been treated unfairly through first half penalty decisions and that feeling got worse in the 62nd minute. Pugh beat Courtney Petersen into the box and went down as Petersen tried to challenge the forward. The Red Stars felt they should’ve had a penalty, but replays showed that Pugh had slipped and that no contact had been made by Petersen.

In the 65th minute, Pugh stayed on her feet. Turner gave the player way too much space, allowing her to take a shot on goal. The Red Stars’ number nine tried to beat Harris to the near post, but missed the narrow target, hitting the side netting instead.

Watt had a good chance for her second of the night in the 72nd minute. Receiving the ball on the right side of the box, the forward found herself with enough space to get a shot off. However, the strong shot was just off target, hitting the side netting.

The Pride made some attacking substitutions with less than half an hour remaining, looking to find an equalizer. In the 63rd minute, Taylor Kornieck and Toni Pressley came on for Krieger and Riley, changing to a back three. Erika Tymrak then came on in the 67th minute for Marisa Viggiano.

The attacking changes and fresh legs made a difference for the Pride as they started to push forward and create some chances. In the 73rd minute, a Chicago turnover at the top of the Pride box allowed a counter attack. Tymrak carried the ball most of the way, finding Taylor to the right of the goal. The English striker quickly shot but it went well over the crossbar.

Four minutes later, Morgan fought hard to win the ball and sent a long pass into the box. Leroux was able to bring the ball down with her chest, placing her foot on it before it reached the ground. But she was leaning back on the shot and it soared over the goal.

Katie Johnson found herself with an excellent opportunity in the 83rd minute to double the lead, getting behind the Pride defense. But Harris came up big again, making her sixth save of the night.

The dying minutes created a flurry of chances as the Pride frantically tried to find an equalizer. In the 89th minute, Johnson found Vanessa DiBernardo to the right of the goal. The shot was on target, but Harris used a strong hand to knock it away and keep the deficit at one.

The Pride sprinted the other way, creating a chance on the opposite end. Morgan ended up with the ball in the box and put a low shot on goal, but it was an easy stop for Miller.

Moments later, it looked like the Red Stars would finally score their second when Pugh had the ball behind the Pride defense near midfield. Harris was well out of her goal, but Pugh continued to dribble forward instead of attempting to chip the goalkeeper.

As Pugh got closer to the box, Harris retreated toward her own six-yard box. She came back out when Pugh entered the box and tipped the ball off of the forward’s foot, who was trying to dribble around her. Pugh got the ball back and attempted an off-balance shot, but missed the target.

The Pride had one last, frantic chance three minutes into injury time, which included a backheel right in front of the goalkeeper. But they were unable to get any solid shots on target and Miller easily collected it to end the game.

“I felt like this team really fought to the end tonight, had some great chances,” Burleigh said after the game. “We were taking some major risks at the end. So our defense came up big when we were trying to take those risks. And then the offense, really just unfortunate to not get one. Loved how we fought.”

The Pride ended the game with greater possession (57.1%-42.9%), passes (440-335), and passing accuracy (70.5%-62.7%) than the Red Stars, but the hosts dominated the chances, finishing the game with more shots (17-12) and shots on goal (9-6). The Pride were much better in the second half, recording more shots (10-9) and shots on target (5-4).

The all-time series between the Pride and Red Stars has been largely controlled by the away teams, with the teams combining for seven straight road wins heading into tonight’s game. This was the Pride’s first loss away to the Red Stars since the team’s 2-1 defeat on July 22, 2017.

“I’m disappointed, clearly, and I’m upset and I just have to keep my chin up,” Harris said about the performance. “Sometimes football is cruel and you know tonight, it’s one of those games. It’s heartbreaking and just so unfortunate that we weren’t able to put the ball in the back of the net. We can’t win games if we don’t score, so I’m proud of the team, these things happen, and we fought till the very end and we didn’t give up on each other and those are important aspects to take away.”

Tonight’s loss sees the Pride end the night in eighth place in the 10-team league. They now sit four points behind the North Carolina Courage with just two games remaining in the season.

“I think the last few games have felt like playoffs already for us because we feel like we’re kind of in a must win situation,” Burleigh said about the team’s mindset heading into this weekend’s game. “So I think that these last two games will be no different. Clearly our back’s up against the wall and we need to get results and we’re going to be well aware of that.”

It will be a short turnaround for the Pride as they’ll take on Racing Louisville FC in Kentucky Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage: Three Keys to Victory

What do the Pride have to do to earn a victory against the Courage?



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride head north to take on the North Carolina Courage Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The Pride will look to extend their season-long unbeaten streak and start another win streak against the Courage. A victory might put the Pride back on top of the NWSL table.

What do the Pride have to do to earn all three points on the road?

Shut Down the Courage

Barbra Banda might have more goals than North Carolina’s Tyler Lussi and Bianca St-Georges combined, but that doesn’t mean the two players are not a threat to score. This season, Lussi and St-Georges have three goals and two goals, respectively, accounting for five of Carolina’s 13 goals. Keeping those two in check is imperative to secure a victory.

Doing so will require the Pride defense to be effective when passing out of the back. The bad habit of dribbling into the opposition, or making poorly weighted passes in their own third needs to stop. If the Pride can improve the passing out of the back while maintaining their otherwise solid defense, the club can limit Carolina’s chances.

More Better Moorhouse

Anna Moorhouse is a pretty good shot stopper, but I still hold my breath on crosses and corner kicks. Moorhouse had a pretty good match against the San Diego Wave, and she needs to improve on that performance. She has faced 43 shots on goal with 32 saves and 11 goals allowed. That the number of shots is so low is a testament to the defense in front of her. Moorhouse has the physical tools needed, now she just needs to fine tune her decision-making and put a little stickum on the keeper gloves. If she can continue to build on that last performance on Saturday against Carolina, the Pride will have a good shot at continuing the unbeaten streak.

Help Banda to Help You

Even when teams try to stop Banda by putting multiple players on her, it’s never completely effective. However, if Banda’s teammates can create some space and some chances on their own, that will draw defenders from Banda, allowing her to be more dangerous. As such, it is important to players like Adriana, Marta, Ally Watt, Julie Doyle, and Summer Yates to do more on their own. Teams are worried about Banda and will defend accordingly. Now, the Pride just need to make them pay for doing so.

That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Summer Transfer Window: Notable Free Agents

A look at the Pride’s roster and which players could solidify Orlando’s title aspirations by joining this summer.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride are now 12 matches into the 2024 NWSL season, and they are performing at or near the highest levels seen in the club’s history. The Pride continue to pace the league, tied for first with the Kansas City Current, but continuous improvement is required to stay at the top. 

After the record-setting victory against the Portland Thorns, Marta summed up what it means to be top of the table, “we now look behind and see everyone running after us, so we just need to run [faster].”

The hard work of Orlando’s squad and coaching staff is showing on the field. Behind the scenes, Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter is closely monitoring the contract situations of the top players in Europe as many seasons abroad come to a close. On that front, Carter and staff have hit the ground running this summer by securing the signature of Grace Chanda, a highly-talented Zambian attacking midfielder meant to add new dimensions to the Pride in front of goal. Even after this signing, there may be room on the roster within the salary cap to add more talent to this squad.

Current Roster and Rules

The NWSL has three key limits on roster construction by which each team must abide. The first is the salary cap, which sits at $2.75 million for 2024, double the limit from the year prior. Unfortunately, NWSL salary details are not typically reported publicly. One salary that is known is that of Barbra Banda, who earns a $525,000 annual salary after she arrived on the second-largest transfer fee in league history. Despite her price tag, the increased cap space from 2023 should leave additional room to add more top players to the roster. 

The second rule is that each team was given seven international roster slots at the beginning of 2024. The Pride gained an additional slot in a trade with Utah Royals FC that included Carly Nelson, bringing their total to eight. Six of these slots are currently occupied by Luana, Amanda Allen, Barbra Banda, Grace Chanda, Evelina Duljan, and Sofia Manner, leaving the Pride with two slots remaining. 

Lastly, the Pride are allowed 26 players on their active roster, a category that excludes certain players such as those with a season-ending injury (SEI). Of the 30 players on Orlando’s roster, four — Luana, Simone Charley, Megan Montefusco, and Viviana Villacorta — are on the SEI list. In the case of Villacorta, club training videos posted to social media hint that Pride fans might not have to wait too long for her return to action. 

Regardless of the seemingly full roster today, Carter and staff do have levers at their disposal to create room in the squad. They may choose to loan out players in need of minutes or mutually agree to terminate the contracts of players not in the club’s current or long-term plans.

Available Free Agents and Potential Roles

Because the Pride are playing so well, it is especially tricky to find the right players to sign to add depth or upgrade a starting role. However, there are a few areas that the club could target. Listed below are several high-profile, out-of-contract players that fit these roles.

Laura Freigang – Forward

The Orlando Pride attack is currently performing at a high level, and Banda is a big reason why. Since her debut, she has scored, assisted, or drawn a penalty for 13 of the Pride’s last 15 goals. However, there has been a lack of production when Banda is not on the pitch, as Sean Rollins recently wrote. Adriana has typically been an attacking focal point for the Pride, but she has been hampered by knocks and fitness this season. To make Orlando’s attack more resilient to these absences, someone like Laura Freigang would add more goal-scoring depth to the front line and help carry the load.

Freigang is a 26-year-old German international with 27 caps to her name. For the past four seasons, she has starred for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Frauen-Bundesliga, where she scored 48 times and assisted 15 times in 82 career appearances. She pairs these creation numbers with a 76.4% pass completion percentage, making her one of the better all-around forwards in Europe.

Prior to her time in Frankfurt, she played collegiately for Penn State, sharing an alma mater with current Pride players Kerry Abello and Cori Dyke. This familiarity with the U.S., as well as the increased finances available to NWSL clubs, can make playing in the States an appealing option for Freigang, as well as other players abroad. 

Julia Grosso – Attacking Midfielder

Orlando has played in a handful of different formations so far this season, sometimes to maximize a weakness that Head Coach Seb Hines sees in the opposition, and sometimes to cover gaps created by injury. The midfield has been the area of the pitch that has had to deal with the most absences, namely Luana’s season-ending illness and Angelina’s ongoing recovery from a knee injury. 

As mentioned above, the Pride have already signed Chanda to add depth and versatility to the midfield. From the club’s comments when she signed, it is obvious they view her as a gifted attacker that can cover multiple positions. If the Pride do not feel they are done reinforcing the midfield, they may take a long look at Julia Grosso.

Grosso is a 23-year-old Canadian who has just completed a three-year stint at Juventus in Italy, the same club from which the Pride signed Duljan. At Juventus, Grosso featured in 50 matches, scoring nine times. Despite her young age, she already has 63 appearances for Canada, but has fallen down the pecking order as of late and there have been rumors of her moving to the NWSL to be closer to home and national team scouts. 

Grosso’s passing and goal-scoring numbers are among the top for midfielders in Europe, though her defensive metrics show a player that prefers to join the attack. This profile could make her a different and intriguing option for Pride staff, depending on how they view the evolution of the midfield and the role of Chanda.

Lucy Bronze – Right Back

The Pride could improve their midfield depth in an unexpected way, by signing a new defender. In recent weeks, Hines has solved the issue of Orlando’s injured midfielders by pulling Haley McCutcheon from right back to defensive midfield and moving each member of the back line one position to the right to cover. This game of dominoes could be avoided altogether by adding another starting caliber right back and moving McCutcheon to the midfield on a more permanent basis. This could also shift the back line back to the left one space, allowing Abello to move forward.

One of the most exciting players in the world, Lucy Bronze, is out of contract at Barcelona and could be available, although she is sure to have many clubs interested in signing her. The 32-year-old English international was voted Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020. For Barcelona, Bronze won just about every trophy possible in the past two seasons, including each of the last two UEFA Women’s Champions League, Liga F, and Spanish Supercopa trophies, as well as the most recent Copa de la Reina.

Despite all of the success, Barcelona is struggling to afford contract renewals for their top players, the same issue plaguing Barcelona’s men’s team. It is already rumored that U.S.-based clubs are interested in Bronze’s signature if she does not renew. Given that she could start for almost any club in the world, the Pride should do what they can to jump the queue for Bronze.

Sandra Panos – Goalkeeper

The last role that Orlando may consider adding is an additional goalkeeper to compete with Anna Moorhouse. While Moorhouse boasts four clean sheets and a 76% save percentage, she has been error prone in her time in Orlando, leading to crucial dropped points. 

In the winter window, the Pride signed Sofia Manner to the goalkeeper position, stating they “expect [her] to challenge for the starting position,” but she has yet to make an appearance for the club. McKinley Crone has been the bench option. Manner and Crone are on one-year deals, club options notwithstanding, so the goalkeeper position is one that will need attention soon.

It just so happens that another great Barcelona player is available due to the team’s financial constraints. To truly elevate Orlando’s goalkeeping core, 31-year-old Sandra Panos would be an excellent addition. Panos spent the last nine seasons in Catalonia, but local reports have hinted at interest from teams in the U.S., England, and Mexico. Similar to Bronze, a player of this caliber cannot be ignored when they are available. It just remains to be seen if a top club in the NWSL can entice the Spanish international to cross the Atlantic for a new opportunity.

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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Need Goal Production When Barbra Banda is Off the Field

Barbra Banda has been a goal-scoring machine, but the Pride need an alternative when she’s not on the field.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride made waves in the women’s game when they signed Zambia international striker Barbra Banda from Chinese Women’s Super League club Shanghai Shengli. It’s been an incredibly successful acquisition with Banda immediately becoming one of the most impactful players in the NWSL. However, the club needs to figure out how to succeed without her contributions as well.

Following the 2021 NWSL season, the Pride began a complete rebuild under former general manager Ian Fleming. Using the Washington Spirit as a model, they traded stars like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger for draft picks and Allocation Money. While the moves caused frustration among the team’s fanbase, the club used the money to acquire Brazilian international Adriana, re-sign club captain Marta, and sign Banda.

The deal for Banda came close to breaking records. The $740,000 transfer fee is the second highest in the history of the women’s game. A move like that — along with her international scoring record — comes with enormous expectations and, so far, Banda has lived up to the hype.

It took some time for Banda to arrive in Orlando because the signing came while she was taking part in Olympic qualifying for Zambia. Once she arrived, the goal contributions began. She made her debut on April 19, coming on in the 61st minute for Ally Watt. While she didn’t score in her debut, she looked dangerous and the goals soon came.

The Pride have scored 15 goals in the last seven games and Banda has been part of 14. This includes eight goals, three assists, two penalties drawn, and a goal following the blocking of one of her shots. The only goal she wasn’t directly part of was Emily Sams’ opener against the Seattle Reign on May 19. However, she had a brace in that game.

To say that the Banda signing has been a successful one would be an understatement. While the Pride were a playoff caliber team without her — they narrowly missed the postseason last year — the striker’s addition makes them arguably the best team in the league. But her success this season also raises some questions about the rest of the squad.

It’s incredibly rare that a field player plays every minute of every game. That’s even more so for an attacking player that runs as much as Banda during games. Players need rest to avoid overuse and possibly seeing a dip in form later in the season. This is one of the reasons why Banda was taken off at halftime against San Diego Wave FC Friday night.

The Pride have scored multiple goals in five games this season. They netted two late in the season opener against Racing Louisville FC, before Banda’s arrival. The other four have been in Banda starts and she’s contributed to all but one of those goals. Clearly she had a significant impact on the team’s ability to score, so what happens when she’s not on the field?

Prior to May 24 against the Portland Thorns, Banda had played over 80 minutes in all of her starts for the Pride. The two most recent games she’s been replaced at halftime. In the first one, she had already netted a first-half brace and the Pride had a commanding 2-0 lead at home. However, they were only leading by a goal in San Diego when she was replaced by Marta.

The absence of Banda on the field was apparent Friday night. San Diego had chances in the first half, but the Pride created problems for the Wave’s back line throughout the first 45 minutes. After recording six shots in the first half, they only had three in the second. Makenzy Doniak equalized in the 62nd minute and, despite losing the lead, the Pride still looked lifeless in the attack. That leads to the question of whether the Pride can find goals without their star striker.

The most obvious go-to player when Banda is off the field is Watt. The speedster is the only other striker to play significant minutes this season, but she’s only scored once this year. Other than Banda, the only Pride players with multiple goals are Summer Yates (3), Julie Doyle (2), and Marta (2).

While no other players come close to Banda’s goal production, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Several players contribute to goals, which can cause problems for opposing defenses. The bigger problem is that the Pride aren’t converting when Banda isn’t on the field. That’s not a concern when Banda comes off in the final minutes with a multi-goal lead. However, the Pride have been in one-goal games without the striker in the last two matches and been unable to score a goal that would put the game away.

When Banda is on the field, she’s the go-to attacker, a large reason why she has a league-leading eight goals this year. The Pride need to find a dependable goal scorer when the striker isn’t on the field. Potential goal scorers can be overlooked when a player like Banda is scoring at the rate she has this season, but those players should show up when she’s not on the field. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening.

The Pride have had a fantastic start to the 2024 NWSL season, including a 12-game unbeaten run and a league record eight-game winning streak. Much of the success can be attributed to the play of Banda, but the Pride need to find goals when she’s not on the field. If they can figure out that last piece, they might be unstoppable.

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