2021 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Crystal Thomas
The Orlando Pride have struggled in recent years when forwards have gone off to international competitions in the middle of the NWSL season. With 2021 being an Olympic year, it seemed a wise move when the club signed Crystal Thomas on Feb. 23 after the former Washington Spirit forward completed a short trial period with Orlando in the preseason.
But how did the newcomer perform in her first season with the Pride? Let’s take a look at her 2021 season.
Thomas began the season on the injured list and missed the first couple of matches of the NWSL Challenge Cup but she managed to make her Pride debut with a late appearance on May 1 against the North Carolina Courage, logging eight minutes and completing all four of her passes in a 0-0 road draw.
She made nine appearances in the regular season (three starts), including a run of six consecutive matches with an appearance from June 23 to July 24, playing 305 minutes. The forward had no direct goal contributions and attempted only four shots officially, per the NWSL website, putting two on frame. That’s just one shot attempt per each 76.3 minutes. Thomas passed with a 63.6% success rate but completed no long pass attempts, finishing the season with two key passes.
Defensively, she registered two clearances and two interceptions. She won 77% of her tackle attempts, half her aerial duels, and just under half of her total duels (47.1%). She committed seven fouls and drew seven from the opposition and received no disciplinary cards.
Thomas’ top performance with the Pride this past season came on July 9 in a 1-1 draw at home against Racing Louisville. She started and played her highest total of minutes in a match all season (69). While she didn’t register a shot attempt or contribute to a goal, Thomas drew four free kicks and passed at a season-high 80% rate, helping the Pride stay in the match long enough for Sydney Leroux’s late equalizer. She won two tackles and created one scoring chance in the match. She appeared in only two more games the rest of the season.
2021 Final Grade
The 27-year-old from Elgin, IL would not have played enough minutes to qualify for a grade under strictly our minimum of 360 minutes. However, since she appeared in more than a third of the team’s games, it’s fair to make an exception in her case. Thomas received a composite grade of 4.5 from The Mane Land staff for her 2021 campaign. Thomas brought good energy to the pitch but didn’t accomplish much on the field. Forwards and other attacking players are tasked with helping the team score and Thomas didn’t provide anything tangible in the attack to go along with her few attempts at goal. While soccer is a team game, and the Pride often went long stretches without creating much offensively, Thomas was brought on to help with that. She did not appear in a game over the final 12 matches, with 11 of those being coach’s decision and one being an excused absence.
Thomas’ contract was just for the 2021 season. Her run of matches in the middle of the season seemed enough time to gel with her teammates and make an impact but Thomas didn’t seize that opportunity, and her minutes dried up when the Pride brought in Jodie Taylor. It seems unlikely she would be brought back unless Pride General Manager Ian Fleming believes she has value as a depth player on a lower-end deal.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Abi Kim (11/1/21)
- Ally Haran (11/3/21)
- Chelsee Washington (11/4/21)
- Parker Roberts (11/4/21)
- Emily van Egmond (11/5/21)
- Jade Moore (11/6/21)
Orlando Pride vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC NWSL Challenge Cup Game Postponed
The Pride were scheduled to face NJ/NY Gotham FC in New Jersey, but poor air quality has postponed the game until Aug. 9.
Tonight’s NWSL Challenge Cup game between the Orlando Pride and NJ/NY Gotham FC has been postponed by the NWSL. The league released a statement this afternoon stating that poor air quality conditions in the New York metropolitan area was the cause of the postponement. The game will now be played on Aug. 9.
The Pride were originally scheduled to continue their 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup campaign at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, as they search for their first win of the competition. However, wildfires in eastern Canada have caused deteriorating smoky and hazy conditions that New Jersey residents started experiencing Tuesday evening. Forecasts for Wednesday night showed that conditions were expected worsen, resulting in the postponement of the game.
“The safety of our players, officials, and fans is our top priority,” the NWSL said in a press release. “Following consultation with the NWSL Medical and Operations staff, it was determined that the match could not be safely conducted based on the projected air quality index.”
The scheduling of the game should benefit the Pride. They played Saturday night in a 2-0 loss to the Houston Dash and welcome the Portland Thorns to Exploria Stadium Sunday night. The makeup game comes during a league break for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Pride play a Challenge Cup game at home on Aug. 4, but don’t play again until they host the Chicago Red Stars on Aug. 20. However, they could be without some key players for that match, depending on who is selected for their respective World Cup squads.
The game on Aug. 9 will still take place at Red Bull Arena at 7:30 p.m. However, rather than being a televised contest on CBS Sports Network, it will now be exclusively on Paramount+ in the United States.
Orlando Pride vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
The Pride look to get their first 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup win as they take on NJ/NY Gotham FC in New Jersey.
[Editor’s note: There is some question as to whether this match will take place tonight with wildfires wreaking havoc with the air quality in the area. The Pride and Gotham FC have been in contact with the NWSL, which is monitoring the situation.]
Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (0-1-1, 1 point) take on NJ/NY Gotham FC (1-0-1, 4 points) at Red Bull Arena in the NWSL Challenge Cup. This is the first of two Challenge Cup meetings between these two teams, with the second game in Orlando scheduled for June 28.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride have faced Gotham FC 21 times since joining the NWSL in 2016. They’re 7-8-6 in all competitions and 4-2-4 away from home. In Challenge Cup games, the Pride are 0-2-1 in three games against Gotham and 0-0-1 up north.
This is the second time the two teams have met at Red Bull Arena this year. The first meeting came on May 14 in regular season play. The Pride were the better team and created more chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net and the game ended in a scoreless draw.
The Pride and Gotham met for the first time this season on April 15 at Exploria Stadium. The game looked to be headed for a draw, but Gotham struck twice in second-half injury time. Midge Purce converted a penalty 10 minutes into stoppage time for the latest goal in NWSL history. The attacker then assisted Lynn Williams seven minutes later, setting a new record as the Pride fell 2-0. The Professional Referee Organization stated publicly that the penalty given for a handball on Caitlin Cosme did not meet its standards for being clear and obvious enough for a review, but that won’t change the standings.
The two teams met four times last season, twice in the NWSL regular season and twice in the Challenge Cup. The first game was a Challenge Cup meeting on March 30 at Exploria Stadium. It looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw before Purce scored a late winner. The next meeting was April 23 at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. Gunny Jonsdottir gave the Pride the lead, but Toni Pressley got tangled up with Ifeoma Onumonu, resulting in a penalty. Anna Moorhouse guessed the right way, but Kristie Mewis put it into the bottom corner, evening the game just before the half. Neither team could find a winner and it ended 1-1.
The teams opened the 2022 NWSL regular season against each other on May 1 in Orlando. After two close match-ups in the preseason, this one was all Gotham as goals by McCall Zerboni, Purce, and Mewis lifted the visitors to a 3-0 win. On Aug. 20, they played for the final time in 2022 at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. Celia and Ally Watt built the Pride a 2-0 lead. Mewis got one back for the hosts, but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win.
The Pride and Gotham also met four times in 2021, with the first coming in the Pride’s inaugural Challenge Cup campaign. On April 14, Paige Monaghan’s goal lifted Gotham to a 1-0 win. The first regular-season game that year came on June 20 in Orlando. The visitors took the lead through Caprice Dydasco, but Courtney Petersen equalized, and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
On Aug. 29, the teams played at Red Bull Arena. Erika Tymrak’s long-range goal lifted the Pride to a 2-1 win. The teams played one final, high-scoring game on Oct. 9. It was a bad start for the Pride as Gaetane Thiney scored a brace and Purce made it 3-0 late. But the Pride came storming back with goals by Tymrak and Marta, falling just short in a 3-2 final.
The Pride and Gotham were in different groups for the 2020 Fall Series, so the last time they met prior to 2021 was in 2019, when the New Jersey-based club was still called Sky Blue FC. They first met that year on June 22 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. Chioma Ubogagu gave the Pride the lead from the penalty spot and Sarah Killion equalized. The difference was a Gina Lewandowski own goal as the Pride won 2-1. On July 20, they met at Exploria Stadium. Marisa Viggiano’s goal won it for the Pride, 1-0. The final game occurred on Sept. 29 in New Jersey. Shelina Zadorsky gave the Pride the lead, but Carli Lloyd equalized in a 1-1 draw.
The teams met three times in 2018, starting on June 16 in Orlando, when a Sydney Leroux brace led the Pride to a 3-2 win. They met again in Orlando on Aug. 5, with the Pride giving up a 1-0 after Marta’s opening goal. But Dani Weatherholt equalized in a 2-2 draw. The final meeting in 2018 came on Sept. 8 in New Jersey — the final game of the season. There was only one goal in this one as Lloyd won it for Sky Blue FC.
The 2017 season saw the Pride and Sky Blue meet three times. The first was May 27 in New Jersey, where the Pride lost 2-1. They met again in New Jersey on June 28 and the Pride won, 3-2. The final meeting was on Aug. 12 in Orlando and the Pride won by its largest margin in team history, beating Sky Blue, 5-0.
The 2016 season was the first time the two teams met, with the inaugural game coming on Sept. 7 in New Jersey. Alex Morgan and Sam Kerr swapped goals in a 1-1 draw. They met again three days later in Orlando, with Sky Blue winning, 2-1.
The Pride scored first in each of their first two Challenge Cup games this year. Ally Watt gave the Pride the lead at Exploria Stadium on April 19 against the North Carolina Courage in the 56th minute. It looked like they would hold on for three points, but Denise O’Sullivan scored nine minutes into second-half injury time to equalize. The second game was against the Washington Spirit at Audi Field and Tori Hansen gave the visitors the lead just 10 minutes into the game. But an onslaught of long-distance goals lifted the Spirit to a 4-2 win.
The Pride look to get their first Challenge Cup win of 2023 tonight in New Jersey. The squad will be heavily rotated, especially with the Portland Thorns coming to town on Sunday night. While the team will still look to bring home the three points, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines will use this game as an opportunity to get playing time for players.
Similar to the Pride, Gotham used arguably its best lineup in the first Challenge Cup game against the Spirit. Lynn Williams’ 56th-minute goal was the difference in a 1-0 result. Gotham heavily rotated its lineup for the second game on May 3, a 1-1 draw with the Courage. It conceded just three minutes into the game, but went for the win by bringing on Kristie Mewis, Ali Krieger, and Williams at halftime. Williams equalized late and Gotham took a point from the game.
Gotham’s plan tonight will likely be similar to its second game. The Pride will need to get a good start to the game, because Hines has shown little interest in bringing regular starters into Challenge Cup games. If the Pride want to get three points, they’ll need to score before Gotham’s attacking starters come on.
“Obviously, (Gotham is) looking to win a game the same as us. Playing them a couple of times, they may change shape, they may change formation depending on the personnel they have, but we have to focus on ourselves,” Hines said about tonight’s opponent. “We’re looking to bounce back from this weekend and get three points and keep getting momentum and getting that ball rolling again. Momentum is such a key factor in a season so getting a win against Jersey will be great for the squad and the players.”
The Pride will play this game without Carrie Lawrence (knee) and Erika Tymrak (ankle). Kaylie Collins (hand) and Amanda Allen (lower leg) are listed as questionable. Gotham will be without Imani Dorsey (excused absence), Sabrina Flores (foot), Kelley O’Hara (ankle), Midge Purce (hip), and Taryn Torres (knee).
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Carly Nelson.
Defenders: Celia, Tori Hansen, Caitlin Cosme, Brianna Martinez.
Defensive Midfielders: Jordyn Listro, Kerry Abello.
Midfielders: Haley Bugeja, Thais Reiss, Summer Yates.
Forwards: Julie Doyle.
NJ/NY Gotham FC (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Michelle Betos.
Defenders: Jenna Nighswonger, Ellie Jean, Mandy Freeman, Bruninha.
Midfielders: McCall Zerboni, Nealy Martin, Sinead Farrelly.
Forwards: Svana Ros Gudmundsdottir, Delanie Sheehan, Ifeoma Onumonu.
REF: Greg Dopka.
AR1: Stephen Milhoan.
AR2: Jessica Carnevale.
4TH: Sergii Boiko.
VAR: Daniel Radford.
AVAR: Emma Richards.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Red Bull Arena — Harrison, NJ.
TV: CBS Sports Network.
Streaming: NWSLsoccer.com (International).
Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow @TheManeLand and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash: Final Score 2-0 as Pride Drop Second Straight
The Houston press was too much for the Pride as they drop their second straight game.
The Orlando Pride (3-6-1, 10 points) fell for the second consecutive game, losing to the Houston Dash (4-3-3, 15 points) 2-0 in Texas. Sophie Hirst gave the hosts the lead in the sixth minute and Michelle Alozie doubled the advantage shortly before halftime. They held onto that lead for the entire second half, sending the Pride home with an 0-2-0 road trip.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the team that fell 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars last weekend. Regular starter Viviana Villacorta returned to the lineup after a game off, replacing Marta. The back four in front of Anna Moorhouse remained the same, with Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Villacorta joined Mikalya Cluff, Adriana, Erika Tymrak, and Kerry Abello in the midfield, and Messiah Bright started up top.
Coming off a game where the Pride dominated and just couldn’t find the back of the net, they were never really in this one. The Houston press created headaches in the first half with the Pride giving up the ball up in their own third on multiple occasions. They also couldn’t create much offensively, failing to challenge Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell.
The Pride got off to a poor start, conceding in the sixth minute. The hosts got a corner kick when Madril cleared the ball out of play and a second when Abello blocked the first corner out. The ensuing set piece was into the arms of Moorhouse, but the goalkeeper spilled it right in front of goal. Hirst was the first player to the ball, flicking it with the outside of her foot past Moorhouse and in to give the Dash an early 1-0 lead.
They nearly doubled their advantage in the ninth minute when Sophie Schmidt sent Diana Ordonez behind the Pride back line. It was a foot race between Ordonez and Moorhouse to the ball, with the Pride goalkeeper reaching it just before the attacker outside of the box.
A minute later, the Pride had their first good chance of the game. Adriana was sent down the right and towards the end line. She reached the ball before it went out of play, sending it to the penalty spot where Bright was waiting. The striker had her back to the goal, but did well to turn and get off a first-touch shot. Unfortunately, she got under the ball and sent it over the target.
The Dash had a great chance in the 17th minute when Madril gave the ball away to the pressuring Alozie. The forward had Ordonez wide open in the middle of the box, but decided to take it herself. Montefusco did well to close down the attacker, deflecting the shot into the hands of Moorhouse.
The Pride almost had a chance in the 20th minute when Montefusco made a good run into the midfield, breaking the Houston press. She found Tymrak in the center circle, who played it forward for Adriana. However, the Brazilian lost the ball at the top of the box before she could get a shot off.
The Dash appeared to have a great opportunity in the 28th minute when Villacorta gave the ball up in her own third to Joelle Anderson. The midfielder played to Maria Sanchez on the left, who continued it forward to Ordonez. Moorhouse did well to come out and challenge the forward, but the flag went up for offside anyway.
In the 39th minute, Abello was sent down the left by Tymrak. Her deflected cross was punched away by Campbell, but went right to Adriana. The Brazilian flicked it over for Bright, who played it right back to Adriana, but her shot was blocked. Abello ended up with the ball again and beat her defender to find enough space for a shot, but it was deflected into the side of the net.
The second Pride corner of that attack went all the way through for a throw in and the Dash took advantage. Anderson sent a long, low ball forward for Alozie making a run behind the Pride defense. Madril got her foot to it, but not enough to keep it from finding the forward. Strom caught up to her in the box, but Alozie cut back for space and sent it past Moorhouse to give Houston a commanding 2-0 lead.
The hosts had one last first-half opportunity in the 43rd minute when Alozie found Ordonez at the top of the box. The Mexican international was between the two Pride center backs and found enough space to take a shot, but Moorhouse did well to get down and make the stop, keeping the halftime deficit at two goals.
The Pride had more first-half possession (57.2%-42.8%), corners (6-4), crosses (16-10), and passing accuracy (71.8%-67.4%), but the Dash had more shots (6-4) and shots on target (3-0). Most importantly, the hosts had a two-goal lead.
“I told them at halftime that we need to be better on the ball. We were a little bit sloppy, a little bit lackadaisical in our passing details,” Hines said about his halftime speech. “I like to control the game. I don’t mind teams pressing us, because the more they press, the more they commit, the more space that they leave. So, we have to clean that up.”
Hines made one halftime change trying to get his team back into the game, bringing on Marta for Villacorta. The change saw Adriana move outside to her usual position and Abello back alongside Cluff. It was Marta’s 82nd NWSL regular-season appearance with the Pride, passing Ashlyn Harris and Toni Pressley for the most in team history.
The Dash had a chance for their third goal less than a minute into the second half when Ordonez found Anderson in the box. The attacker turned to shoot on goal, but didn’t get much on the attempt and Moorhouse made a relatively easy save.
The Pride should’ve gotten a goal back in the 48th minute when Caprice Dydasco fouled Abello. Adriana’s free kick found the head of Strom wide open and just a few feet in front of goal at the near post. But her header somehow went wide, squandering a golden opportunity to get back into the game.
After making an attacking change at halftime, Hines made a like-for-like substitution in the 57th minute as Julie Doyle came on for Bright.
In the 62nd minute, Sanchez sent Marisa Viggiano towards the end line on the left. Viggiano got a cross off into the box and found the head of Ordonez, who tried to send it towards the far post. But she couldn’t get enough of it and Moorhouse easily collected it.
Montefusco fouled Schmidt in the 64th minute, creating another good chance for the hosts. It looked like Moorhouse had Sanchez’s ball, but she didn’t come out as aggressively as she should’ve, only sending it to the top of the box. It ended up with Hirst at the penalty spot, but her shot was right at Moorhouse.
Immediately after that chance, the Pride made two more changes, bringing on Celia and Ally Watt for Tymrak and Cluff.
It didn’t take long for Watt to get involved as she was sent behind the Dash defense in the 68th minute. The striker’s shot was right to Campbell, but the ball slipped under her arm and rolled towards the goal. The roll was slow enough for Campbell to jump on the ball before it reached the goal line.
In the 71st minute, Adriana made a good run to the top of the Houston box, drawing the defenders and finding Watt wide open on the right. The forward took her second shot of the game, but Campbell made a good stop, pushing it away and the Dash cleared the danger.
Two minutes later, Adriana found Strom on the left and the left back sent a good ball into the box, finding the head of Marta. The Brazilian headed the ball towards the far post, but missed wide.
In the 76th minute, the Pride had a chance when the Dash had trouble clearing the ball out of their box. They briefly got it out, but McCutcheon sent it right back in. Dydasco was the first player to the ball, but her clearance attempt went behind her and into the path of Doyle for a header on goal. It was a strong header, but too close to Campbell.
The Pride made their final change in the 79th minute, when Summer Yates entered the game for Abello.
The Dash seemed fine holding onto their two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes and neither team was able to create solid opportunities. Marta took a shot in the 80th minute, and second-half substitute Ebony Salmon found space for a shot in the 86th minute, but both were right at the goalkeepers.
The Pride had a good chance in the 88th minute when Adriana made a strong run into the box and sent it to Doyle near the penalty spot. The striker slipped as she attempted to shoot, but still put the ball on target. However, Campbell did well to block it away, keeping the deficit at two goals.
As the game entered injury time, the fourth official showed eight minutes, a welcome sight for the Pride. It was mostly due to an injury to Natalie Jacobs, who had to go through a concussion test late in the half before she could be removed from the field and the game could continue.
Despite the eight minutes, the Pride weren’t able to create any good chances. McCutcheon played Celia through four minutes into stoppage time, but it was too far and went out for a goal kick. In the final minute, Adriana attempted a shot from long distance, but it wasn’t any trouble for Campbell, and the Dash held on for a 2-0 win.
Statistically, the game was quite close. The Pride had more possession (55.4%-44.6%), corners (8-4), crosses (27-16), and passing accuracy (69.5%-62.1%). Both teams had 13 shots and Houston put more on target (7-6). But the Pride shots didn’t cause Campbell much trouble, with the team failing to score for the second consecutive game and the third time in four games.
“Today we weren’t the better team, Houston was the better team,” Hines said after the game. “They made it difficult for us, they pressed us really hard, and we looked like we weren’t prepared for that. And that’s the most disappointing thing. You know, we want to play the way that we want to play. We have to dictate the game. We have to control the tempo of the game, and we didn’t do that. And even though we didn’t do the fundamentals, the basics right, we still created chances to score. We’ve gone two games now without scoring and that has to change.”
“It’s not one person’s fault tonight,” Montefusco added. “It was a collective. You know, we can’t point fingers at anybody. We’re a group, we’re a team, and we’ve got to lift each other. We’ve shown what we can do and we have to lean into that. We have to find a way. These games on the road are tough and we know that. And I think going forward, we’re just gonna stick together as a group.”
The Pride will stay on road for the Challenge Cup, taking on NJ/NY Gotham FC Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena. Then they’ll return home for regular-season action, welcoming the league-leading Portland Thorns to Exploria Stadium.
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