The Orlando Pride were completely outplayed, but still only conceded from the penalty spot in a 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Pride (0-1-1, 1 point) suffered their first loss of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup on a Merritt Mathias penalty kick goal in the second half. North Carolina (2-0-0, 6 points) took complete control of the East Division one third of the way through the group stage with the win.
The far better team on the night won, but the winning goal was not without controversy. Mathias’ goal from the penalty spot came off a questionable handball call on Gunny Jonsdottir, with the ball coming through traffic and hitting her unintentionally while she was not making herself bigger or holding her arm in an unnatural position. The referee thought about it for a couple of seconds before giving it and Mathias took advantage.
The loss broke a string of road results in North Carolina for the Pride, who had three draws and a win in their last four trips to Cary, NC. Orlando is still looking for its first goal in 2022 and under Head Coach Amanda Cromwell.
“Not a great match for us, obviously in possession,” Cromwell said after the match. “I still think we worked really hard and defended pretty well.”
Cromwell made three changes from last weekend’s match, inserting Toni Pressley, Meggie Dougherty Howard, and Parker Roberts in place of Amy Turner, Mikayla Cluff, and Angharad James. Erin McLeod started in goal behind a back line of Courtney Petersen, Pressley, Megan Montefusco, and Carrie Lawrence. Dougherty Howard and Roberts joined Jonsdottir and Marta in midfield, with Darian Jenkins and Sydney Leroux leading the attack.
Once again, the Pride started the match rather sloppily. A botched clearance by Montefusco handed the Courage the ball in the penalty area in the opening minutes of the match but the shot was blocked and Marta did well to come back and help clean things up. In the fifth minute it was Roberts with a wayward pass in the middle of the pitch on her own half to ignite the North Carolina counter. Kiki Pickett luckily fired wide of the right post, although McLeod was well positioned to deal with it if it had been on frame.
Kaleigh Kurtz fired over the bar after a punch from McLeod didn’t go very far off a Courage corner in the 18th minute. The ensuing restart was a costly one for Orlando. Marta jumped to try to get onto a long ball and went down after landing without any contact with a defender. She looked to be in a lot of pain and went off. She did return but it wasn’t for long. Mikayla Cluff subbed on for the captain in the 31st minute.
“Marta going down in the first half didn’t bode well, as far as our possession went,” said Cromwell. “She helps so much with our composure on the ball and to build with her ability to keep it in tight spaces.”
Cromwell didn’t have an update on Marta’s injury after the match.
Kiki Pickett got a head to a Mathias cross in the 33rd minute but Montefusco did just enough to bother her so she couldn’t direct it on goal. Shortly after that, Taylor Smith nutmegged Cluff on the Courage attacking right and set herself up for a shot from the corner of the box but she hit it over the bar in the 38th minute.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) March 26, 2022
Over the final seven minutes of the half, the Pride were unable to string more than two passes together. Some of that was the Courage press, but a lot of it was simply wayward passing or not reacting quickly enough to the situation. The Pride somehow got out of the first half without conceding, but the opening 45 minutes were mostly played in Orlando’s end. There was little for Katelyn Rowland to do in the Courage goal aside from catching a couple of errant corner kick crosses.
The Courage out-shot the Pride 11-2 but got only one on target. The Pride got neither effort on frame. North Carolina held much more possession (65.5%-35.5%) and was far more accurate when passing the ball (86.5%-66.9%). Orlando earned more corner kicks (3-2) despite a severe lack of possession.
“Anytime we come here, it’s not an easy place to play,” Pressley said. “They like to high press. They’re a high-energy team.”
“I think where we struggled, especially in the first half, was in transition,” Dougherty Howard said. “We weren’t connecting on that first pass, so we weren’t really able to get on the ball and really build any momentum.”
Cromwell subbed on Kylie Strom and Angharad James at halftime for Lawrence and Roberts, getting more experience on the pitch for the second half.
There was another scary moment for Orlando early in the second half when Jenkins stayed down for a bit and had to receive attention from the training staff. However, she was able to continue.
Jonsdottir conceded a dangerous free kick in the 53rd minute with a poor challenge from behind and was booked for it. Carson Pickett fizzed a shot over the bar on the set piece. Five minutes later, the ex-Pride defender nearly took advantage of Montefusco failing to clear a set piece delivery and hit a shot just wide off a deflection.
A minute later, the decisive play of the game happened. A ball through traffic hit Jonsdottir’s arm. Referee Joshua Encarnacion took a couple of beats and awarded a penalty. Jonsdottir’s arm was within a few inches of her body and she couldn’t have known the ball was coming, as Strom was in between her and the ball when the cross was made. So, it was unintentional, with her arm not in an unnatural position, and ball to hand. But only Encarnacion’s opinion mattered, and the penalty was given.
“We couldn’t really see it that well but it seemed pretty soft. Her arms were by her side,” Cromwell said.
“The call on the PK? I’m not really sure on that one,” Dougherty Howard said.
Mathias smashed it just under the bar in the 61st minute, giving McLeod no chance.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) March 27, 2022
It was the first goal the Pride conceded under Cromwell, although that may just be down to poor finishing by the opponents thus far. Opponents have only put seven of 32 shot attempts on frame against Orlando through two matches.
Two minutes after the penalty, Brianna Pinto shook free and sent a shot on target that McLeod saved, as the Courage just kept coming. Three minutes later, the Courage shouted for a second penalty when Smith got behind Pressley and the two players raced toward goal. Pressley put a hand on Smith’s outstretched arm and the Courage forward went down easily, and this time Encarnacion wasn’t interested.
“I know she’s really quick, so I was just trying to make it as difficult as possible for her to get a clean touch or clean shot off,” Pressley said. “And I think I had a bit of luck on my side. So thank goodness for that.”
The Pride finally worked the ball up into the final third in the 73rd minute and Leroux had a go from the top of the box but her shot was blocked.
Kiki Pickett fired over the bar after James both gave away the ball cheaply and then conceded a free kick from just outside the area, as the Pride mistakes continued.
Cromwell sent Erika Tymrak onto the field for Jonsdottir and it opened up the game a little for the Pride. But on the first chance to turn North Carolina over and attack with numbers, Tymrak played the ball in to an offside Leroux, with two teammates on her left in the 80th minute. A little more patience in the buildup may have allowed Leroux to reset. Leah Pruitt won a corner just after that and the Courage could only clear the service to the top of the box. Cluff stepped up and hit a hard shot on the half volley but it sliced just wide.
Seconds later, Dougherty Howard stepped into a shot from outside the area and hit it straight at the goalkeeper. It was the Pride’s first shot on target and it came in the 81st minute.
The Courage had little trouble seeing out the final nine minutes, plus five minutes of stoppage time.
North Carolina dominated, with the advantage in shots (17-7), shots on target (3-1), possession (60%-40%), and passing accuracy (80.9%-69.4%). Each team finished with four corner kick opportunities.
“In the first half we tried something a little different in how we defended and it didn’t work really well. They broke our pressure way too easily,” Cromwell said. “So, we changed it in the second half and got a little bit better. But in the end we just didn’t hold the ball well enough. Going forward, we’re going to have to build better and break lines — not just look for (the ball) over the top because we just got too stretched. We couldn’t maintain possession that way.”
“Just figuring out not to play into the trap and what they want and sometimes, you know, just looking beyond that initial pressure is a way to be successful,” Dougherty Howard said. “And then being able to pick up the second ball.”
“The video will be really interesting, because we’ll be able to solve some of the breakdowns and show them where they can be more successful, whether they’re taking an extra touch or an internal dribble, where they can be better support for each other,” Cromwell said. “It seemed like we isolated players too much tonight, a lot of A to B in the passing and we need to be more sophisticated than that.”
The Pride are right back at it during the upcoming midweek, with a home match against NJ/NY Gotham FC Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 2-1 as Ally Watt and Adriana Lead Pride to Vital Win
The Pride used two first-half goals to beat the North Carolina Courage, moving up to seventh in the NWSL.
The Orlando Pride (8-10-1, 25 points) returned home in a must-win game and took care of business, beating the North Carolina Courage (8-7-4, 28 points) 2-1 at Exploria Stadium. Ally Watt scored the earliest goal in Pride history, giving the hosts the lead inside the first minute. Adriana doubled the advantage in the 32nd minute, which was all the Pride needed. Manaka Matsukubo got one back in the 52nd minute, but North Carolina couldn’t find an equalizer and the Pride took all three points.
Despite being on the road, the Courage dominated possession in this game. The Pride played like the typical visiting team, defending fiercely and hitting the opposition on the counter attack. It was successful, as they scored twice with that method and nearly had more. The task became easier when Malia Berkely was sent off in the 78th minute, enabling the Pride to control the dying minutes.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 to OL Reign on Sept. 3 in Seattle. Carly Nelson started in goal for the suspended Anna Moorhouse, who was sent off in the third minute in the team’s most recent game. Watt entered the lineup in the striker’s role for Messiah Bright, and Adriana returned to the lineup after missing the trip out west, replacing Kerry Abello. Bright and Abello started this game on the bench.
The back line in front of Nelson was Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Madril, and Haley McCutcheon. Mikayla Cluff and Jordyn Listro were the starting defensive midfielders behind Julie Doyle, Marta, and Adriana. Watt was the lone forward up top.
Cluff and Viviana Villacorta started the season as the defensive midfield partnership. That changed to a Villacorta and Abello partnership with Cluff and Listro coming off the bench. However, Cluff and Listro have started the last two games, an interesting switch as the season nears its end.
“It’s tough decisions, right? There’s not a lot (of separation) between the four midfielders, between Jordyn, Kayla, and Vivi. They’ve all done really well this season,” Hines said about the change. “So it’s being adaptable, giving players opportunities. We felt like it was a good balance in the midfield with Kayla and Jordyn.”
The Pride got off to the best possible start in this game. Listro intercepted a Matsukubo pass at midfield and played Adriana forward. Watt ran around left back Emily Fox, reaching the ball at the top of the 18. Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy came out and got a piece of the shot, but not enough as the ball rolled in to give the Pride an early lead.
“Ally took her goal really well,” Hines said about Watt’s strike. “Very pleased for Ally because she’s put so much work into her craft the last couple of weeks. And she gets a reward with a goal.”
“I think you just realize you have — we have — full trust and faith in them with anything,” Watt said about playing with Marta and Adriana. “Adriana is called the wizard for a reason. She gets balls off in the most magical way I’ve ever seen, honestly. So, I think we just have full trust in them. So when we make the run, we fully know that we’re going to get that ball if we execute properly. And when they’re on the ball, they might do some magic on their own, but they’re going to feed it to you as well. So, we always have to be prepared for whatever they’re going to be providing, because they’re very unpredictable players. And that’s what we love about them.”
The goal crossed the line 38 seconds after kickoff, making it the earliest goal in Pride history. It was only 16 seconds off of the league record of scoring 22 seconds into a game.
“We talk about starting the game quickly,” Hines said. “You know, the first pass, first dribble, setting the tone straight from kickoff. And it’s the best way to start a game, scoring a goal.”
The Courage had their first chance of the game in the eighth minute when Ryan Williams’ cross was headed out of play by McCutcheon. Haley Hopkins jumped over Doyle to reach Berkely’s corner kick at the back post, but sent it straight to Nelson.
In the 13th minute, Williams received the ball from Kerolin and dribbled into the Pride box. The right back cut inside and played a short pass where Kerolin had run past Rafaelle. The midfielder found forward Tess Boade wide open at the top of the six-yard box, but Boade couldn’t get over the shot and sent it over the target.
A Pride goal kick in the 16th minute ended up with Rafaelle, who attempted to play it short to Strom on the side. But Kerolin intercepted it. After quickly playing a pass to the middle for an open Boade, Rafaelle took down her international teammate, earning the game’s first booking.
The ensuing free kick by Narumi Miura was short to Kerolin and the Brazilian lifted the ball to the top of the six. Nelson came out strong, initially fumbling the ball after midair contact with an opposing attacker, but eventually collecting it. Kaleigh Kurtz charged into Nelson and both players went to the ground. Referee Danielle Chesky called a foul on Kurtz, ending the North Carolina threat.
The Pride had a chance to double their lead in the 24th minute when Watt found Adriana in the box from the left. Miura got in front of the shot, blocking it back to the midfielder. Adriana took a second shot, but Miura got in front of that one as well, enabling the Courage to clear.
The Pride scored their second goal right after the restart of the first-half hydration break. Nelson restarted with a goal kick to Strom, who sent the ball forward for Adriana. The attacker left it for Marta, whose back heel was blocked by Berkely, but it went right back to her. The second pass attempt by Marta was wide to Doyle, who sent Adriana behind the Courage back line with her first touch. As Miura attempted to catch up with the Brazilian, Murphy stayed on her goal line. Adriana put it into the corner of the net from the top of the six-yard box, giving the Pride a 2-0 lead.
“I saw Marta get it, and whenever Marta gets it on her left foot, that means I’ve got to run into the back space, because I know that she can find me through. And that’s what she did,” Doyle said about her assist. “And then I saw Adriana had a ton of space in behind, because they were really high. And Adriana’s so fast. I’m just like, all I have to do is get it to her and I know that she’ll do great things. And that’s what we saw.”
Poor passing in the 44th minute nearly gave the Pride a chance for a third when Murphy played a short ball to Berkely in the Courage box. The center back nonchalantly sent it back to her goalkeeper, wide of the target. Watt, one of the league’s fastest players, attempted to beat Murphy to the ball and got a piece as Murphy attempted to clear it. But the visitors were able to get it away without any damage.
At halftime, North Carolina had far more possession (69.4%-30.6%), but couldn’t do much with it. Meanwhile, the Pride were happy to hit them on the counter, resulting in a halftime lead. While both teams had four first-half shots, the Pride put two on target and the Courage put one on frame. North Carolina also led the Pride in corner kicks (1-0) and crosses (6-1), and passed more accurately (91.6%-74.2%).
“Going into the second half, we changed our formation a little bit when we had that water break, so we just went over it again. Because passing information is difficult in that kind of situation,” Watt said about the halftime message. “(Hines) was telling us that I’m going to put the pressure on you. You guys are 2-0 up, and that’s a dangerous lead to have. They can come in and score and get momentum, and they certainly did score, but we did a really good job hanging onto it. And then the red card happened and we were just able to take control of the game and everything.”
The Pride created a pair of chances within the first five minutes of the second half. In the 48th minute, a Kurtz pass across for Miura was intercepted by Watt. The forward sprinted towards the Courage box, pulling up when Berkely got in front of her. Adriana called for the ball, but Watt took the long-distance shot herself. It didn’t cause any trouble for Murphy at the near post, who easily collected it.
A minute later, the Pride went on another counterattack. Doyle turned her defender and played a give-and-go with Marta on the left. The midfielder sent a low cross into the box for Adriana, but it was too far in front of her and Fox cleared it away.
The two missed opportunities proved costly in the 52nd minute when North Carolina got a goal back. Hopkins played the ball wide for Fox and the defender sent a cross into the box. Hopkins had made a run, but let the ball run past her to Matsukubo waiting behind, unmarked. The 19-year-old didn’t miss her opportunity, putting it past Nelson to cut the Pride lead to 2-1.
Three minutes later, the Courage had a chance for an equalizer when Kerolin sent a cross toward Fox in the middle of the box. The left back redirected the ball towards goal, but couldn’t get over it and the attempt went over the crossbar.
Shortly after the miss, Hines made his first substitution of the night. Regular starting striker Bright entered the game for Watt. The Pride made two more changes in the 64th and 65th minutes, replacing Doyle and Cluff with Abello and Villacorta.
A controversial moment occurred in the 66th minute when Adriana dribbled into the North Carolina box. She cut inside to beat Kerolin, before Fox came back to win the ball. The ball popped up and appeared to hit Fox’s arm at the edge of the box, which was up to shield her face. The play is only reviewable for a penalty, but the video assistant referee didn’t call for Chesky to take a look.
“In the 66th minute, the referee observed the ball hit the NC Courage player’s hand, which was in a natural position,” Chesky responded after the game. “At the next stoppage, the VAR checked the incident and confirmed no clear or obvious error.”
The comeback got more difficult for the Courage in the 78th minute when Berkely was sent off. A short free kick to the center back resulted in a bad pass into the box. Madril got to it first, sending it downfield. Adriana was the first to the ball and used her speed to get behind Berkely. The center back, who was clearly the last defender, took down the midfielder and Chesky immediately issued a red card. The VAR checked the play and confirmed the decision, giving the Pride a player advantage for the final 12 minutes.
The Pride nearly took advantage and scored a third in the 82nd minute when Marta’s shot was blocked out by Kurtz. The ensuing corner kick by Adriana found a wide-open Rafaelle beyond the back post. The center back’s header was off the outside of the post, keeping the score at 2-1.
The fourth official showed five minutes of second-half stoppage time, but that was increased when Rafaelle’s inadvertent elbow found the head of Courage substitute Tyler Lussi. Blood was dripping down her face, so the forward needed to change her shirt and shorts. Hines took the opportunity to make two final changes, replacing Adriana and Listro with Brianna Martinez and Celia.
While the Pride had a defensive lineup for the final minutes, the 10-player Courage were unable to create any chances. The Pride did well to maintain possession, continuously taking it to the corner to run the clock out. It was a successful strategy as they held on for a crucial win.
North Carolina ended the game with significantly more possession (67.2%-32.8%), but was unable to create more chances with it. Both teams had 10 shots and the Pride put more on target (3-2). The Courage had more crosses (14-11) and passed more accurately (88.7%-73.2%). The Pride had more corner kicks (4-2).
“Massive win tonight,” Hines said. “Running out of games now. Only three games to go and we have to give absolutely everything. I think looking back, you know, some of the performances are brilliant. We haven’t rewarded ourselves with the three points and you know, I’m so happy that we were able to get up in the game, take our opportunities. And a lot of credit has to go to the players, because they’re the ones who are competing, going out there day in, day out in training and performing at such a high level in the field. We’ve made it uncomfortable for North Carolina, going up in the game and then not giving them too much to try and play through the lines and stop that rhythm. But you have to have the right mindset to do that, and I felt everyone from back to front did their job and they were brilliant at their job.”
“We’ve been working so freaking hard, and it’s so nice to finally get the reward, because I think you’ve seen this team have games like this and sometimes it just doesn’t go our way,” Doyle added. “So for it to finally go our way, it’s just such a relief.”
It was a unique home game for the Pride because the hosts usually have the majority of possession. It was the opposite in this one because the Courage dominated possession and the Pride had to maintain their concentration. That’s something the team has had trouble with this season, especially on set pieces.
“We knew they’re a team that gets 500 passes per game. So credit to them,” Doyle said. “They’re a super good football team, so we knew we had to be disciplined in our defensive shape. That’s what we’ve been working on all week and we really just had to stay compact.”
The win sees the Pride jump the Houston Dash, Racing Louisville FC, and Angel City FC, from 10th to seventh place. They’re now only one point behind the Washington Spirit for the sixth and final playoff spot. While they’re tied with Angel City on points, the Pride currently hold the tiebreaker on goal difference.
The Pride now have a two-week break before they take the field again. They were supposed to play Angel City in Los Angeles on Thursday night, but that game was delayed until Oct. 2 because of the upcoming international break.
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
The Orlando Pride return home after a two-week break to face the North Carolina Courage at Exploria Stadium.
Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (7-10-1, 22 points) welcome the North Carolina Courage (8-6-4, 28 points) to Exploria Stadium. This is the fourth meeting between these two teams this year and the second in the NWSL regular season.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Courage have played 22 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage. The Pride are 4-13-5 in those games (4-10-1 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-3-2 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).
The most recent meeting between the two teams was a July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina. The Pride didn’t show up for that one, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Radcliffe and Malia Berkely gave the hosts a 2-0 halftime lead before Frankie Tagliaferri made it three, and a late brace by Haley Hopkins completed the 5-0 result.
The game prior to that was on June 17 in North Carolina and, again, it was all Courage. Kerolin and Meredith Speck gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before a Haley McCutcheon own goal made it 3-0 to North Carolina. On April 19 at Exploria Stadium, the Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up Ally Watt for the opening goal. But Denise O’Sullivan equalized in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
Prior to that game, they last played on Sept. 21, 2022, at Exploria Stadium. The Courage got off to a great start when Debinha scored in the second minute. The Brazilian then assisted Tess Boade in first-half injury time to double the lead, and later added another, dooming the Pride to a 3-0 defeat.
The previous 2022 meeting came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring early. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead with her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win.
The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place on April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start in this one, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.
The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored late to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha and Havana Solaun goals helped the Courage take home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized moments later and the teams drew 1-1.
The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game in a scoreless draw.
Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, meeting twice. The first was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.
The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on April 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but scored four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by the Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.
The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.
The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on Apr. 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando when the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted a late winner, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.
Three games ago, the Pride were in a great position to qualify for the NWSL playoffs for the second time in team history. They were two points out of sixth and facing the team occupying that spot in two consecutive games. They fell 2-1 to San Diego Wave FC at home on Aug. 25 and fought valiantly, despite being down a player for almost all of the 1-0 loss against OL Reign.
The Pride now find themselves in a tough position. They’re four points behind the Washington Spirit with four games remaining, but there are three teams between them. Angel City FC and Racing Louisville FC are two of those three teams and the Pride will face both in the coming weeks. Regardless, they’ll likely need to finish the season on a four-game winning streak to qualify for the postseason.
The quest for their longest winning streak of the season and the longest since 2017 begins tonight. The team will be without starting goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse, who was sent off in the third minute against OL Reign two weeks ago. Carly Nelson will take her spot in the lineup after a terrific display in Seattle.
The key attacking player missing against OL Reign was Adriana, whose four league goals are second on the Pride behind Messiah Bright’s six, and her three assists lead the team. She wasn’t on the availability report prior to the game in Seattle but didn’t make the trip. Her return tonight would be a boost to a team that desperately needs three points.
The Courage suffered back-to-back 2-1 losses to Angel City FC and the Portland Thorns on either side of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup break, but have grabbed draws in their last two games against the Chicago Red Stars and NJ/NY Gotham FC. The latter of those games saw the Courage take a 2-0 lead into halftime only to give up three goals in the second half, drawing 3-3.
While the Pride were off last weekend, the Courage hosted Racing Louisville in the Challenge Cup final. North Carolina won the trophy in a storm-delayed game with goals by Kerolin and Japanese international Manaka Matsukubo.
The player to stop for North Carolina is Brazilian international Kerolin, who leads her team with nine goals and three assists. She’s been a terror against the Pride in the previous games and keeping her off the scoresheet will be key if the Pride hope to get anything from this final meeting between the teams.
The Courage have a balanced lineup with a consistent back line that has resulted in them having the second-best goal difference in the league. Their 26 goals scored is tied with the Wave for second-most, and their 19 goals conceded is tied with Gotham and Louisville for second fewest.
“Obviously, they’ve had some success with winning the Challenge Cup. So they’ll have some good momentum, high spirits,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s opponent. “But, as always, we have to focus on ourselves. We’ve lost our last two games, but in that, the performances have been good. Obviously, different circumstances, but the performances have been pretty consistent all season. We want to continue to make this a difficult environment to play. We’re playing against arguably the best footballing team in the league, so it will be a really good challenge for us, but our mindset is win every game that comes towards us.”
North Carolina is without six players tonight. Emily Gray (knee), Clara Robbins (lower leg), and Meredith Speck (knee) are out for the season. Estelle Johnson (thigh), Rikako Kobayashi (knee), and Brittany Ratcliffe (thigh) are also out for this game.
The Pride are only missing two players tonight and both were expected. Carrie Lawrence (knee) is out for the season and Moorhouse is serving her one-game suspension after being sent off last week.
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Carly Nelson.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Madril, Haley McCutcheon.
Defensive Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff, Jordyn Listro.
Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.
Forward: Ally Watt.
Bench: McKinley Crone, Erika Tymrak, Megan Montefusco, Messiah Bright, Mariana Larroquette, Kerry Abello, Viviana Villacorta, Brianna Martinez, Celia.
North Carolina Courage (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Ryan Williams, Kaleigh Kurtz, Malia Berkely, Emily Fox.
Defensive Midfielders: Narumi Miura, Denise O’Sullivan.
Midfielders: Kerolin, Manaka Matsukubo, Haley Hopkins.
Forwards: Tess Boade.
Bench: Katelyn Rowland, Brianna Pinto, Sydney Collins, Kiki Pickett, Olivia Wingate, Mille Gejl, Frankie Tagliaferri, Tyler Lussi, Rikke Madsen.
REF: Danielle Chesky.
AR1: Bennett Savage.
AR2: Cameron Siler.
4TH: JJ Bilinski.
VAR: Alexandra Billeter.
AVAR: Joel McKell.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!
Orlando Pride Sign Tori Hansen and Kaylie Collins To New Deals
The Pride have signed center back Tori Hansen goalkeeper Kaylie Collins to new contracts and sent them on loan to Australia.
The Orlando Pride announced tonight that defender Tori Hansen and goalkeeper Kaylie Collins have signed new contracts through the 2024 NWSL season. Both players were subsequently sent on loan, with Hansen going to Melbourne Victory FC and Collins to Western Sydney Wanderers FC of the A-League Women in Australia for the 2023-2024 season.
“Tori has worked hard this season, and we believe she has a bright future ahead. So we’re excited to agree to a new contract and to work with her further on her development,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “It was a priority that we find a high-performance environment where Tori can get valuable match minutes and leadership opportunities and the team and staff at Melbourne Victory offer just that. We are excited for Tori for this next step in her career and look forward to supporting her upcoming season in Australia.”
The Pride selected Hansen with the first pick of the third round (25th overall) in the 2023 NWSL Draft out of the University of North Carolina and signed her on March 29 to a one-year deal with an option year. The center back played sparingly during her first three seasons with the Tar Heels, but started 26 games during her senior year, recording eight goals and two assists. That one season was enough for selection into the first-division league.
Hansen started the first two Challenge Cup games during her rookie season with the Pride, playing all 180 minutes. She surprised everyone during the second game of the competition, scoring the opening goal in the 10th minute of a 4-2 loss at the Washington Spirit on May 10. Despite only making those two appearances, she was on the bench for the other four Challenge Cup games and nine league games. But she didn’t appear on the team sheet after the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup when Rafaelle was signed and Megan Montefusco was sent to the bench.
Collins was initially selected by the Pride in the 2021 NWSL Draft in the fourth round (34th overall) out of the University of Southern California, where she was named to the All-Pac 12 team twice. She didn’t appear in her rookie season with the Pride, but played one Challenge Cup game last year, a 1-1 draw against NJ/NY Gotham FC.
Despite the departure of starter Erin McLeod prior to this season, Collins remained the third choice goalkeeper behind Anna Moorhouse and the newly-signed Carly Nelson. She’s made two appearances, a league start on April 15 against Gotham and a May 10 Challenge Cup start against the Spirit. She’s conceded seven goals in her three professional games, saving 10 of her 17 shots faced.
“Since joining the club in 2021, Kaylie has been a valuable member of our goalkeeping corps and has continued to grow as both a player and a person. We believe she has the potential to become a top goalkeeper in this league, and gaining competitive experience and meaningful game minutes while in Australia is critical to her development,” Carter said about Collins in a press release. “We’re looking forward to cheering her on during the A-League season and keeping track of her progress over the next few months.”
What It Means for Orlando
It might seem odd to give these players new contracts and immediately send them out on loan, but both contracts run through the 2024 NWSL season and they’ll be playing through the winter months. These new contracts enable the Pride to keep them on their books while they play during the off-season and bring them back in the for 2024 campaign. Both will have the chance to develop in a good, competitive league.
Since Hansen’s been on the team sheet 15 times this season, the Pride clearly think she can contribute. They currently have six defenders that can play center back, including Carrie Lawrence, who suffered a season-ending injury during preseason. Three of those six players — Caitlin Cosme (24), Emily Madril (24), and Hansen (22) — are 24 years old or younger, and Hansen is the youngest of the group. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said during the draft that Hansen was a long-term project, and at just 22, there’s still plenty of time for her to develop.
Collins is the third-string goalkeeper and, at 24 years old, the youngest of the goalkeeping group. Moorhouse is only 28 and Nelson is only 25, but Moorhouse’s contract expires after this season. Meanwhile, Nelson’s runs through 2024. Whether Collins will be second or third on the depth chart next season largely depends on whether Moorhouse returns next season.
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