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Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 4-2 as Pride Drop Fourth Straight



The Orlando Pride (0-4-1, 1 point) fell 4-2 to the North Carolina Courage (3-0-2, 11 points) for their fourth consecutive loss tonight at Exploria Stadium. The game was decided early as the Courage scored three goals in the first nine minutes of the game.

Darian Jenkins scored her first two goals since joining Orlando but by that time the Pride were down 3-0 in the match on a Megan Montefusco own goal and strikes from Jaelene Daniels and Taylor Smith. Debinha’s late insurance goal thwarted any thoughts of getting a point from the match.

Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell made several changes from the team’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Spirit. Kylie Strom and Toni Pressley entered the starting lineup for this game, replacing Carrie Lawrence and Amy Turner. Additionally, Celia replaced Angharad James, who is listed as on international duty, and Leah Pruitt joined the forwards in place of Gunny Jonsdottir.

The goals started flooding in early in this game as the teams combined for four goals in the first 15 minutes. The game started about as bad as it possibly could for the Pride. In the third minute, a Merritt Mathias cross bounced off Daniels and Montefusco, before rolling past Anna Moorhouse for the opening goal. Unfortunately for Montefusco, she was the last to touch it and was credited with an own goal.

Just three minutes later, the Courage struck again. This time it was a Smith cross to the near post. However, Daniels was able to beat the Pride defense to the ball, turning it in to give the Courage a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes.

The Courage got their third goal of the game in the ninth minute. Kiki Pickett found a wide open Smith on the right side. The forward had plenty of time to set up her shot and beat Moorhouse to her near post, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead.

The three goals in the game’s first nine minutes broke an NWSL record that was only two days old. On Thursday, San Diego allowed three goals at OL Reign in the first 11 minutes. That was the fastest three-goal deficit built in league history until the Pride beat it tonight.

“We looked a little bit scared,” Cromwell said about the opening minutes after the game. “We looked a little bit timid. We weren’t communicating, and putting enough pressure on the ball, and shifting well, and they came out buzzing. They’re flying. That’s what they do. And so it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

“They created overload wide. We talked about how to step to their outside back getting high with our outside back and then shifting behind. It just wasn’t happening fast enough. Their speed of play seemed to catch us off guard.” 

It almost got worse for the Pride just two minutes later. Moorhouse mishandled the ball in her own box, giving it back to the Courage in a dangerous position. Fortunately, the ball bounced away to the outside and the Pride were eventually able to clear.

The Pride finally created an offensive attack about a quarter hour into the game. In the 14th minute, Jenkins sent a dangerous ball across for Pruitt darting into the box. However, the ball was just beyond her reach and went harmlessly out of play.

But a minute later, the hosts struck. Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland attempted to clear the ball out of her own end but sent it right at Pruitt. The ball bounced off of the Pride forward and settled at the feet of Jenkins in front of goal. The Orlando striker sent a screaming shot to the top corner, beating Rowland and bringing the Pride back to within two.

The Pride had a chance at a second in the 18th minute when the Courage failed to clear a corner kick. The ball skipped through the box, but there were no Pride players in the area to get on the end of it, allowing it to go out of play.

The Courage nearly scored a fourth in the 22nd minute when Mathias sent Daniels toward the end line. The forward played a quick ball across the box, looking for former Pride defender Carson Pickett at the near post. Pickett got her foot to the ball but Moorhouse made a nice save and kept the deficit at two.

The Courage focused mainly on the left early in the game through Mathias. In the 32nd minute, the defender once again sent a dangerous cross through the box. However, this one was a bit too high and no attacking players were able to get on the end of it.

As the first half wound down, both teams built attacks but the defenses did well to keep them outside of the box. Courtney Petersen took a long distance shot in the 34th minute for the Pride and Carson Pickett shot from distance in the 41st minute, but neither were close to the goal.

After going down 3-0 in the first nine minutes, the Pride had to be pleased to go into the break only down 3-1.

“What we talked about is having confidence on the ball and courage on the ball,” Cromwell said about her halftime talk. “It seemed like everyone the first half…no one wanted it or if they gave it, they were done. Like there was the pass and move and the fluid nature of how we build an attack wasn’t there in the first half. And so to keep possession, to kind of delay their attack, we had to keep the ball ourselves and that’s the best defense is possession. So I told them to have courage on the ball.”

While the Pride spent the game’s opening minutes in their own end, the team got into the attack early in the second half. It took the team 18 minutes to win a corner in the first half, but they won their first corner just three minutes into the second period.

The Pride nearly got their second goal of the game in the 55th minute. The team broke down the field after forcing a turnover. However, they took too much time in transition, allowing the defense to get back. The ball ended up with Kerry Abello who fired on goal, but the pressure caused her to miss the target.

A minute later, the Pride cut the once three-goal deficit to one. Quick passing allowed Montefusco to get down the right. The center back sent a cross into the box, which was headed down near the back post by Abello. Jenkins was right there to tap it in for her second goal of the game, cutting the deficit to 3-2.

“Just kind of had the mindset that I’m gonna frickin’ score today,” Jenkins said about her brace after the game. “I’m gonna shoot the ball as many times as I can. And it paid off, which is great.” 

Following the goal, the Courage pushed forward, trying to reclaim their multi-goal lead. Smith had an opportunity to cross from the outside in the 58th minute, but Pressley did well to block it.

They had another chance to extend their lead in the 63rd minute when Smith found herself with some space in front of goal. However, her shot was right at Moorhouse, who made the easy save.

In the 68th minute, Smith had another chance when a nice stepover allowed her to lose her defender. The forward took a quick right-footed shot toward Moorhouse’s near post, but it was right at the Pride’s shot stopper again for another save.

With 20 minutes remaining in the game, it appeared more likely that the Courage would score a fourth than the Pride would get an equalizer. In the 71st minute, they nearly scored their fourth when Debinha received the ball on the left. She attempted to beat Moorhouse to her near post, but hit the side netting.

The Pride nearly scored an equalizer in the 76th minute when a Julie Doyle cross into the box was fumbled by Rowland. Had Rowland not got a piece of the ball, Abello was nearing the back post and would’ve been able to put it in. However, Rowland got enough of the ball that the Courage could clear.

North Carolina finally put the game away in the 89th minute. Second-half substitute Diana Ordonez found Debinha just inside the box. The Brazilian playmaker immediately turned Turner, who had come on at halftime, and put it into the corner, giving the visitors a 4-2 win.

The Pride played much better after the first 10 minutes and especially in the second half. However, the Courage still led in nearly every statistical category, including possession (57.4%-42.6%), shots (18-13), shots on goal (7-5), passing accuracy (84.9%-69.1%), crosses (33-15), and corners (7-6).

“You can’t give up three goals like that,” Cromwell said about the performance. “And we almost got ourselves out of it. We almost got to the third goal. And that’s to us, that’s now our challenge is how do we (do that) because we seem to be a second half team. We have to be a both-half team, and so that’s our challenge as a staff and as a team.”

“We dug ourselves in a hole. Quite a big one,” Jenkins said about the game. “And so just knowing that we really don’t have anything to lose at this point, I think kind of gave us the energy to just really try and not be afraid of failure. I think we kind of came out scared the first 10 minutes and North Carolina has a great team that works off transition and kind of feeds off of that vibe. So yeah, that was just the script. We got nothing to lose.”

After starting the Challenge Cup with a scoreless draw with the Spirit, the Pride have now dropped four straight games. They still have one game left in the tournament, next weekend against NJ/NY Gotham FC in New Jersey. The following week they’ll start the 2022 NWSL regular season at Exploria Stadium.

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 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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