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Orlando Pride vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

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Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (0-4-1, 1 point) visit NJ/NY Gotham FC (1-2-2, 5 points) in their final 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup game. After drawing their first game against the Washington Spirit, the Pride have dropped the last four matches. Tonight, they look for a positive result heading into the NWSL regular season next weekend.

Here’s all you need to know about tonight’s game.

History

The Pride and Gotham FC first met in 2016, when the New Jersey-based club was called Sky Blue FC. Since then, the teams have played every year except 2020 when the global pandemic wiped out the regular season. In 16 meetings, the Pride have a 6-6-4 record in all competitions. However, Gotham has won the only two meetings in the Challenge Cup.

After not playing in the inaugural NWSL Challenge Cup in 2020, the Pride have met Gotham in the past two competitions. The most recent game was on March 30 at Exploria Stadium. The Pride led most statistical categories, but an 86th-minute goal by Midge Purce allowed the visitors to claim a 1-0 win.

They also competed in the Challenge Cup last season on April 14 in Orlando. Paige Monaghan’s 79th-minute goal was the only scoring in the game as Gotham handed the Pride their only loss of the 2021 Challenge Cup.

Following that Challenge Cup draw, the teams met three times in the regular season. On June 20 in Orlando, Caprice Dydasco’s first-half goal was equaled by Courtney Petersen’s 90th-minute conversion, resulting in a 1-1 draw. They met a second time on Aug. 29 at Red Bull Arena. This time it was Erika Tymrak’s long-range goal that lifted the Pride to a 1-0 win. The final meeting last year was on Oct. 9 at Exploria Stadium. Gotham took a 3-0 lead in the 50th minute, but the Pride mounted a ferocious comeback. Tymrak got one back in the 84th minute and a Marta penalty a minute later got the Pride to within one. However, it wasn’t enough as Gotham took the game 3-2.

Prior to the 2021 season, the teams hadn’t played each other since June 22, 2019 in New Jersey. The Pride took a first-half lead from a Chioma Ubogagu penalty, but Sarah Killion equalized in the 67th minute. It looked like another draw for the Pride until Gina Lewandowski’s own goal in the 81st minute ended the Pride’s 15-game losing streak.

They met again nearly a month later on July 20 in Orlando where Marisa Viggiano’s first professional goal saw the Pride claim a 1-0 win. The final meeting that year came on Sept. 29 in New Jersey. The Pride took the lead through Shelina Zadorsky, but Carli Lloyd equalized late to grab a 1-1 draw.

The 2018 season saw the teams play three times. The first was on June 16, where Sydney Leroux’s brace and a late Rachel Hill winner lifted the Pride to a 3-2 win. They played again in Orlando on Aug. 5 when Marta and Dani Weatherholt helped the Pride to a 2-2 draw. The final meeting that year came on Sept. 8. After nine goals in two games, Lloyd’s 74th-minute goal was the only scoring in the final meeting as Sky Blue claimed a 1-0 win.

Like 2018, the teams played three times in 2017. The first meeting was on May 27 in New Jersey. Jasmyne Spencer gave the Pride an 18th-minute lead, but Sam Kerr and Maya Hayes responded as Sky Blue won 2-1. The Pride took the second game, 3-2 on June 28 in New Jersey and dominated Sky Blue on Aug. 12 in Orlando, coming away with a 5-0 win.

The Pride’s inaugural 2016 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The two games that year came three days apart, occurring on Sept. 7 and Sept. 10. The first meeting ended in a 1-1 draw in New Jersey, but Sky Blue got its first win over the Pride in the second meeting, winning 2-1.

Overview

Tonight’s game is the sixth and final match of the Pride’s 2022 Challenge Cup. After the scoreless draw with the Spirit, the Pride have dropped their last four. The defense was the strength early in the tournament as the Pride lost 1-0 to the North Carolina Courage and Gotham. However, they conceded four times in each of the last two games, a 4-1 loss to the Spirit and a 4-2 loss last weekend to the Courage.

The most recent game appeared to get out of hand early, as the Courage scored three goals in the first nine minutes — a league record. However, the Pride responded well, with Darian Jenkins scoring in the 15th and 56th minutes, getting the hosts back to within a goal. In that one game, the Pride doubled the number of goals they scored in the first four matches.

Tonight, the Pride face a team that hasn’t been that much better. The 1-0 Gotham win in the first meeting is the only win by the New Jersey-based club this year. However, they also came away with 1-1 draws against the Spirit and Courage. As a result, Gotham is four points behind the Spirit and four points ahead of the Pride, meaning that neither team can change their position in the East Division.

With the preseason tournament coming to an end, the two teams will be using this game to get quality minutes for younger players and prepare for the start of the season next week. Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell has spoken about using the tournament to try out different lineups, which she’s done in each game. It’s expected that she’ll trot out another lineup that differs from the team’s most recent game.

The Pride will also be looking to put together a complete game for the first time this year. So far, the Pride have been a second-half team, playing much better in the second 45 minutes. Cromwell is looking for her team to play a solid 90 minutes before the start of the regular season.

“I thought that (March 30 against Gotham) was our best game of the season so far. At least, as close to a complete 90 minutes as we’ve had,” Cromwell says. “So we have confidence from that match but also know they have been getting better. They have very dangerous players, a quality team, and quality coaching staff. So we’ve got to play a complete 90 minutes. That’s what we’ve been lacking. We’ve had really good parts, halves of games, or we start well or we don’t get one. We have to get (a goal) early. We have to get momentum, and then finish out the game.”

Once again, the Pride have an extensive injury list, which includes Caitlin Cosme (D45), Marta (SEI), Erin McLeod (right knee), Sydney Leroux (left achilles), Parker Roberts (right ankle), Erika Tymrak (right thigh), and Meggie Dougherty Howard (right hip). Additionally, Amy Turner (right ankle) and Courtney Petersen (right foot) are listed as questionable and Carrie Lawrence is out due to yellow card accumulation.

Notable for this game is that Viviana Villacorta has been cleared to play for the first time since being drafted. The UCLA product played under Cromwell in college and was drafted by the Pride with the ninth overall pick of the 2021 NWSL Draft. However, she tore her ACL during her final college season, leaving her sidelined until now. Gotham will be without Imani Dorsey (neck), Sabrina Flores (knee), Allie Long (maternity leave) and Lewandowski (COVID protocols).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Kaylie Collins. 

Defenders: Courtney Petersen, Amy Turner, Megan Montefusco, Celia.

Midfielders: Angharad James, Mikayla Cluff, Gunny Jonsdottir.

Forwards: Darian Jenkins, Leah Pruitt, Kerry Abello.

Bench: Anna Moorhouse, Abi Kim, Chelsee Washington, Amy Turner, Viviana Villacorta, Kylie Strom, Julie Doyle.

NJ/NY Gotham FC (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.

Defenders: Caprice Dydasco, Ali Krieger, Estelle Johnson, Mandy Freeman.

Midfielders: Kristie Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Nahomi Kawasumi.

Forwards: Kumi Yokoyama, Ifeoma Onumonu, Paige Monaghan.

Bench: Michelle Betos, Cam Tucker, Nicole Baxter, Jen Cudjoe, Taryn Torres, Delanie Sheehan, Domi Richardson, Ellie Jean, Kelly Ann Livingstone.

Referees

REF: Jeremy Scheer.

AR1: Art Arustamyan.

AR2: Jessica Carnevale.

4TH: Scarlet Agrawal.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7 p.m.

Venue: Red Bull Arena — Harrison, NJ.

TV: None.

Streaming: Paramount+(U.S.), Twitch (International).

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along @TheManeLand and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Ally Watt to New Contract

The Pride have signed forward Ally Watt through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed forward Ally Watt to a new contract. The deal runs through the 2025 NWSL season and includes a mutual option for 2026.

“Over the last couple years, we have really seen Ally grow both on the field and off. She has worked incredibly hard to be the fittest she has been in her career, and it shows through the impact she brings to our front line,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Ally brings great competitiveness to the forward position on our team, while also being a great influence on our team culture. We’re excited for her to continue pushing herself and her teammates to be the best versions of themselves, and to have her continue as a vital part of what we are building.”

The Pride initially acquired Watt in a trade with OL Reign (now the Seattle Reign) on Aug. 15, 2022 in exchange for $125,000 in Allocation Money. The Watt trade was among the first that indicated the Pride were ready to begin dealing the assets they acquired for some of their older talent traded following the 2021 season.

Watt made her debut for the Pride on Aug. 20, 2022, coming on for Julie Doyle in the 64th minute of a 2-1 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC. She scored nine minutes later to create the dream debut for her new club, earning a new deal at the end of the season that kept her with the Pride through 2024. In nearly two years in Orlando, Watt has made 46 appearances (18 starts) in all competitions, recording 1,958 minutes, six goals and two assists. She also scored the fastest goal in team history, converting after 39 seconds on Sept. 17, 2023 against the North Carolina Courage.

So far this season, Watt has made 15 appearances with seven starts, recording 657 minutes. She has scored two goals and added an assist. Her most notable game this year was on May 1, when Pride Head Coach Seb Hines switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, teaming Watt with Barbra Banda. Watt scored the opener and assisted on Banda’s second goal in a 4-1 win over the Courage.

“We’re building something very special here in Orlando and I am grateful that I get to continue to be a part of it,” Watt said in the club’s press release. “I feel I have only grown since I’ve been here, and I’m more than excited to keep developing my game. This team and organization are my family, and staying here in Orlando to play in front of some of the best fans makes me so happy. Vamos Pride!”

Watt was initially selected with the ninth overall pick of the 2020 NWSL Draft by the Courage out of Texas A&M. She played professionally in Australia for Melbourne City before joining North Carolina for the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. However, she tore her ACL minutes into the first game, sidelining her for an extended period.

The Courage traded the speedster before the 2021 season to the Reign, where she made five appearances after returning from injury. She became a regular in 2022, playing in 21 of the Reign’s 22 games, recording a goal and an assist, before being dealt to the Pride.

What It Means for Orlando

Whether she starts with Banda in a 4-4-2 formation or comes off the bench later in the game, Watt has proven to be a valuable part of the Pride’s success since joining the club. Injuries were a concern since she’d had a previous ACL tear, but she’s remained healthy and has continued to be one of the fastest players in the NWSL.

The forward is already having her best season with the team this year, and there are still 10 games left in the regular season. With Banda away at the Olympics, Watt should get plenty of time starting during the upcoming NWSL X Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, providing valuable minutes.

While this signing provides depth at the forward position, Watt also has the versatility that Carter and Hines crave. In addition to playing striker, Watt’s speed has been utilized on the right side of the midfield before, matching the similarly fast Doyle on the left for a dangerous pairing. Her attributes make this signing an expected one as the Pride look to build on their historic season.

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Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Viviana Villacorta to New Contract

The Pride have signed defensive midfielder Viviana Villacorta to a new one-year contract with a mutual option for a second year.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed midfielder Viviana Villacorta to a new contract. The one-year extension keeps her in Orlando through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

“Viv has shown she has the potential to be one of the best midfielders in the league but has been unable to fully showcase that due to last season’s late injury,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Despite the setback, she has persevered, put in the work to get back on the pitch, and has remained an incredible teammate throughout the entire process. She has proven to be a difference maker when on the field, and we are looking forward to seeing her return soon.”

The Pride selected Villacorta with the ninth pick of the first round in the 2021 NWSL Draft. She decided to play her final season at UCLA but tore her ACL in the first game against Pepperdine, ending her collegiate career and delaying her professional debut.

Villacorta finally made her debut on May 1, 2022 against NJ/NY Gotham FC, replacing Gunny Jonsdottir in the 72nd minute. She soon became a regular starter under former head coach Amanda Cromwell and continued that role for Seb Hines, earning a new two-year contract on Dec. 7, 2022. During the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the defensive midfielder made 36 appearances (30 starts), recording 2,475 minutes and an assist. Unfortunately, the injury bug wouldn’t let her go.

The 25-year-old injured her ankle on Aug. 26, 2022 against OL Reign, requiring surgery and forcing her to miss the final five games of the season. Villacorta returned to her starting role for the 2023 season and almost made it through the entire year injury-free. But she tore her ACL again in a late-season training session, resulting in her missing the final three games and being placed on the season-ending injury list for 2024. Despite the setbacks, the Pride still feel she can contribute when healthy and have shown that belief with a new contract.

“I am so grateful for the club and staff for believing in me and giving me this opportunity,” Villacorta said in the club’s press release. “To be able to continue my journey with this incredible group of people supporting me, means the world. Orlando has been home for the past three years and I can’t wait to get back out on the field and give everything I have.”

Prior to being drafted by the Pride, Villacorta made 72 appearances for UCLA with 60 starts, recording seven goals and 16 assists. She was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List in 2020 and was Second-Team All-Pac 12 in 2018 and 2019.

Internationally, Villacorta represented the United States at the youth levels and started in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

What It Means for Orlando

The Pride made three significant moves to build depth in the defensive midfield this season, signing Luana, Angelina, and Morgan Gautrat. However, Luana was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma early in the season and Gautrat is 31 years old and has spent a lot of time on the injured list, so the Pride need defensive midfielders next season.

Villacorta has yet to prove that she can stay healthy, suffering severe injuries each year since being drafted. Despite these setbacks, she’s shown her ability while on the field. The two Pride head coaches in that time saw her as a regular starter and spoke highly of her skillset. If she can stay healthy, Villacorta can be an essential part of the Pride lineup moving forward.

While Villacorta might not return to action until 2025, the Pride want to see how she’ll fit in with this team when healthy. The one-year deal isn’t very risky as the team has built plenty of depth at all positions. If she can remain uninjured throughout the 2025 season, the club will likely pick up her option and possibly offer another extension. With the uncertainty of Luana’s absence, that could be key for the team’s future success.

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How to Win the NWSL Shield

Comparing the Orlando Pride and other 2024 NWSL shield contenders to previous winners.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

“We want to win the shield.”

That was the answer Orlando Pride defender Kerry Abello gave when asked what the team’s goals are for the rest of the 2024 season. She didn’t just stop there, adding that the team wants to win the NWSL championship as well. “We have proved that is our potential and we plan on going for it.”

There is little doubt that the Pride are now the favorites for the shield after defeating the Kansas City Current on the road (while down a player for more than half the game) in their final match before the Olympic break. The shield is the trophy awarded to the team with the highest point total after the regular season, while the NWSL championship is awarded to the team that wins the playoffs.

The shield is often considered a better indicator of best team from a given season, as it requires solid performances over the full season and not the final three games. With 16 matches played and 12 to go, the Pride are the only undefeated team in the league and they boast a three-point lead at the top of the table. Looking at the 10 NWSL shield winners to date, a clear picture emerges on what it takes to turn Orlando’s goal into a reality.

The Pride defeating the other shield hopefuls is a big part of why they’re in such a strong position just past the halfway point in the season. The matches against their peers in the table are sometimes called “six-pointers” because the points gained by the Pride are subsequently lost by their opponents. While Orlando won both road matches against Kansas City and the Washington Spirit, the return home matches against those opponents on Sept. 13 and Oct. 6, respectively, will be just as important as the season gets closer to the end, as will the two matches still to come against defending champion NJ/NY Gotham FC, currently in fourth.

Beyond the big matches, the NWSL is a league known for its parity, and any match can pose a challenge. Take, for example, the 2023 shield-winning San Diego Wave, who were able to claim the trophy with just 37 points, a tally already surpassed the 2024 Pride. In 2023, the gap between the teams at the top and bottom was so small that Orlando missed the playoffs with only six fewer points than the wave, and the last-place Chicago Red Stars were only seven points behind the Pride.

To put the current NWSL season into historical context, the graph below shows the points per match won by each prior shield winner, compared to the Pride, Current, and Spirit this season.

First and foremost, the graph above shows that the 2024 Orlando Pride are on pace to break the record for points in a season. That record was set by the 2018 North Carolina Courage team that earned 57 points en route to winning both the shield and the NWSL championship. Considering that Orlando is on pace to surpass that record, it is impressive that both the Current and the Spirit are almost stride for stride with the Pride and performing better than the average shield-winning squad as well.

Looking at historic shield winners and runners up, the competition in the NWSL is clear. The average gap between first and second place in the table over the past 10 seasons is just five points. In the past three seasons, the league was even closer, with gaps of two, one, and two points from 2021 to 2023, respectively. With four points currently separating first and third position in this season’s table, the trend of tight finishes is likely to continue.

Despite the similar records by the best teams this season, they are each racking up points in different ways. Kansas City has built a reputation based on a high-powered attack and willingness to simply outscore opponents. Orlando, on the other hand, has a defense-first mindset coupled with enough star power from Barbra Banda and Marta to win matches more pragmatically. Washington, for its part, lies somewhere in the middle, neither leading the league in attack nor defense but winning matches nonetheless. Reviewing how past teams won the shield can identify important themes for shield-winning sides, even though it doesn’t guarantee how the current season will play out.

Below, goals scored and conceded per match are plotted for previous shield winners to see how they won their trophies. The 2024 Pride, Current, and Spirit are added to assess the current shield race.

When it comes to attack, the Current are on another level entirely, leading all clubs in goals per match at 2.5. This performance, if it continues, would lead to the highest scoring season in league history. However, the plot once again shows the strength of the NWSL in 2024. Despite a clear offensive leader in Kansas City, the other teams fighting for the 2024 shield are well above average for prior winners and more than capable of scoring enough to win matches.

Between the points, goals, and goals conceded per match, it is the latter where the most clear differentiation can be seen. With only 0.75 goals conceded per match, the Pride’s defensive strength in 2024 is not far behind the best performing defenses in league history. Of their opponents, the Spirit have defended well this season, but not to the level of prior shield winners, and Kansas City is well below the defensive metrics of prior winners. 

In the first 10 seasons of the NWSL’s existence, only the Seattle Reign in 2015 conceded more than one goal per match on average and won the shield. Out of all that have done it, four led the league in both goals scored and fewest conceded. Three additional teams boasted the best defense, but only one team — again, Seattle in 2015 — scored the most goals without having the best defense, showing the limits to an attack-first approach.

Taken together, the prior seasons of the NWSL show that having a strong defense has been the most reliable path to an NWSL shield. Compared to the previous winners, the Orlando Pride have one of the best defenses in league history. They pair this strong defense with a potent attack exceeding the output of a typical NWSL shield-winning side. This combination has the team in first place in the table and on pace to win the shield with one of the highest point tallies of all time. 

Nothing can be taken for granted, however; Orlando’s opponents this season are setting records of their own and plan to push the Pride to the final weeks of the season. The Pride just need to keep their focus on the match in front of them. So far, they have shown the talent and the belief required of a shield-winning team, and the way to secure the trophy is to keep playing they way they did to get here.

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