The Orlando Pride (2-4-2, 8 points) fell 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars (4-1-3, 15 points) in Bridgeview, IL, on Mallory Pugh’s 10th-minute goal. The strike, which came off a Pride turnover in their own defensive half, held up for 80 minutes as the Pride suffered their second straight loss and third in the last four games.
Pride interim head coach Seb Hines was forced to make a few changes to the starting lineup in this game due to injury. Mikayla Cluff (left foot), Sydney Leroux (right ankle), and Leah Pruitt (right knee) were all out or questionable. Additionally, Kerry Abello and Jordyn Listro were on the bench after starting in the 5-0 loss last weekend.
The back four in front of Erin McLeod included Kylie Strom, Megan Montefusco, Toni Pressley, and Courtney Petersen. Gunny Jonsdottir moved up to defensive midfield with Viviana Villacorta after playing defense in Houston. Angharad James, Julie Doyle, and Abi Kim made up the attacking midfield behind Darian Jenkins.
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) June 12, 2022
The game started evenly, with both teams having trouble maintaining possession. The first chance of the game didn’t come until the ninth minute when Pugh sent a cross into the box from the left, looking for the head of Sarah Luebbert. The ball was a little high and behind the forward, so she wasn’t able to get much on it. As a result, the ball rolled slowly wide of the far post and out of play.
A minute later, Luebbert got behind the Pride back line, chasing a ball sent through by Pugh. However, McLeod did well to come off her line and beat Luebbert to the ball.
The Red Stars opened the scoring in the 10th minute from the best player on the field. It started with a bad giveaway by Strom to Bianca St. Georges on the Pride half of the field. Receiving the ball from the defender, Pugh took a couple of steps toward the Pride box. But neither Montefusco nor Pressley closed down the dangerous attacker, so the U.S. international took a shot on goal. It was perfectly placed into the top right corner, beyond the reach of McLeod, to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) June 12, 2022
The Red Stars almost doubled their lead in the 12th minute with a nearly identical play, but from Vanessa DiBernardo. Another giveaway provided an opportunity for a quick give-and-go between DiBernardo and Chelsie Dawber. Like Pugh two minutes earlier, DiBernardo took a shot on goal. But fortunately for the Pride, this one was off the crossbar.
“Obviously, the goal came from a turnover. And then I think the other shot that hit the crossbar came from a turnover,” Hines said after the game. “I mean, we’ve had a couple of sessions and it’s something that we need to work on.”
“Great goal from Mal Pugh,” Strom said. “But the main focus of this game was to stay tight defensively, not let them play through the middle. And for the most part we were successful in that. Yeah, great goal by her and we just need to, you know, step up and make sure we get pressure on the ball and don’t give the ball away.”
The Pride didn’t get their first chance until the 14th minute and it wasn’t a very good one. Montefusco received the ball from outside the box and took a shot towards goal but it was blocked.
The best first-half chance for the Pride came in the 35th minute. Montefusco sent a long ball up the right side for Jonsdottir. The midfielder quickly sent a cross in for Kim, who was darting towards the near post. However, Tatumn Milazzo did well to track the run and blocked the ball out of play. The ensuing corner was caught by Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, her first real action of the day, ending the attack.
The final chance of the half was for the hosts a minute into injury time. In her first NWSL game, Dawber sent a dangerous ball through the Pride back line for St. Georges. As the defender reached the end line, McLeod came out to block it out of play.
While the Pride had a couple of chances in the first half, it was a dominant 45 minutes for Chicago. They ended the first period of play with more possession (58.7%-41.3%), shots (6-2), shots on goal (2-0), corners (2-1), crosses (3-2), and more accurate passing (83.2%-76.5%).
The Pride got off to a much better start to the second half and created their first chance inside two minutes. Jonsdottir got the first shot of the half, but it was blocked out of play by Amanda Kowalski.
The Pride continued to pressure the Red Stars back line, creating three corner kicks inside the first five minutes. The third corner by Strom found the head of Pressley at the near post. The Orlando captain redirected the ball towards goal but sent it just wide.
“You can see that we started the second half more aggressive,” Hine said. “Won some corners and set pieces and created more turnovers from Chicago. It’s just the final piece of making them turnovers into goal-scoring opportunities.”
The first second-half chance for Chicago came via a free kick after Pressley fouled Ava Cook just outside the box. Pugh sent a dangerous ball in for Yuki Nagasato. The former Japan international was unmarked at the top of the six, but couldn’t get her head on the cross as it went through the box.
In the 64th minute, the Pride escaped a dangerous situation when Zoe Morse found Pugh on the right side. The midfielder sent a cross to the back post where Milazzo was left completely unmarked. With McLeod covering the other side of the goal, Milazzo had a wide open net but couldn’t get her foot on the ball.
After the early second half flurry of chances, the Pride had trouble finding a rhythm offensively. They did get a chance in the 73rd minute through substitute Abello. Receiving the ball on the right side, the attacker did well to turn Rachel Hill and create some space for a shot. It was an ambitious attempt, but just missed a little high.
Chicago had another great chance in the 76th minute when St. Georges beat Petersen to a long ball by Hill at the end line. The defender’s first touch was back for Pugh, who was charging into the box. But Pressley did really well to get in front of the shot and block it.
Each team had chances to add to the scoring near the end. Pugh had an opportunity in the 89th minute, but the Pride defense did well to stay in front of her, forcing her into an off-balance shot that was easily collected by McLeod.
The Pride sprinted the other way, looking for an equalizer. The attack ended with Erika Tymrak taking a long-distance shot, but she didn’t get anything on it and it caused no trouble for Naeher, who easily caught it. It was Orlando’s first, and only, shot on target in the match.
It was a much better second half for the Pride, but they didn’t scare the hosts after the header by Pressley. The visitors had more shots in the second half (7-4) but only managed to get one of those shots on target.
“During halftime, we made a few adjustments. Talked about how to exploit them, what was working, what was not,” Strom said. “So yeah, we had a clear idea going into the second half of how we could expose them and get the equalizer. Especially in the last minutes, we created a few opportunities.”
Despite a better second 45 minutes by the Pride, the Red Stars ended the game with more possession (56.6%-43.4%), shots (10-9), shots on goal (4-1), and passing accuracy (79.3%-75.8%).
“I feel like it’s come down to one moment of brilliance from a brilliant player,” Hines said. “That goal is whatever you’re putting in any game and it’s very apparent that she’s on form right now and she’s playing well. And it’s come down to the fine margins. You know, we stuck to the game plan, we didn’t want to give anything up early in the game. The way that Chicago play, they like to play through the lines so we kind of clogged the middle up and were really disciplined with our pressing to win the ball in transition with the speed of Abi Kim and Julie Doyle. So the game plan was there, but like I said, it came to a moment of brilliance to find the result.”
Defensively, it was the first time that the Pride haven’t conceded multiple goals in five games. Only giving up an excellent goal after conceding five last weekend against the Houston Dash was something the team focused on coming into this one.
“Obviously, after what happened in Houston, we knew we had to come in and make a point and let everybody know that that will never ever happen again,” Strom said. “We put up a good fight. We came in really prepared. It’s unfortunate always to lose but I think we definitely made some steps forward.”
While there were obvious defensive improvements in this game, the lack of finishing or even generating clear-cut chances remained a problem. It was the second straight game that the Pride were held scoreless and the third straight game they were held scoreless before injury time.
“It’s the hardest part of the game, right? Putting the ball in the goal,” Hines said. “We’ve struggled of late to score goals, but I think the main focus was not to concede. We’ve conceded way too many goals this season. And that was the main focus going into the game.”
With the defense seemingly on the right path, the Pride will now work on the other end. That starts next Sunday when the team ends its three-game road trip in Portland.
Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024
What are the top five questions for the Orlando Pride heading into the 2024 NWSL season?
The Orlando Pride have begun their preseason training for the 2024 NWSL season and will play their first preseason scrimmage on Thursday afternoon. The team nearly made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2017, narrowly missing out on the final day of the season. The team’s been busy this off-season, looking to improve the squad. However, there are still some questions to be answered before the competitive games start.
Here are five burning questions about the Pride for 2024.
Who Will Start in Goal?
The Pride signed English goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse from French side Bordeaux on Jan. 31, 2022 to back up Erin McLeod. When the Canadian left after the 2022 season, Moorhouse was elevated to starter. She played well at times last year, but was inconsistent. However, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines showed confidence in the 28-year-old, starting her in 19 of the team’s 22 regular-season games.
In December, the Pride traded backup Carly Nelson to the Utah Royals for Allocation Money. The move came 11 days after they signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner, indicating the club was planning for the departure. While Moorhouse will undoubtedly start the season as the team’s number one, Manner could claim the position if Moorhouse’s inconsistency returns. It will be something to keep an eye on this year.
Who Will Start in the Defensive Midfield?
The Pride focused on the team’s back line last year, but much of the effort this off-season has been on the defensive midfield. The team traded for Haley McCutcheon on Aug. 18, 2022 and it appeared as though she would start in the position. However, Hines moved her to right back last year, where she’s become the regular starter. It then looked like recent draft picks Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff would be the duo, but Cluff was traded to Utah on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection and Villacorta tore her ACL late last year.
The club focused on the position this off-season, bringing in Brazilian internationals Angelina and Luana, along with USWNT player Morgan Gautrat. All three will battle to start in the defensive midfield, especially since Villacorta is injured and fellow defensive midfielders Cluff and Jordyn Listro are gone. But it’s still unknown who will start in those positions. It’s a question that will likely be answered in the coming weeks as the Pride build for the start of the regular season in March.
Where is Ally Watt Best Suited?
After tearing down the roster in a full rebuild, the Pride made two significant acquisitions in August 2022. In addition to trading for McCutcheon, the Pride dealt Allocation Money to OL Reign (now Seattle Reign FC) for forward Ally Watt. The speedy attacker quickly became the second option up top for the Pride, typically playing behind rookie Messiah Bright last year and starting the odd game. However, that’s not the only position she played.
Hines has shown he values versatility and illustrated that with Watt last year. In addition to playing up top, Watt was deployed on the right side of the midfield. Her speed and ability with the ball was an asset in the position, and she was praised by teammates in the role. They love having her on the right and Julie Doyle on the left, the two fastest players on the team. The questions now become: which position is she best at, and where does she best fit in with this team?
Who will Replace Messiah Bright?
Possibly the biggest question for the 2024 season is who will replace the starting striker. The Pride drafted Bright with the 21st overall pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft out of TCU, and she quickly became the focal point of the attack. Her six regular-season goals last year tied Adriana for the team lead. However, the forward requested a trade this off-season, citing personal reasons, and was shipped off to Angel City FC.
The club did sign Simone Charley, most recently with Angel City, who could replace Bright. However, she’s coming off a season-ending injury and wasn’t as effective in Los Angeles as she was in Portland. Other options include Canadian international Amanda Allen or Argentina international Mariana Larroquette. Watt might be the most likely to start the season up top as it stands, with Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter recently telling our SkoPurp Soccer podcast that 2024 will be “the season of Ally.” But it remains to be seen who will be the Pride’s new number nine.
Will We Discover the Pride’s New Number 10?
Marta has been the Pride’s number 10 since she arrived in 2017 and the team’s most prolific player. She leads the team all-time in appearances (102), starts (95), minutes (8,456), goals (31), and assists (18) in all competitions. However, she’s on the final year of a two-year deal that’s widely expected to be the last for the soon-to-be-38-year-old midfielder. If she does depart the club following the 2024 season, they Pride will need to find her replacement.
The club could go outside and find her replacement for 2025, but there are options in the current squad. The most talented player on the team currently is Brazilian international Adriana, who has typically played on the right side of the midfield, causing problems for defenses. She’s also switched with Marta at times, moving central, and has played there at the international level. The club also has Summer Yates, the former Washington Husky drafted in 2023. Yates slipped to the fourth round, where the Pride grabbed her, and Carter recently said she’s seen significant development in the second-year player.
While the primary focus is on this season, Hines could show his hand with who plays the most minutes behind Marta in the attacking midfield. While a final decision will probably be left to the 2025 preseason, we can get an idea of who might be in line for arguably the most significant role on the team during the 2024 campaign.
The Pride enter the 2024 season with more expectations than the last two years. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2023 and will be looking to improve this season. While most of the team is intact, there are some questions to be answered during preseason and the coming regular season. It will tell us a lot about the team’s 2024 season and the coming years.
Orlando Pride’s Summer Yates and Amanda Allen in Line for Breakout Seasons
Summer Yates and Amanda Allen could have breakout seasons for the Pride.
The Orlando Pride are in the third year of a full rebuild, although there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last season saw multiple young players take big steps forward in their development and this year will undoubtedly see more. Two players who currently look like they’ll play bigger roles in the team are midfielder Summer Yates and forward Amanda Allen.
Yates and Allen are two young players with bright futures that the Pride brought in during 2023. They drafted Yates out of the University of Washington with the third pick of the fourth round (39th overall) of the 2023 NWSL Draft. You usually don’t find this level of talent that late in the draft, but Yates was expected to go much higher. She began slipping through the second and third rounds, enabling the Pride to complete what could be the steal of the draft.
Rather than coming in through the draft, the Pride were able to sign Allen directly. The teenager made her way through the Canadian national team system, making her senior team debut in November 2022. She was seen as a player for the future but didn’t see much of the field last year.
It’s not a surprise to see young players in this team see significant minutes, as the Pride have focused on it over the past few seasons. It’s something that Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter spoke about with The Mane Land’s SkoPurp Soccer podcast last week.
“I think you develop through meaningful match minutes,” Carter said on SkoPurp. “Even if you look at some of the signings that we’ve made, young athletes, you look at Amanda Allen for instance, making sure she’s getting meaningful match minutes is really important to us.”
Yates and Allen are both likely to see more minutes this year but face different situations. Yates saw more time on the field during her rookie season, making 10 league appearances and recording 108 minutes. She made a further six appearances (two starts) in the NWSL Challenge Cup for 259 minutes and recorded two assists in the competition.
The Pride signed Marta to a two-year extension following the 2022 NWSL season, so this could very well be the last year of her career. Once the star is gone, the Pride will be looking for a long-term replacement and Yates could be that player. Carter even told SkoPurp that she’s seen development in the midfielder this off-season.
“(Yates) is flying, by the way. Summer Yates is chef’s kiss flying,” Carter said. “She had an unbelievable off-season. She’s like a whole new player this year.”
The midfielder was the primary playmaker for Washington in college and played that role when she appeared for the Pride last year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her play more minutes this season, especially since the club will likely lose Adriana at times to international duty.
Allen is in a different position than Yates but might have a similar opportunity to prove herself this season. At the end of last year, she was the fourth striker on the depth chart behind Messiah Bright, Ally Watt, and Mariana Larroquette. However, Bright asked for a trade this off-season due to personal reasons and was shipped to Angel City FC. The club could still bring in a veteran striker to replace the young forward, but Carter said it’s not a major concern for the team at the moment.
“We feel like we’re in a good place,” Carter said about the striker situation. “It’s not something that we’re terribly concerned about.”
However, she also said that the club has worked at strengthening the back line and midfield positions over the past two seasons. Now it’s time to look for goal scorers that can push the team to be a contender in the NWSL.
“If you look at it from a strategy standpoint, how we’ve approached the last year, we got to improve the back line. And that’s what we did first,” Carter said. “And then the priority became the midfield. And that’s what we did in the beginning of the off-season. And now we’re looking for established goal scorers.”
Watt was the starter at the forward position last year when Bright wasn’t available or needed rest. While it’s fair to assume she would simply move up to the number one spot on the depth chart, Carter further indicated the veteran would be the team’s nine.
“I feel like this is going to be the year of Ally,” Carter said about the forward.
The Pride emphasize versatility, something they’ve shown the past few seasons. While Watt will likely be the starting forward when the season starts, she also played on the right in 2023. Following her appearances last year in the midfield, her attacking teammates gave glowing reviews about having the speed of Watt on the right and Julie Doyle on the left.
The club’s focus on Watt up top might seem like a negative for Allen’s playing time. After all, the teenager didn’t appear much last season, only making three league appearances for nine minutes. She didn’t play much more in the NWSL Challenge Cup, making three appearances, with one start, for 91 minutes.
However, Allen has two things going for her. One is that the club values providing meaningful minutes to young players and Allen is seen as part of the future of this team. It’s also not easy to find proven goal scorers. Unless the club can find a proven goal scorer by the trade and transfer deadline on April 22, Allen will move up on the depth chart.
The focus for the Pride this season is improving on last year and making the playoffs for the first time since 2017. However, they also have an eye on the future with the team still being young. Last year, we saw young players like Bright and Emily Madril prove themselves at the professional level. This year we could see Yates and Allen make a similar jump.
Orlando Pride Rebuild Resembles Orlando City’s
The Pride are taking a page from the Lions on building a winning club.
Building a winning club is not an easy thing to do. If it was, everyone would be doing it. Of course, there are different ways to go about it. You can spend a ton of money on flashy, big-name players who you throw together and hope something comes out of it. The Orlando Pride already tried that and it didn’t work. One other way is to take your time to build something from scratch. It isn’t as quick, and takes patience, but it is usually more sustainable.
Just like with Orlando City, it started with a coach. Seb Hines took over as interim head coach following the departure of Amanda Cromwell under less-than-ideal conditions. Oscar Pareja has built a culture with the Lions and now Hines is doing the same for the Pride. The arrival of Haley Carter has resulted in a partnership that aims to bring more wins for the club.
One of the key factors in Orlando City’s rebuild was the addition of Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos to create a stable center back pairing. Now, the Pride look like they have done the same thing with Rafaelle and Emily Madril. Rafaelle is signed through the 2025 season, and Madril through the 2026 season. Those two, along with Haley McCutcheon, Carrie Lawrence, Megan Montefusco, and Kylie Strom, among others, have stabilized a defense that was pretty porous in the past. It is the foundation.
I don’t think that the Pride have the equivalent of a Pedro Gallese in goal, but there will be plenty of competition between Anna Moorhouse, Sofia Manner, and Kaylie Collins. With Collins on loan in Australia, Moorhouse and Manner will battle it out for the starting role.
We saw the difference that Facundo Torres, Cesar Araujo, and Wilder Cartagena made in the Orlando City midfield. The Pride have beefed up their midfield over the last year, adding Brazilians Angelina and Luana, as well as the recent additions of Morgan Gautrat and NWSL Draft pick Ally Lemos. The plan is for the Pride to be able to work the ball up the field rather than having to lump it over the top all the time. This will create chances for the forwards to get more service from the midfield and thus score more goals.
Speaking of the attack, the Pride have several options despite the departure of Messiah Bright. Ally Watt is coming off her first fully healthy season and is looking to prove she is the person for the job. Adriana was my player of the year for the Pride in 2023 and I expect even more from her in 2024. There is also Julie Doyle, Mariana Larroquette, Amanda Allen, and the newly acquired Simone Charley. That is a lot of potential firepower now that the midfield is in better shape.
I know that some supporters get a little jealous when other clubs like NJ/NY Gotham FC are making splashy, big-name signings, but remember, it wasn’t those signings that won Gotham the title last season. I also know that having a fan favorite like Bright head off to another club seems like a big blow. We’re all a little sensitive that the Pride have been snubbed by the likes of Mia Fishel, Debinha, and others.
We interviewed Haley Carter on the SkoPurp Soccer PawedCast the other day, and one thing she said really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but basically it was to be glad for all the players who want to be here. They are putting in the work. They have bought into the culture that the club is building. They are signing contract extensions because they believe. To quote Ted Lasso, “I believe in believe,” and it might be the hope that kills you, but I’m pretty excited about what is being built in Orlando right now.
Also, consider this: the transfer window doesn’t close until April. The Pride might not be done making moves. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and please listen to the interview with Haley Carter if you haven’t already. Vamos Orlando!
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