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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns: Final Score 6-0 as Pride Suffer Worst Loss Ever



The Portland Thorns put the Orlando Pride on full blast, breezing to a 6-0 win at Providence Park that could easily have been even more lopsided. Despite some good saves by Erin McLeod and some wasted shots by the Thorns, it was still Orlando’s worst loss in the team’s existence. Hina Sugita, Becky Sauerbrunn, Sophia Smith (twice), Natalia Kuikka, and Taylor Porter all scored for the Thorns (4-1-4, 16 points).

The Pride (2-5-2, 8 points) have now lost three consecutive matches — all via shutout — and are winless in their last four games (0-3-1) heading into the international break. Orlando has been outscored 12-0 in the last three matches and have been shut out three straight times for the first time since the team’s expansion season, when the Pride were blanked from May 28 to June 18 of 2016 by FC Kansas City, the Western New York Flash, and the Washington Spirit. Like the current stretch, those matches were all on the road.

Orlando had been beaten three times by five goals but this was the first six-goal loss and tied the team record for most goals conceded in a match. The Pride fell to 2-10-2 in the all-time, regular-season series against Portland and 2-11-2 in all competitions.

“I thought we got beat by a better team today and not only because they were better in possession, but fundamentals,” acting Pride coach Seb Hines said after the match. “Their ability to put us under pressure at the right moment, their willingness to run and battle and compete. And then with their creativity, they created multiple chances, and that’s something that moving forward we need to be better. We need to be better at the fundamentals — tackling, competing, running.”

Hines started McLeod in goal behind a back line of Courtney Petersen, Toni Pressley, and Megan Montefusco, with Darian Jenkins and Kerry Abello playing in sort of wingback roles. Meggie Dougherty Howard slotted into the midfield with Gunny Jonsdottir and Angharad James, with an attacking line of Abi Kim, and Julie Doyle. There were no center backs or strikers on the Pride bench.

The danger from Portland started early with Kuikka making a bombing run down the right, speeding past the Pride midfield and getting to the top of the box, where she nutmegged Pressley with a pass to Smith, who fired a shot that took a slight deflection and skipped inches wide of the left post.

The ensuing corner kick fell for Sugita, who was completely unmarked on the back side, but she got under her volley attempt, which sailed harmlessly well over the goal.

The first great chance for the Pride happened in the 17th minute. Kim made a good cross in from the right that Dougherty Howard chested down into her own path. She got a good look 1-v-1 with Bella Bixby, who made a huge save to keep the game scoreless.

“We created a great opportunity at nil-nil where it comes from a cross. Meggie takes a great touch and Bixby makes a save,” Hines said. “We’re talking about a (potential) one-nil lead, which can change the outcome of the game.”

The Thorns went right down the field after the save and Smith got in behind the defense but Montefusco did well to stab the ball away from behind. Sauerbrun was unmarked by Abello on the ensuing corner and McLeod made a sensational save in the 18th minute to keep the game at 0-0 — for the time being.

Three minutes later, Portland broke through. Abello’s attempted pass was easily picked off by Janine Beckie, who crossed into the box. The ball found Sugita — who got in behind Jenkins — on Portland’s left side, and she made no mistake this time, putting the Thorns up 1-0 in the 21st minute.

It took just four minutes to double the lead. Jonsdottir conceded a free kick on a handball, trying to protect herself from a point-blank cross. Although her arm was near her body, the referee ruled it wasn’t in a natural position. The free kick was sent in low and hard and McLeod tried to catch it rather than punch it away, but she couldn’t handle it and the rebound fell for 37-year-old defender Sauerbrunn, who was not tracked by anyone. Sauerbrunn smashed the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-0 in the 25th minute.

“That second goal was a killer,” Hines said. “It comes from a free kick, where Becky Sauerbrunn’s gambled because she’s confident and she’s got a tap-in. Them little defining moments can change a result of the game.”

Things could have gotten worse in the 31st minute when Smith danced past three Pride players with no trouble whatsoever, and sent a pass to Rocky Rodriguez at the top of the box. The midfielder sent her shot just wide.

Orlando survived a couple of late set pieces and the Pride entered the locker room down only 2-0 despite being dominated. Portland had more shots (10-2), shots on target (5-1), Possession (57.8%-42.2%), corners (3-2), and passing accuracy (85.7%-77.4%).

The Portland dominance continued to start the second half, despite the introduction of Viviana Villacorta by Hines, replacing Kim. The Thorns continued to ping passes and crosses around. Kuikka and Rodriguez each had shots blocked at the top of the area early in the second period. James then gave the ball away in her defensive third, allowing Beckie a free shot from outside the area that skipped wide.

Beckie then managed to beat both Abello and Petersen in the 56th minute to get a dangerous cross in to Smith, who got a shot deflected and McLeod was able to collect. Two minutes later, it was Beckie firing just wide on the counter. The Pride immediately turned it over again and this time Smith fired just wide.

Bixby made a second big save to keep the Pride off the board in the 60th minute. Jenkins stepped into a shot from a long way out that required the Portland keeper to make a flying save, as she got a hand to it to knock it wide. Pressley’s header came close on the ensuing corner but just missed the target at the near post.

Hines made a pair of substitutions in the 61st minute, bringing on Kylie Strom and Jordyn Listro for Abello and Montefusco. Those changes definitely helped — Portland. The Thorns finished with four more goals in the final half hour to turn a loss into a humiliation.

The Thorns went back on the attack after the substitutions. Everyone on the Pride backed off to give Sam Coffey a clean look at the top of the box in the 62nd minute but she fired her shot right at McLeod. However, the Pride conceded seconds later. After McLeod’s save, the Pride didn’t even make it out of their own half — again — and Portland came back on the attack, with Smith making a good turn that gave her several yards of clearance on Pressley. She then finished well to make it 3-0 in the 63rd minute.

“Confidence plays a major factor in performance,” Hines said about the team’s struggle to play out of their end in recent matches. “You know, when you’re confident you see them things a little bit quicker. You feel like, ‘Oh, I can play it through that line and get it to a midfielder.’ Right now, in the position that we’re in, we’re just lacking that element.”

Petersen sent in a cross or a shot in the 67th minute that Bixby did well to come out and catch. Jenkins then fired a shot at Bixby moments later as Orlando searched for a consolation goal. But then Orlando reverted to playing passively again. Smith nearly made it 4-0 in the 73rd minute but McLeod made a good save. Olivia Moultrie then fired a shot right at McLeod three minutes later.

Kuikka then did make it 4-0 in the 79th minute. She started with the ball on the left, then made a short pass and ran into the box, but no one bothered to go with her and Kuikka was left all alone in front of goal. The ball found its way back to her and she had no trouble slotting past McLeod.

“We definitely need to learn from this,” Pressley said. “There are situations where we do need to mark in the box and deny crosses and block shots, and that’s certainly something that we can work on and get better at. So, moving forward, that will help us. So, certainly I think there are a lot of things to take away from this game defensively. And we need to be better.”

Smith nearly made it 5-0 seconds later, as the Pride wasted no time giving the ball back to the Thorns on the restart. The ball hit an Orlando player and went out for a corner. No matter, as Smith added the fifth goal in the 86th minute — just two minutes after Yazmeen Ryan was left all alone on the right and fired over the net. Smith wasn’t closed down outside the area so she simply let fly to make it 5-0.

Taylor Porter added her first career goal before the final whistle. Again, nobody bothered marking her — or multiple other Thorns players — on a set piece that was played short, in an utterly embarrassing display.

That was, mercifully, all the scoring. Portland stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with more shots (26-6), shots on target (12-3), possesson (52.3%-47.7%), and passing accuracy (80.1%-79.2%). Each team earned four corners, which is one of the few statistical categories where the Pride matched up with their hosts.

“We tried our best and tried to stick to the game plan and it just really didn’t fall our way,” Pressley said.

“No one likes to lose in that manner,” Hines said. “There’s a lot going on. It’s difficult for the players, for staff — we’re obviously short-staffed right now. But I’m now in a position that this has to change. The habits and training need to change. The habits in games need to change, so we’re not walking off the field with regrets. You know, six-nil hurts everyone, and I take responsibility for that being the interim head coach. But moving forward, we will remember this as a turning point in our season.”

The Pride are off until July 3, when they’ll head over to Daytona to “host” Racing Louisville FC at Daytona International Speedway as part of Daytona Soccer Fest.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride have placed center back Megan Montefusco on the season-ending injury list following surgery on her right foot.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that center back Megan Montefusco has been placed on the season-ending injury list. The defender had off-season right foot surgery, performed by the club’s official medical team, to repair a long-term problem.

“This is an unfortunate situation for Megan, though we’re happy she was able to address an issue that has plagued her for some time, and we are confident she will come out of this a stronger athlete,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Our club is fully behind her and will support her throughout her rehab process, as will our amazing partners at Orlando Health. Our goal is to help Megan get back on the field as safely and smartly as possible, and we are behind her every step of the way. We look forward to seeing her back out on the pitch as soon as she is ready.”

The Pride originally acquired the defender in a trade with the Houston Dash on Jan. 28, 2022 that saw Marisa Viggiano go the other way. She was a regular starter at center back that year and through most of 2023, but lost the starting position when the club signed Brazilian international Rafaelle. Montefusco has made 45 appearances (42 starts) for 3,773 minutes in all competitions over her two seasons in Orlando, scoring one goal.

The 31 year-old signed a new contract with the Pride on June 15, 2023 through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. As one of the team’s main representatives alongside fellow center back Carrie Lawrence, Montefusco appeared at Orlando City’s preseason game against the New England Revolution, signing autographs and taking part in a question-and-answer session while wearing a walking boot.

What It Means for Orlando

This news is a bit of a blow to Orlando’s depth on the back line. Montefusco was the first center back off the bench late last year and was expected to have the same role this year. However, her absence will make room for Lawrence, who missed the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason, and Tori Hansen, who is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory FC in Australia. The duo will now compete for the third center back spot unless the club replaces Montefusco with another veteran, as the NWSL transfer window remains open.

This injury could also open up a spot for the Pride to sign 2024 second-round NWSL Draft pick Cori Dyke, who the club took at No. 22 overall out of Penn State. Dyke has experience at center back in college. She played as a central midfielder for the first four years in college, but moved to center back for her final season. Despite moving to the back line, the 2023 season was her most productive offensively, as she recorded five goals and six assists.

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Orlando Pride

Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024

What are the top five questions for the Orlando Pride heading into the 2024 NWSL season?



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

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.

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Orlando Pride

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

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.

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