The Orlando Pride (4-5-6, 18 points) held onto a one-goal lead for 67 minutes to beat San Diego Wave FC (7-5-4, 25 points), 1-0 at Torero Stadium in the first meeting ever between the two clubs. The hosts hit the woodwork three times, but the lone goal was a Meggie Dougherty Howard penalty conversion in the 23rd minute.
Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines made two changes to the starting lineup that drew Angel City FC 2-2 last weekend. Carrie Lawrence was out due to concussion protocol and was replaced by Megan Montefusco, who returned from a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Additionally, Julie Doyle re-entered the lineup in place of Darian Jenkins.
As a result, the Pride lined up with a back line of Celia, Montefusco, Toni Pressley, and Kylie Strom in front of Erin McLeod. Dougherty Howard, Jordyn Listro, and Viviana Villacorta were in the midfield behind an attacking line of Kerry Abello, Doyle, and Erika Tymrak.
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) August 14, 2022
The game got off to a frantic start with the hosts having multiple early chances. Inside the first 30 seconds, Amirah Ali found herself with the ball right in front of goal when Strom’s wayward header fell at her feet. However, McLeod did well to get down and make a huge stop with her right leg. In the third minute, Ali sent a cross into the box looking for Kelsey Turnbow, but the ball was a bit too high for the forward.
“Before the game started, we talked about how they were going to come out and stretch and, especially the first 10 minutes, it was going to be difficult to play,” Dougherty Howard said about the opening minutes. “But we needed to stay committed to our game plan and not get frustrated when the ball would bobble up or we’d have difficulty playing out and just stick with what we wanted to do. And I think things did settle down after that first initial period.”
The Pride got their first chance of the game in the fifth minute when Turnbow fouled Villacorta just outside of the San Diego box. Pressley and Villacorta stood over the ball but it was Dougherty Howard who took it. The Pride midfielder got the ball over the wall but it was just wide of the post. Even if it had been on target, it appeared as though Kailen Sheridan had it covered.
The Wave quickly pushed the other way and had their closest chance of the first half. Former Pride forward Taylor Kornieck sent a long ball for Alex Morgan, who was running alongside Montefusco. Morgan did well to shield the center back, creating a chance on goal. The former Pride star beat McLeod but the shot was off the post, allowing the Pride to escape the danger.
The Wave had another great chance in the ninth minute when the hosts had a three-on-two break. Morgan led the attack and had two teammates across from her, but decided to take the shot herself. It was probably an ill-advised decision as the shot skipped wide of the near post and out of play.
In the 22nd minute, Doyle attempted to cross the ball into the box from the left. Kaleigh Riehl attempted to block the cross, but it hit her outstretched arm. Referee Adorae Monroy didn’t hesitate to point to the spot as Riehl’s arm was clearly extended away from her body
It was only the second penalty this season for the Pride. The first was taken by Pressley after no other Pride players stepped up — something that resulted in Marta chastising her team after that game. This time, Dougherty Howard immediately grabbed the ball and walked to the spot. After a slight hesitation, Sheridan dove the right way, but it was an excellent penalty by Dougherty Howard, on the ground and just inside the post.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) August 14, 2022
“I have kind of been preparing for that,” Dougherty Howard said about taking the penalty. “The last few weeks, if we have a penalty, that I was planning on taking it, so I’ve been training on them. Take some deep breaths, stay calm, and just know if you get it in a good spot, it’s going to be really hard to save. So I’m just trying to find a corner, stay calm, and thankfully it went in.”
It was Dougherty Howard’s second goal in her NWSL career and her first as a member of the Pride.
“If they’re on the field, if they’re feeling it,” Hines said about who would take the penalty. “Meggie was feeling it. She was practicing them yesterday. She stepped up and slotted it home. Can’t ask for more than that really.”
Following the goal, the game settled down and was mostly played in midfield. Both teams had excellent chances up to that point but few opportunities were created throughout the remainder of the first half.
In the 39th minute, Morgan cut back in the box to lose her defender. She should’ve been able to take the shot herself, but lost control for a brief moment and was forced to dump it back to Turnbow. It was a good opportunity for the forward but her shot was over the goal.
The Pride had a dangerous moment two minutes into injury time when a San Diego free kick sailed into the Pride box. Montefusco attempted to head it out but it glanced off the top and went right to Celia. The right back attempted to clear it but sent it towards her own goal. Morgan was on the chase but couldn’t get to it before the ball went out of play for a corner kick.
In the opening minutes, it looked like San Diego would dominate the game. However, the first half ended quite even. San Diego had more possession (53.3%-46.7%), shots (5-4), corner kicks (2-0), and crosses (10-3), but the teams had the same number of shots on goal (2-2). More importantly, the Pride had an attempt from the spot and took a one-goal advantage into the break.
San Diego players felt that they should’ve had a penalty five minutes into the second half. After Tymrak beat Turnbow, the Wave forward quickly won it back and sent the ball in for Morgan. Both Morgan and Montefusco went for the ball and it appeared as though Montefusco kicked the back of the striker. However, Monroy determined that there wasn’t enough contact for a foul.
The Pride nearly made a costly mistake in the 53rd minute when Katie Johnson sent the ball into the box. McLeod was too close to the near post, creating an open goal. Johnson was aiming for McNabb but Celia did well to cover the open space and clear it away.
In the 57th minute, a Kornieck shot created a little more chaos in the Pride box. Pressley tried to clear the ball, but her attempted clearance rolled back across the six-yard box. Fortunately, McLeod was in the right position this time and was able to jump on the ball.
In the 59th minute, Listro fouled Morgan as she was entering the box. It was close to being a penalty, but the contact was made just outside of the area. The ensuing free kick setup consisted of Turnbow and Emily van Egmond standing next to the ball as Morgan was just behind. Turnbow and van Egmond tapped it, allowing Morgan to run up and fire towards goal.
The ball slammed on the far post — the second time in the game that Morgan hit the woodwork — and went right to Kornieck in front of goal. The forward tried to put the rebound in, but Montefusco was there to block it out of play. The following corner found the head of Kornieck but her shot was wide and the Pride were able to clear.
— The Equalizer (@EqualizerSoccer) August 14, 2022
In the 66th minute, Turnbow sent a cross into the box looking for Kornieck at the far post. Kornieck tried to lift her foot high enough to redirect it in. Had she knocked it down or directly ahead, it would’ve been an equalizer. However, the ball went straight up and over the crossbar.
Kornieck had a pair of chances in the 70th and 73rd minutes from Westphal corner kicks. The first one was right into the arms of McLeod and the second was just wide of the near post.
As time wound down, San Diego had the majority of the chances. In the 84th minute, a van Egmond cross found Morgan but her header wasn’t very strong, allowing the Pride to clear. In the 88th minute, Sofia Jakobsson stormed into the box. After fighting off Celia, she had contact with Jenkins. Both players went down and Jakobsson thought she earned a penalty, but a goal kick was awarded.
In the 89th minute, a van Egmond ball into the box was flicked on by Kornieck for Kristen McNabb. The defender headed it toward goal but couldn’t get it down enough as it bounced off the top of the crossbar. It was the third time in the game that San Diego had hit the woodwork.
“The post was one of our best players as well,” Hines said after the game. “But there’s been other games where we’ve not won games and we’ve dominated, so we probably deserved that luck today.”
Four minutes into injury time, McLeod was called upon for one more big save. A nice run by substitute Marleen Schimmer created a shot just outside the box. It was a hard, low shot on target but McLeod did well to get down and make the stop without allowing a rebound.
San Diego led most statistical categories, with more possession (55.8%-44.2%), shots (19-8), shots on target (6-2), corners (5-1), and crosses (22-8). However, the Wave hit the post twice and the crossbar once, allowing the Pride to hold on to win.
“This one was, I mean, it was massive,” Hines said about the win. “We’re running out of games as we’re coming towards the end of the season. You know, I’ve said from the start, we are reaching to get to playoffs and it’s really important that we start picking up wins and three points and what better way to do it with a 1-0 win away from home. So I’ll keep saying that we have to keep this momentum going. We have to look at the next game. Obviously enjoy the moment right now. But again, we’re looking forward, you know, to Gotham and then trying to get three points away from home again.”
“This team has been through a lot this year,” Montefusco added. “And to come out here and win like we did tonight. We played football, and we played great soccer tonight. And I’m just so proud of this team. It’s emotional honestly.”
The win extends the Pride’s unbeaten run to six games (2-0-4) dating back to the team’s 2-2 draw with Racing Louisville FC on July 3. Three of the team’s four wins have now come away from home.
“Honestly, I think it’s just we changed our mentality,” Montefusco said about winning the second game in this unbeaten run. “We know we’re the underdog but now we know we have it in us that we can do it. And we train so hard every single day. We train with that underdog mentality. And we put in so much work and, like I said, we’ve been through a lot, so I think we’ve had to have these hard conversations with each other which has brought us extremely close.”
The Pride are now even on points with Angel City FC for seventh in the NWSL. The Los Angeles-based club has two games in hand, but the Pride are only three points behind OL Reign for the final playoff spot, with both teams having played 15 games. Orlando will visit Gotham next Saturday.
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.
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.
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.
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