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Orlando Pride vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC: Final Score 2-1 as Ally Watt Scores Winner in Pride Debut



The Orlando Pride (5-5-6, 21 points) defeated NJ/NY Gotham FC (4-11-0, 12 points) 2-1 at Subaru Park in the fourth meeting between the two clubs this season. After a scoreless first half, Orlando gained the lead thanks to a goal from Celia and Ally Watt doubled that lead in her first match with Orlando. Kristie Mewis scored for Gotham just minutes after Watt’s goal, but the Pride were able to hold on for the win and extend their unbeaten run to seven games (3-0-4).

Orlando’s current streak equals the club’s second-longest such run in club history.

Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines opted for the same starting lineup that won 1-0 on the road last weekend against San Diego Wave FC. The club acquired Watt and defender Haley Hanson earlier this week and both players came off the bench in this one.

Erin McLeod started in goal behind a back line of Celia, Megan Montefusco, Toni Pressley, and Kylie Strom. The midfield consisted of Meggie Dougherty Howard, Jordyn Listro, and Viviana Villacorta, with Kerry Abello, Erika Tymrak, and Julie Doyle forming the attacking line.

The Pride’s best chance of the first half came in the third minute as Tymrak dribbled towards goal and slipped a great pass between defenders for Abello in on goal. Abello had time to pick out her shot and beat Michelle Betos but not the post and the ball didn’t take a favorable bounce for the Pride to pounce on.

It was just one of a flurry of early chances for the Pride. Doyle’s shot in the seventh minute was deflected out for a corner. Although the Pride’s ensuing short corner didn’t yield much, Villacorta did well winning the ball back before Gotham could get it out of its half and won a free kick in the eighth minute. Dougherty Howard’s free kick found Montefusco at the far post, but the defender’s shot from a difficult angle went wide of goal.

Gotham was active on the attacking end as well. With Midge Purce out, Taylor Smith fueled Gotham’s offense and had a shot in the 15th minute that Pressley deflected for McLeod to easily collect.

Tymrak and Doyle connected in the 17th minute as Tymrak snuck another ball past Gotham’s defense, but Betos made the save.

Gotham applied pressure throughout the match and it nearly cost the Pride in the 20th minute. While trying to play out of the back, McLeod sent the ball straight to Nicole Baxter in the box. With Pride players closing down on her, Baxter had to get a quick shot off and it was directed at McLeod for the easy save.

The hosts started to find more opportunities as the half went on. Paige Monaghan had a try from distance in the 22nd minute that went wide of the net. In the 31st minute, Ifeoma Onumonu raced down the wing and cut in towards goal to shoot, but her shot went over the crossbar.

Gotham’s best opportunity of the first half was in the 39th minute as Smith and Monaghan charged toward Orlando’s goal on a counter attack. Smith sent the ball into the box for an open Monaghan, but McLeod made a big save to deny her and keep the game scoreless.

Fueled by Tymrak, the Pride had a few opportunities late in the first half as they aimed to score the game’s first goal. Tymrak and Doyle wreaked havoc in the attacking third again in the 43rd minute, but this time Doyle laid the ball off for Dougherty Howard in front of goal and her shot went wide. In stoppage time, Tymrak applied pressure that forced Betos into playing the ball out of bounds. Moments later, after the throw-in, Tymrak dribbled the ball across the top of the box and fired a shot. It was on target, but Betos made the save and the first half ended scoreless.

At the end of the first half, Orlando edged Gotham in possession (51.7%-48.3%). The Pride also had more shots (9-6), although both sides put three of their shots on target. Both goalkeepers came up with three saves, with McLeod’s stop as the biggest one from either side in the half.

Whereas the first half was filled with end-to-end action, the Pride had a bit more control at the start of the second half and it led to them taking the lead. With numbers in the box, Abello used some fancy footwork to turn her defender around and lob a nice cross to Celia at the far post. Celia’s header was saved, but Gotham couldn’t clear it and she pounced on the rebound. The defender’s shot bounced off of Tymrak on the ground and into the back of the net.

After the goal, Gotham understandably dialed up its pressure and found more of the ball. Hines made changes to address the pressure in the 56th minute as Hanson came on for Celia to make her Pride debut and Mikayla Cluff relieved Abello. Watt made her Pride debut as well in the 63rd minute, coming on for Doyle to give the Pride some speed to capitalize on counters.

“I feel like when I have the ball, I always have a couple of options to play out,” Hanson said about dealing with Gotham’s press in her first game with new teammates. “The players are first class and the coaches want us to play free football. Even though they were high pressing, we can always find a solution out.”

Nahomi Kawasumi came off the bench for Gotham in the 63rd minute as well and things started to open up for Gotham’s other players as a result. McCall Zerboni had a shot that went just wide of the left post in the 67th minute. Jenna Bike then took a crack at goal in the 69th minute. Her attempt was from long range, but that gave it enough time to dip towards goal and McLeod had to tip it over the crossbar for a corner.

Orlando then doubled its lead in the 72nd minute. Dougherty Howard did well to poke a loose ball further up the field for Watt to take it towards the goal. Watt dribbled past Mandy Freeman and then expertly got her shot past Betos and off the far post and in.

“I remember that the coaches always were telling me during the only two practices I had with the team to just dribble, dribble at people, drive at them. So I just made sure I did that,” Watt said in regards to her thoughts during the goal. “I could hear in my head ‘just go, go, go, dribble, dribble, dribble at them,’ and I did. I was so happy that it hit inside the post instead of the other side of it and it didn’t bounce out, but just to drive at them was what I was telling myself.”

It was Watt’s first goal in NWSL this season.

“That’s why we brought them [Watt and Hanson]. We brought them in to make an impact,” Hines said. “Ally being a forward, we spoke about how to turn goals into wins and one of the things is putting the ball in the back of the net and that’s what she did, so she makes an immediate impact by scoring.”

Gotham didn’t take long to respond though. In the 74th minute, Kawasumi faked a cross to create space away from Hanson and then whipped in a cross that Kristie Mewis headed past McLeod to give Gotham life.

The Pride didn’t take long to resume its attack after that, eager to widen the lead again. Just two minutes after Gotham’s goal, Tymrak fired a shot that forced Betos to knock it away for a corner kick. The corner was cleared though and Gotham went on the attack. Smith had a shot inside the box, but Montefusco was there to deflect it before it could trouble McLeod.

But as the game neared its conclusion, Gotham started to find more of the ball as it hunted for an equalizer. However, the Pride did well preventing Gotham players from finding dangerous areas and Gotham had to take its chances from tough spots. Mewis sent a shot from distance wide of goal in the 80th minute and Kawasumi didn’t make clean contact on her shot in the box following a corner in the 81st and sent the ball high into the sky.

Like with their second goal, the Pride’s best opportunities following Gotham’s goal came when counter attacking. Watt was able to find Tymrak with a cross in the 85th minute, but the forward’s header wasn’t on target. A minute later, Cluff won the ball in the midfield and then dribbled to take a shot at the top of the box. There was enough behind it that Betos had to make a diving save before scrambling to clear away the danger before Watt could jump on the rebound.

Orlando then applied pressure of its own late in the match to keep the ball pinned in Gotham’s half of the field and burn minutes off the clock. In stoppage time, Zerboni won the ball from Cluff in the midfield and got the ball to Imani Dorsey, who then sent in a cross that connected with Mewis’s head but went off target. McLeod had to make a save on a low shot from Mewis as well and the Pride were able to hold on for all three points on the road.

Gotham finished with more possession (51.8%-48.2%). The Pride had more shots (17-16) and also put more of them on target (8-6). McLeod finished the game with five saves while Betos had six. After a scoreless first half, both sides were able to find the back of the net by the end of the game, but Watt provided the winner for Orlando.

“Every game by now is massive,” Hines said. “We’re not settled with where we’re at and we want to be in the playoffs. This is another big step to where we want to be. We have some tough games coming up, and we’ve just got to continue with this momentum that we have. Players have a lot of confidence, a lot of belief, and really sticking to the game plan we want to play.”

The Pride are in eighth in the NWSL standings, but are now just two points behind the Chicago Red Stars for a playoff spot. Orlando will aim to keep this momentum going when it returns to Exploria Stadium on Friday to host OL Reign.

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’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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Orlando Pride Rebuild Resembles Orlando City’s

The Pride are taking a page from the Lions on building a winning club.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

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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