Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (5-8-6, 21 points) welcome the North Carolina Courage (7-8-4, 25 points) to Exploria Stadium tonight at 7 p.m. This is the fourth and final time that the two teams will play during 2022 — the second in league play.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Courage have played 18 times since the Western New York Flash moved to Cary, NC and became the Courage. The Pride are 4-10-4 in those games (4-8-1 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-2-1 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).
The most recent meeting between the two teams came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring in the fourth minute. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead in the 44th minute, scoring her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back to within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win.
The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty in the 61st minute after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start in this one, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.
The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored in the 80th minute to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha gave the Courage a third-minute lead. Havana Solaun doubled the advantage in the 66th minute and the Courage took home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring in the 50th minute but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized two minutes later and the teams drew 1-1.
The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game as the teams went away with a scoreless draw.
Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, resulting in the teams meeting twice. The first game was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.
The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on Apr. 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but netted four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by North Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.
The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.
The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on Apr. 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando and this time the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2 in the 67th minute. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted the winner in the 90th minute, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.
The Pride looked headed for last place in the NWSL a few months ago before going on a seven-game unbeaten run. That ended on Aug. 26 with a 2-1 loss to OL Reign and a 2-0 loss to the Portland Thorns on Sept. 9. The team had a chance to climb back into the playoff race when it faced Racing Louisville FC over the weekend, but the Pride lost 2-0 again, ending any hope of making the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Tonight, the Pride will welcome the Courage to Exploria Stadium for the penultimate home game of the 2022 NWSL season. While the Courage are only one spot ahead of the Pride in the standings, they’re five points out of the sixth and final playoff spot with three games remaining.
The Courage have been one of the best attacking teams this year. They have scored 40 goals during the 2022 regular season — the most in the league, alongside the Thorns. They’re led in the attack by Diana Ordonez, who has 11 goals. Trailing her are Debinha with seven and Kerolin with six goals on the year.
The attack has been carrying the Courage this season as they’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Their 33 goals conceded is third most this year, only trailing the Pride’s 37 and NJ/NY Gotham FC’s 39.
The primary difference between Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy and Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod is the number of shots they’ve faced. Despite giving up a high number of goals, McLeod is fourth in the league in saves with 61. Meanwhile, Murphy is ninth with 48.
The Pride will have to find inspiration to finish out the year strong despite not having anything to play for. Especially since all three teams remaining on the schedule are fighting for playoff spots.
“There’s still moments for us to build, we want to finish the season on a high. We’ve put so much work in. There’s still a lot to play for. We want to finish as high (in the standings) as possible and we can start that with North Carolina at home in front of our fans,” Interim Head Coach Seb Hines said. “(North Carolina has) dangerous players that we have to be aware of but we also have to play our game, our style of play, and still grow and build on what we’ve achieved so far. It’s another opportunity for us to do that.”
The Pride have five players out for this game, including Marta (knee), Viviana Villacorta (ankle), Caitlin Cosme (knee), Chelsee Washington (ankle), and Kaylie Collins (wrist). Starting goalkeeper McLeod (concussion protocol) is off the injured list for the first time in three games, but Cluff (ankle) is listed as questionable.
The Courage only have two players out for tonight’s game in Kerolin (thigh) and Abby Erceg (thigh). While only two players are listed on the Courage’s injury report, both are key starters.
Orlando Pride (5-3-2)
Goalkeeper: Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Haley Hanson, Kylie Storm, Carrie Lawrence, Megan Montefucso, Celia
Midfielders: Jordyn Listro, Gunny Jonsdottir, Leah Pruitt.
Forwards: Kerry Abello, Ally Watt.
Bench: Anna Moorhouse, Haley Bugeja, Darian Jenkins, Courtney Petersen, Julie Doyle, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Toni Pressley, Erika Tymrak, Thais Reiss.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Jaelene Daniels, Katie Bowen, Kaleigh Kurtz, Merritt Mathias.
Midfielders: Meredith Speck, Denise O’Sullivan, Tess Boade, Fuka Nagano.
Forwards: Debinha, Rikke Madsen.
Bench: Rylee Baisden, Malia Berkely, Carson Pickett, Kiki Pickett, Diana Ordonez, Brianna Pinto, Brittany Ratcliffe, Katelyn Rowland, Ryan Williams.
REF: Adorae Monroy.
AR1: Melissa Beck.
AR2: Zach McWhorter.
4TH: Richonne Clark.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), Twitch (International).
Enjoy the match. Go 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?
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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