Orlando Pride Confidence Growing After Back-to-Back Wins
After a tough start to the 2023 NWSL season, the Pride are changing their mentality and reputation.
It was always going to take time for the Orlando Pride to find their way into the 2023 NWSL season. Prior to the 2022 campaign, the team started a full rebuild, which included moving experienced veterans and replacing them with young players. After a tough first five games, the young team is starting to gain confidence and change the direction of this season.
On Dec. 7, 2021, The Pride hired former UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell to lead the team’s rebuild. That hiring turned out to be disastrous after reports of retaliatory behavior by Cromwell and assistant coach Sam Greene resulted in the two being suspended. By the end of the season, four of the team’s five coaches were gone, with only Seb Hines remaining.
The club promoted Hines to full-time head coach after he spent much of last year in an interim role. They also fired general manager Ian Fleming during the off-season, replacing him with Haley Carter. Adding to the changes, team leaders Erin McLeod and Gunny Jonsdottir departed.
Despite last year’s problems, and entering the 2023 NWSL Draft without a general manager, the Pride had an excellent night. Their first two picks were center back Emily Madril and forward Messiah Bright, both of whom have already made an impact and are regular starters. In the fourth round, they also stole midfielder Summer Yates, another player that appears to have a bright future.
With so many departures and new rookies in the team, it’s no surprise the Pride struggled out of the gate this year. The season started against the defending champion Portland Thorns on the road, which resulted in a decisive 4-0 loss. They followed that up by conceding second-half injury time goals to Angel City FC, NJ/NY Gotham FC, and the North Carolina Courage, dropping seven points on those late defensive lapses.
“It’s a mentality,” Hines said after the Courage draw on conceding late goals. “A mentality of, although it’s waves of attacks coming at you, do you have the mentality to step up in that moment and put fear in them that they ain’t going to score. And I think we’re falling short in them moments.
“I think there’s an element of fear. Because we’re almost thinking, this is going to happen again. And we have to get over that. We have to get over them moments.”
The first step in changing that mindset came last weekend in San Diego. Facing one of the league’s most dangerous teams, albeit without star striker Alex Morgan, the Pride responded from an early 1-0 deficit to score three times in a surprising 3-1 win.
Just as impressive was their 1-0 win Saturday night against Racing Louisville FC at Exploria Stadium, the site of three late-game collapses. The Pride took the lead after 21 minutes when Bright headed a Kylie Strom cross past Katie Lund and withstood an unrelenting second-half push by the visitors that saw them out-possessed and out-shot in the second 45 minutes. But they didn’t give up that late equalizing goal.
While the coaching staff knew the late-game problems had to stop and spoke to the team about the issues, the players knew it as well. Rather than dwelling on the dropped points, the young players and the team’s few veterans were able to pick themselves up and drive forward. According to center back and veteran Megan Montefusco, a team-led discussion was part of the reason for the change in mentality and results.
“We sat in a locker room after a game really late one night. The coaches didn’t even come and talk to us after. It was just our team. We had to look each other in the eye and really get down to it. We were like, what is holding us back here? What is going on? We gotta figure this out,” Montefusco said after the win Saturday night. “And we just said it is how it is and now it’s ingrained in us that that is not something that we want. That’s not a part of our team identity. We have to close out games, we have to manage them better, and the focus is for 90-plus minutes.”
The last two games indicate that the fear Hines spoke of is gone. The team was able to withstand late-game attacks that previously resulted in goals and came out the other side with all three points.
“We knew it was going to take a bit to build relationships and to get confidence especially,” Montefusco says. “I think that was a big thing for this team was just playing with fear at first. And so once we finally figured out our identity and got that confidence, all it took was just a little bit of cohesion with the group.”
The Pride will add their new-found confidence to an underdog mentality. They know that people were counting the young team out, especially with their early struggles. They feel like they can use that mindset to their advantage and change the view of the team moving forward.
“We know what everybody says about the Orlando Pride,” Strom said. “And honestly, I think it’s good. We play with a chip on our shoulder and we have to start changing that narrative every day. And we have to earn respect. It’s not going to be handed to us.”
The Pride will take their two-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup contest against the Washington Spirit and return to league play Sunday against Gotham FC. Both games are away from home. Results in those matches will further boost their confidence as they attempt to change the perception of their 2023 season.
Orlando Pride Take Step Forward in Chicago Loss
The Pride took a step forward Saturday night with a dominant performance in Chicago.
The Orlando Pride ended their four-game unbeaten run Saturday night, falling 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL. Despite the final score, the Pride dominated the entire 90 minutes, putting the opposition under constant pressure. Better finishing likely would’ve seen the Orlando-based side win by multiple goals.
It might seem like a step back, losing to the team at the bottom of the standings a week after beating the league-leading Washington Spirit. However, the performance was something Pride fans haven’t seen much of for years — a game that the team controlled.
The Red Stars got the first shot of the game from a tight angle that went right to Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse. In the 22nd minute, they scored when Megan Montefusco lost Yuki Nagasato at the back post and Casey Krueger found her with a cross. Those were the only two shots Chicago had the entire game. The Pride had out-shot the Red Stars 4-2 at that point and ended up out-shooting the hosts, 19-2.
More impressive was how the Pride approached the second half. They had eight first-half shots and took 11 attempts in the second 45 minutes. Two of their second-half shots hit the crossbar and Alyssa Naeher made her best save of the season in the 49th minute, when Mikayla Cluff’s attempt off the crossbar fell to Marta. In addition to taking 17 more shots, the Pride had nine more corner kicks, 25 more crosses, more possession, and better passing accuracy.
The Pride won three of their previous four games before the loss to Chicago. But of those games, only the match against Gotham FC — a 0-0 road draw — approached the way the Pride dominated the Red Stars Saturday night. They were out-shot and out-possessed by the San Diego Wave in a 3-1 win and Racing Louisville in a 1-0 victory. They were better in last weekend’s 2-1 win over the Spirit, but still conceded more possession. They also haven’t had anything close to their 19-shot performance in Illinois.
The fact that the Pride dominated the game wasn’t a surprise. The young team has been getting better and healthier during its four-game unbeaten run, and Chicago hadn’t won in six games. The Red Stars had only claimed one point in their previous five games and were coming off back-to-back performances that saw them lose by a combined score of 7-0.
The scorelines and problems the Red Stars have had this season, especially without their best player, Mallory Swanson, might make it seem as though they scored and parked the bus. However, this wasn’t the case. Chicago attempted to play the ball out of the back but had trouble because of the Pride’s effective press. Messiah Bright, Adriana, and Marta were on the defenders before they received the ball from Naeher and won it back immediately on multiple occasions.
Chicago only had sustained possession twice in the second half, spending some time in the Pride’s third of the field. But didn’t get any shots off in either of those moments. They felt they should’ve had a penalty in the 84th minute when Cook was played into the Pride box and challenged by Marta. Cook went down when Marta lowered her shoulder, but it wasn’t enough contact to deserve a penalty.
Meanwhile, the Pride continued to create chances and near-chances on the other end of the field. Whether it was out of fatigue or frustration, the Pride weren’t as accurate in the second half. They put four of their eight first-half shots on target and only two of their 11 second-half chances on frame. They had some other opportunities, primarily on crosses that just missed connecting with teammates in the box.
The Pride likely would’ve come back to win in the second half had they hit the target like they did in the first half. It’s something that Pride Head Coach Seb Hines spoke about during his postgame press conference.
“It’s frustrating, of course, because we’re not just talking about half chances. We’re talking about clear-cut opportunities,” Hines said. “There was some really good deliveries in the box, some opportunities from distance, and I think Naeher had probably the game of her season so far.”
“We had a lot of the ball,” Cluff added. “We had plenty of opportunities and we just had to finish our chances when we had them.”
The 2023 NWSL season was always going to be one of steps. The Pride are one of the youngest teams in the NWSL with a very experienced starting lineup. While the lineup often features veterans like Montefusco, Marta, and Erika Tymrak, they also have five players who were drafted in the last three years. That’s not including Julie Doyle, who was drafted in 2022 and started at the beginning of the season, but missed the last six games with an ankle injury suffered on April 2.
The first step for this young team was putting results together, which they did during their four-game unbeaten run. They even secured back-to-back wins against San Diego and Louisville. Saturday night showed that the team can put together a full performance for 90 minutes, something that Hines said he’s been looking for in his team.
The next step for the Pride is to convert their chances and put away teams they should beat. According to Hines, that’s the difference between a team struggling to climb into a playoff position and competing with the league’s top teams.
“If we want to be a top team, competing in obviously the playoffs, we have to win games like this,” Hines said. “It’s a reminder that we can’t take the foot off the gas.”
A big question going into this past weekend was whether the Pride would be motivated facing the team at the bottom of the standings after beating the team at the top. Despite the result, they definitely outplayed their opponent Saturday night. Now the question will be whether they can rebound after a disappointing result and get back on track. That will be something to watch when the Pride take on the Houston Dash in Texas Saturday night.
Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars: Final Score 1-0 as Pride Dominate But Fall in Chicago
The Pride dominated from the opening kickoff but couldn’t convert a single chance, falling to the Chicago Red Stars.
The Orlando Pride (3-5-1, 10 points) ended their four-game unbeaten run in a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars (2-6-1, 7 points) Saturday night at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL. Despite the Pride controlling the chances, Yuki Nagasato’s 22nd-minute goal was the difference as the Pride fell for the first time since April 23.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the starting lineup that beat the Washington Spirit 2-1 last weekend. Viviana Villacorta exited the lineup in favor of Erika Tymrak, who made her sixth start of the season. Tymrak moved into an attacking midfield role and Kerry Abello played alongside Mikayla Cluff in Villacorta’s place.
The back line in front of starting goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse remained the same with Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Cluff and Abello were the defensive midfielders behind Abello, Marta, and Adriana with Messiah Bright up top.
The Pride dominated this game from start to finish. Chicago had an early chance and scored its goal, but created nothing beyond two shots. Meanwhile, the Pride kept the ball in the Chicago third for the majority of the game, creating chance after chance. In the end, the Pride should’ve won by multiple goals.
The first opportunity of the game came in the sixth minute when Ava Cook moved outside and found Bianca St-Georges making a diagonal run. The midfielder split Montefusco and Madril, receiving the ball in the box, but her shot was right at Moorhouse. It appeared as though she was offside, so it likely wouldn’t have counted anyway.
The Pride had their first chance of the game in the ninth minute. After receiving the ball from Abello, Bright played it back to McCutcheon and made a long run down the right. McCutcheon quickly played it forward for the sprinting striker. Bright made a long run, knocking it past Tatumn Milazzo and shielding Tierna Davidson before playing it across for Adriana. With a defender in front, Adriana dumped it off for the oncoming Abello, who shot right at Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
A minute later, the Pride almost opened the scoring when Strom sent a dangerous ball into the six-yard box. Cook got back to defend the back post, heading the ball down but right in front of goal. It went off Arin Wright’s thigh and McCutcheon was able to poke the ball towards the Red Stars’ net, but Naeher was able to keep it out.
Bright took her first shot of the game in the 15th minute. Tymrak played the ball for the rookie, making a diagonal run towards the right sideline. After dribbling into the Chicago box and cutting inside to beat Davidson, Bright’s shot was blocked by Milazzo. The deflection rolled across the top of the six, but Adriana wasn’t close enough to redirect it on goal.
In the 16th minute, a poor St-Georges pass was intercepted by Tymrak, who immediately played Bright up field. The striker made another long run into the Chicago half, passing through Milazzo and Cari Roccaro for Abello making a run up field. Abello had plenty of space behind the Red Stars back line and shot, but it was right at Naeher.
The Pride almost had a great chance in the 20th minute when Marta found Strom to her left and the defender sent a low pass into the box. Adriana was making a run into the six behind Milazzo, but the center back was able to break up the play. If the ball had reached Adriana, the Brazilian would’ve had a free shot on goal.
The Red Stars got the game’s lone goal in the 22nd minute, after Abello fouled Sandra Starke near midfield. Wright took the free kick, sending it wide right for Casey Krueger. The defender cut back to lose Adriana and lifted the ball towards the far post where Nagasato got behind Montefusco, heading it past Moorhouse to give the Red Stars the surprising 1-0 lead.
“I think it came off of us giving the ball away and, you know, that happens and we need to deal with it,” McCutcheon said about the goal. “An uncontested ball in the box and then they just had numbers and we need to do better with our line and do better with marking up.”
The Pride tried to respond quickly after the restart. Abello entered the Red Stars box, but found resistance so she played it back for Strom. The left back quicky played it across for Abello, who fired from just outside of the box, but the low attempt curled well wide of the far post.
Bright had another chance in the 34th minute when Adriana and Tymrak blocked a St-Georges pass that went right to the big striker. The rookie turned Davidson, who slightly blocked the ball, and it went right to Naeher, who made her fourth save of the night.
Chicago had their first real threat after the goal in the 39th minute when Marta turned the ball over near midfield. St-Georges was sent to the end line by Julia Bianchi, but her cross attempt was into the hands of Moorhouse at the near post.
The Pride went the other way with Adriana attacking Krueger one on one. Tymrak sprinted into the box, receiving the ball from the Brazilian playmaker. The veteran midfielder had some space between the defenders and attempted a first-touch shot from near the penalty spot, but mishit it and the ball rolled harmlessly wide.
In the 41st minute, Tymrak took control of the ball after Bright won an aerial duel. Tymrak sent a great cross to the top of the six, where Adriana got her head to it between Milazzo and Krueger. Unfortunately, the Brazilian couldn’t get over the ball and it went over the target.
Despite entering halftime with a 1-0 lead, Chicago only had two chances, the game’s first shot by St-Georges and the goal by Nagasato. Meanwhile, the Pride created eight shots, putting four on target, and should’ve had more opportunities if not for some successful desperate defending by the hosts.
The Pride started the second half where they left off the first. Just seconds after the restart, Starke’s pass attempt was blocked by Motnefusco and chested down by Bright to Tymrak. The midfielder took a long-distance shot beyond the stretched arms of Naeher, but missed the far post.
In the 49th minute, the Pride nearly equalized when Milazzo mishit her clearance attempt, sending the ball towards her own end line, and Krueger helped the ball out of play for a Pride corner kick. Naeher reached out for Adriana’s set piece, but Cluff beat her to it, heading it off the crossbar. Marta attempted an acrobatic shot off the rebound, but Naeher reached back and tipped it off the line to maintain Chicago’s one-goal lead.
The save was Naeher’s 519th in NWSL play, passing former Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for the most saves in league history.
In the 52nd minute, the Pride almost connected when Strom sent a dangerous ball to the top of the six-yard box. Bright and McCutcheon were both making runs behind the Red Stars back line, but the ball was a little too far in front of both players, going out for a goal kick.
A minute later, Marta sent a curling ball towards the back post, where Adriana beat Krueger. The Brazilians almost connected on the far side, but the ball was just out of the reach of Adriana, going out for another goal kick.
Marta found McCutcheon to her left in the 56th minute making an overlapping run. Cook slid in with an attempt to win the ball, but McCutcheon got past her and lifted the ball into the middle of the box. Tymrak was there, but the ball was just over her head.
The Pride hit the crossbar for the second time in the game in the 59th minute. After receiving the ball on the left from Abello, Adriana took a touch inside and shot before Krueger could get in front of her. The ball was over Naeher, but bounced off the woodwork.
The Red Stars got their first real possession of the second half in the 60th minute. The hosts passed the ball around, looking for their third shot of the game. But the Pride defended it well and Krueger eventually lost the ball to Adriana without Chicago getting a shot off.
The Pride made the first change in the 62nd minute, replacing Bright with Julie Doyle. It was Doyle’s first appearance since she went off in the 23rd minute with an ankle injury against Angel City FC on April 2.
“She’s an exciting player, she’s always active,” Hines said about Doyle. “We felt like it was the right time to bring her in chasing a goal. She’s always on the move, making defenders defend, and it’s nice to have another attacking option come off the bench.”
In the 65th minute, Cluff lifted the ball behind the Red Stars’ back line, where Doyle was calling for it. The striker was challenged by Milazzo, but still got a shot off. Naeher made a great stop with her right shin, but the flag went up for offside.
Cluff created another chance in the 66th minute when she lifted the ball into the box from the right. Adriana chested it down, but lost her balance, allowing Krueger to clear it. However, it went right to Abello just outside of the box. The midfielder used a quick change of pace to beat Krueger and create enough space for a shot, sending it right into the hands of Naeher.
Chicago tried to play the ball out of the back and the Pride continued to apply pressure, nearly creating a pair of opportunities in the 67th minute. After Marta blocked a ball forward, Tymrak and Doyle attempted a give-and-go, but they couldn’t connect the return pass. Quickly winning the ball back, Cluff and Marta attempted their own one-two in the box with the same result.
Controlling possession and chances but needing a goal, Hines made an attacking change in the 68th minute. After making a like-for-like change earlier in the half, forward Ally Watt came on for Tymrak.
Marta used a stepover in the 71st minute to create space from Cook, sending a dangerous ball into the box. Doyle and Watt were making runs towards goal, but the ball was a little too far in front again, going out of play for a goal kick.
The Red Stars felt they should’ve had a penalty in the 84th minute when Ella Stevens, who came on for Starke in the 74th minute, sent Cook into the Pride box. Marta defended her with a shoulder challenge and Cook went down, but referee Rebecca Pagan decided it wasn’t enough for a spot kick and awarded the Pride a goal kick.
The Pride made their final change in the 85th minute and it was another attacking one. This time rookie attacking midfielder Summer Yates replaced left back Strom.
“It shows that we were being more aggressive towards the end of the game trying to get ourselves back in it,” Hines said about the attacking changes. “We felt with the likes of Julie, Ally, Adri, Marta, Summer, we had an opportunity to get back in the game and ultimately win the game in the end.”
A Marta corner in the 86th minute looked to be heading in, but was palmed out of play by Naeher. Adriana took the corner from the other side, but Krueger came up with it and cleared. The Pride players raised their arms because they felt Krueger had handled the ball, but Pagan thought otherwise.
In the 89th minute, Yates made a good run to the top of the box and sent the ball out wide for Doyle. Reaching the ball just before it went out of play, the forward sent a cross into the box. Watt did well with her first touch, bringing it down and setting up a second-touch shot, but sent it just wide of the near post.
The final chance of the game came in the fourth minute of second-half injury time. Marta sent a cross into the box from the left that was headed out by Wright. Yates kept it in and her block went right to Doyle. The second-half substitute had room for a shot, but her first-touch attempt was off her shin and way off target.
At full-time, the Pride led in every offensive statistical category. They had more possession (54.5%-45.5%), shots (18-2), shots on target (6-2), corners (9-0), crosses (29-4), and passing accuracy (81.8%-76.6%). After their 22nd-minute goal, Chicago didn’t create a single chance, but held on for the 1-0 win.
“Disappointed with the result,” Hines said about the game. “You know, it was a great opportunity for us to keep that momentum going. Anytime you play a team like Chicago who are short of confidence, you have to not give them any hope and that’s what we did. We gave them hope by allowing them to score first. But, at the end of the day, you can’t dominate a game the way that we did and not come away with three points and that’s the disappointing thing. The game is built on goals and we didn’t take our opportunities.”
“We played some good football tonight,” McCutcheon added. “The second half, we had them on the back foot the entire half. Even in the first half, there were some good moments, and so we just need to know what we’re capable of and continue to push in training. Continue to reach higher levels as a group, individually, collectively.”
The story of this game is the Pride not putting away their chances. They hit the crossbar twice and had multiple opportunities that missed the target. That’s in addition to the eight shots on frame and excellent goalkeeping by Naeher that kept the Red Stars in front.
“It’s frustrating, of course, because we’re not just talking about half chances, we’re talking about clinical opportunities,” Hines said after the game. “There was some really good deliveries in the box, some opportunities from distance, and I think Naeher probably had the game of her season so far.”
Hines has said several times this year that each game is a learning experience, especially with a young team like the Pride. The recent four-game unbeaten run has shown that they can compete with the top teams in the NWSL, but they need to put away the teams at the bottom of the standings.
“If we want to be a top team competing in the playoffs, we have to win games like this,” Hines said. “So it’s a reminder that we can’t take the foot off the gas. We can’t take anyone for granted. Whether it’s Washington at home in front of our fans or coming away to Chicago sitting bottom of the table. Every game is a tough game in this league. So it’s a reminder that we have to keep going, have to keep fighting and challenging.”
The Pride will finish off their two-game road trip next Saturday night when they take on the Houston Dash in Texas. Then they’ll return home to face the league-leading Portland Thorns at Exploria Stadium on June 11.
Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
The Pride look to extend their unbeaten run to five games when they visit the Chicago Red Stars.
Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (3-4-1, 10 points) look to extend their unbeaten run to five games in a road match against the Chicago Red Stars (1-6-1, 4 points) in Bridgeview, IL. This is the first of two games the two teams will play this season, with the return game at Exploria Stadium taking place on Aug. 20.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Red Stars have played every season since the former’s entrance into the NWSL except 2020. The teams have played 15 games, with the Pride going 4-11-1. All four wins have come in Bridgeview, IL, with the Pride having a record of 4-4-0 when playing the Red Stars away from home.
The Pride and Red Stars last met on June 12, 2022 in Illinois. Mallory Swanson capitalized on a Pride turnover in the 10th minute and the Red Stars held on for the 1-0 win. On May 22 in Orlando, Sarah Griffin gave the visitors the lead, and Bianca St. Georges and Swanson made it 3-0 Chicago. It appeared as though the Red Stars would run away with the game, but the final 10 minutes saw three goals and two penalties for an exciting finish. Sydney Leroux missed a penalty, but Amy Turner scored the Pride’s first goal late. Pugh converted her penalty in the moments later, and Leah Pruitt scored her first goal for the Pride a minute after that in a 4-2 Red Stars win.
The teams met three times during the 2021 season, but didn’t play until Aug. 8 in Illinois. Jodie Taylor and Leroux scored for the Pride before the half. The 2-0 win ended a six-game winless streak and was the first NWSL win for interim head coach Becky Burleigh.
The second meeting was Oct. 13 in Bridgeview, a rescheduled game that was originally supposed to take place Oct. 2. Kealia Watt scored in the sixth minute, which the Red Stars defended for 84 minutes on their way to a 1-0 result. The teams met again Oct. 29 in Orlando in the final game of the regular season. The Red Stars controlled the game but the Pride held off the Chicago attack for 65 minutes, at which point Watt scored the lone goal in a 1-0 game.
The Pride and Red Stars didn’t play in the 2020 Fall Series, so the last meeting prior to 2021 came in 2019. The first game was June 30 at Exploria Stadium. Goals by Chioma Ubogagu and Marta were topped by a Sam Kerr hat trick as the Red Stars won 3-2. The second game was on Aug. 21 in Bridgeview. The Pride took a 2-0 lead with goals by Rachel Hill and Ubogagu. Tierna Davidson cut the lead in half for Chicago, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride won 2-1. The third meeting in 2021 came on Sept. 11 in Orlando. Casey Short stole the game for Chicago with the game’s lone goal five minutes into second-half injury time as the Red Stars won, 1-0.
The 2018 NWSL season saw the Pride and Red Stars meet three times. On May 2 in Bridgeview, Hill and Ubogagu scored in a 2-0 Pride win. They met in the same location May 26 in a high-scoring affair. A Leroux brace was added to goals by Hill, Alex Morgan, and Dani Weatherholt, as the Pride won 5-2. They met a third time in 2018 on Aug. 25 in Orlando. The Red Stars were led by a Kerr brace, resulting in a 3-1 victory over the Pride.
The Pride and Red Stars met three times in 2017 — the first year that they played that many games against each other. Christen Press scored the lone goal on July 1 in Orlando as Chicago won 1-0. On July 22 in Bridgeview, Press led her team with a brace in a 2-1 Chicago win. The final meeting came a week later in Orlando. Morgan put the Pride ahead, but Sofia Huerta equalized as the teams drew 1-1.
The two teams met for the first time during the Pride’s inaugural season in 2016 on May 1 in Bridgeview. Press’ second-half goal led the Red Stars to a 1-0 win. On July 16 in Orlando, Taylor Comeau scored the lone goal as Chicago again won 1-0.
The Pride have caught fire after a tough start to the 2023 season, going 3-0-1 in their last four games. The recent success is due in large part to Pride Head Coach Seb Hines finding a consistent starting lineup.
While the Pride lost their first four games, only in the first game were they thoroughly outplayed. And that was away to the defending champion Portland Thorns. The losses against Angel City FC and NJ/NY Gotham FC were because of second-half stoppage time goals, three times setting new records for the latest goals conceded in NWSL history.
They surprised everyone with their 3-1 win over the San Diego Wave in Southern California and followed that up with a 1-0 home win against Racing Louisville. After drawing Gotham in New Jersey, the Pride had arguably their most impressive result last weekend, beating the previously unbeaten Washington Spirit, 2-1.
The team has created chances most of the season, but their defense has been much better since finding a consistent unit. Anna Moorhouse has solidified her starting position in goal behind a back line of Haley McCutcheon, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Kylie Strom. A healthy Marta, more comfortable Adriana, and experience for Messiah Bright have made the attack much more dangerous as well.
Tonight, the Pride face the last-place Red Stars in a game that they should win. However, coming off a big win over the Spirit, it’s a potential trap game.
“Keep them hungry,” Hines said last week about avoiding a letdown tonight. “Anyone can beat anyone. We were bottom of the table and we go to San Diego and get the ball rolling. So we gotta keep on our toes.”
The Red Stars got off to a poor start, losing their first two games of the year. It got worse when their best attacking player, Swanson, suffered a season-ending injury on April 8 while representing the United States against Ireland in a friendly. They bounced back from that news with their lone win, beating the Kansas City Current 4-2, but have yet to claim another victory. Last weekend, they were pounded 4-0 by the Thorns in Portland, the same score the Pride lost to against the defending champions to start the season.
On paper, the Red Stars should have a strong defense. They feature U.S. international Alyssa Naeher and a back line consisting of Arin Wright, Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger, and Tatumn Milazzo. However, they’ve conceded seven goals in their last two games against Louisville and Portland. They haven’t kept their opposition to under two goals since their 1-1 draw against the Spirit on April 29.
The offense has struggled mightily since the team’s four-goal output against the Current. The last goal came in the 54th minute against Gotham on May 7, so it’s been 216 minutes since the Red Stars last scored. It’s a good matchup for the Pride’s stingy defensive unit.
“You can’t look at the table and think a game’s easy,” Hines said about tonight’s game. “They’re a bit short on confidence, but anyone can beat anyone on their day. So we have to be mindful of that. They are still a good team. It just hasn’t gone that way right now. We’ve got momentum and we’ve got to continue that momentum. We have to do the basic right and ultimately, if we do that, we’ll win the game.”
The Pride have a couple of additions to their injury report this week as Jordyn Listro (thigh) and Kaylie Collins (hand) join Carrie Lawrence (knee) as players out injured. Additionally, Amanda Allen is still on international duty with Canada.
The Red Stars will be without Sami Feller (concussion), Sarah Griffith (ankle), Penelope Hocking (leg), Kayla Sharples (knee), and Swanson (knee).
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, Haley McCutcheon.
Defensive Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff, Kerry Abello.
Midfielders: Adriana, Marta, Erika Tymrak.
Forwards: Messiah Bright.
Bench: Carly Nelson, Caitlin Cosme, Summer Yates, Celia, Tori Hansen, Viviana Villacorta, Brianna Martinez, Julie Doyle, Ally Watt.
Chicago Red Stars (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher.
Defenders: Arin Wright, Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger, Tatumn Milazzo.
Defensive Midfielders: Yuki Nagasato, Julia Bianchi.
Midfielders: Sandra Starke, Cari Rocarro, Bianca St-Georges.
Forwards: Ava Cook.
Bench: Jill Aguilera, Jenna Bike, Emily Boyd, Samantha Fisher, Sophie Jones, Amanda Kowalski, Cheyna Matthews, Allison Schlegel, Ella Stevens.
REF: Rebecca Pagan.
AR1: Jeremy Smith.
AR2: Cameron Siler.
4TH: Melinda Sopka.
VAR: Shawn Tehini.
AVAR: Joel McKell.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: SeatGeek Stadium — Bridgeview, IL.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (International).
Twitter: For live updates and rapid reaction, follow the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride). Due to simultaneous games, there won’t be live coverage by The Mane Land for this one but we will recap the match late Saturday night.
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!
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