Connect with us

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC: Final Score 0-0 as Pride Run League Unbeaten Streak to Three Games

Aside from not scoring a goal, it was a dominating performance by Orlando and the Pride’s third consecutive result in league play.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride outplayed NJ/NY Gotham FC on the road at Red Bull Arena but have only a point to show for it after a wasteful afternoon in front of goal allowed the hosts to salvage a point. Orlando (2-4-1, 7 points) dominated first-half play and played an even second half against Gotham FC (4-2-1, 13 points) but couldn’t put a ball in the net and have to settle for a road draw.

The Pride are 2-0-1 in their last three league contests, but will feel they dropped two points after a dominating road match in which they simply couldn’t make the most of their scoring chances.

“Disappointed that we haven’t come away with three points. I think all the players feel the same way,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said after the match. “It was a complete performance. We were very difficult to play against. Considering they’ve got some of the best players in the league, I thought the back line, our midfielders, forwards, they all worked extremely hard to get a clean sheet and I’m really happy with that.”

Hines ran out his recently successful lineup with Anna Moorhouse in goal behind a back line of Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff played central midfield behind an attacking line of Adriana, Erika Tymrak, and Marta, with rookie Messiah Bright up top.

The hosts began the game pressing hard up the pitch and trying to create turnovers in Orlando’s half. The Pride were able to settle in after a nervy start and bossed much of the first half, although the team couldn’t find a breakthrough.

After an early Orlando counter that somehow didn’t result in a free kick after Adriana was knocked down from behind, Gotham got the first quality look of the game. Taylor Smith roasted McCutcheon in a footrace, took the ball into the area and fired off the left post. The Pride were able to clear the rebound before it could create any further trouble.

The Pride then started to settle into the match. Bright got down the right side in the 14th minute and sent in a cross but it was straight at goalkeeper Abby Smith. Moments later, Orlando won a corner and Marta picked out an unmarked Strom who couldn’t get her header on frame, popping it over the crossbar in the 17th minute.

Two minutes later, Adriana got forward on the break and fired a shot but it was right at Smith. Bright headed wide off a Strom cross in the 23rd minute but the whistle went quickly so the play may have been offside. Two minutes after that, Cluff made a great steal in the attacking half and fired a shot from outside the box that may have been going just high but Smith’s fingertips made sure that ball stayed over the bar.

A promising attack in the 32nd minute fell apart when Bright collected a loose ball near the top of the box and tried to pass to Marta, who wasn’t expecting it.

Four minutes later, the Pride had a dangerous free kick from the left. Cluff called repeatedly for the ball as Marta and Adriana lined up behind the ball. Marta took the cross and did pick out Cluff but the midfielder couldn’t get her header anywhere close to the goal frame.

The Pride broke in transition in the 41st minute and should have scored. Adriana had a decent look at goal and took the shot herself, but Smith went up and caught it. Bright was off to the right side and would have had an easy tap-in had the Brazilian crossed on that attacking move.

Smith made a good diving save to deny Cluff in the 44th minute. In stoppage time, Tymrak nearly got a gift when Smith spilled a good cross from McCutcheon out in front. Tymrak dug the ball out as Smith never fully possessed the ball but the referee blew the whistle in Gotham’s favor.

Orlando’s dominant half showed on the stats sheet. The Pride had more shots (9-1), shots on goal (5-0), and passing accuracy (75%-73.6%). Both teams earned two corner kicks and Gotham held a possession advantage (55.1%-44.9%).

After holding the hosts to one shot attempt in the first half, the Pride gifted one to Gotham early in the second half. Strom made a poor pass near the corner of her own penalty area that Lynn Williams stepped onto and then blasted a shot toward goal. Fortunately, the shot was off target.

The second half was a lot more choppy, with more stops and starts. Gotham had the first opportunity of the second period when Strom made a poor pass deep in her own end and gave Lynn Williams the ball near the left corner of the box. Williams smashed a shot but it was high and wide of the goal in the 50th minute.

The Pride had a chance five minutes later when Marta popped a ball over the top and into the box for Bright. The rookie stumbled and never got to fire a shot at the target.

Madril snuffed out a Gotham attack in the 66th minute beating Sinead Farrelly to a ball and then absorbing a terrible challenge that got Farrelly booked.

Adriana nearly picked out Marta in the 68th minute but a tug from the defender slowed her down and she couldn’t get to it. Marta got under a bouncing ball at the top of the area in the 78th and skied her shot well over the crossbar.

As the game wound down, Gotham looked like the fresher side, getting more of the ball and generating some chances. Williams swept a shot wide in the 82nd minute. Two minutes later, Moorhouse made a spectacular save with her leg to deny Yazmeen Ryan on what turned out to be Gotham’s only shot attempt on target all game.

“To get the first shot on target where Anna has to make a save in the (84th) minute is a pretty big positive, considering how far we’ve come from the start of the year,” Hines said. ” And it’s not just Anna making the save. It’s everyone who’s in front of her having that desire, that attitude to not allow shots on target.”

“The back line’s job is to keep the goals out of our net, and I think that’s what we did,” Madril said. “We did our job and you know, just try to carry that forward to the rest of the team and it does feel good to get a clean sheet, for sure.”

The game got a little stretched in the final minutes, which favored Gotham, but the Pride had their chances. Adriana lost the ball trying to dig it out of her feet on the attack in the 86th minute. Marta picked it up wide and crossed in but her pass was right at Smith, who made the easy catch. Seconds later, Ryan fired over the bar at the other end of the pitch.

The last good look of the game for either side came in the second minute of stoppage time. Strom sent a good cross into the area for substitute Ally Watt, who got her head to it. The ball was on frame but Smith made a diving, one-handed save to keep it out.

“We created a lot of opportunities, as well, it just didn’t fall our way,” Hines said.

Orlando’s dominance in the game was reflected in the statistics of the match, with the Pride finishing with more shots (13-6), shots on target (6-1), corners (4-3), and crosses (17-7). Gotham held more possession (56%-44%) and passed slightly more accurately (73.4%-71.5%).

“It was a good performance, defensively,” Tymrak said. “We were solid. They didn’t play through the middle much, and we really limited their forwards, who are some of the best in the league.”

Today’s game may have been Orlando’s most complete of the season despite the lack of goals, but it’s a good sign that Hines and his players were disappointed to get this road point when they felt the pride deserved all three.

“I think any professional — you never settle on what you have right now. You’re always searching for more,” Hines said. “You always want more and you know, looking back at the start of the year, we lost a lot of points, and now we have to get them back.”

The Pride will be back in action Saturday night, when they host the Washington Spirit at 7 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage: Three Keys to Victory

What do the Pride have to do to earn a victory against the Courage?



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride head north to take on the North Carolina Courage Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The Pride will look to extend their season-long unbeaten streak and start another win streak against the Courage. A victory might put the Pride back on top of the NWSL table.

What do the Pride have to do to earn all three points on the road?

Shut Down the Courage

Barbra Banda might have more goals than North Carolina’s Tyler Lussi and Bianca St-Georges combined, but that doesn’t mean the two players are not a threat to score. This season, Lussi and St-Georges have three goals and two goals, respectively, accounting for five of Carolina’s 13 goals. Keeping those two in check is imperative to secure a victory.

Doing so will require the Pride defense to be effective when passing out of the back. The bad habit of dribbling into the opposition, or making poorly weighted passes in their own third needs to stop. If the Pride can improve the passing out of the back while maintaining their otherwise solid defense, the club can limit Carolina’s chances.

More Better Moorhouse

Anna Moorhouse is a pretty good shot stopper, but I still hold my breath on crosses and corner kicks. Moorhouse had a pretty good match against the San Diego Wave, and she needs to improve on that performance. She has faced 43 shots on goal with 32 saves and 11 goals allowed. That the number of shots is so low is a testament to the defense in front of her. Moorhouse has the physical tools needed, now she just needs to fine tune her decision-making and put a little stickum on the keeper gloves. If she can continue to build on that last performance on Saturday against Carolina, the Pride will have a good shot at continuing the unbeaten streak.

Help Banda to Help You

Even when teams try to stop Banda by putting multiple players on her, it’s never completely effective. However, if Banda’s teammates can create some space and some chances on their own, that will draw defenders from Banda, allowing her to be more dangerous. As such, it is important to players like Adriana, Marta, Ally Watt, Julie Doyle, and Summer Yates to do more on their own. Teams are worried about Banda and will defend accordingly. Now, the Pride just need to make them pay for doing so.

That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Summer Transfer Window: Notable Free Agents

A look at the Pride’s roster and which players could solidify Orlando’s title aspirations by joining this summer.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride are now 12 matches into the 2024 NWSL season, and they are performing at or near the highest levels seen in the club’s history. The Pride continue to pace the league, tied for first with the Kansas City Current, but continuous improvement is required to stay at the top. 

After the record-setting victory against the Portland Thorns, Marta summed up what it means to be top of the table, “we now look behind and see everyone running after us, so we just need to run [faster].”

The hard work of Orlando’s squad and coaching staff is showing on the field. Behind the scenes, Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter is closely monitoring the contract situations of the top players in Europe as many seasons abroad come to a close. On that front, Carter and staff have hit the ground running this summer by securing the signature of Grace Chanda, a highly-talented Zambian attacking midfielder meant to add new dimensions to the Pride in front of goal. Even after this signing, there may be room on the roster within the salary cap to add more talent to this squad.

Current Roster and Rules

The NWSL has three key limits on roster construction by which each team must abide. The first is the salary cap, which sits at $2.75 million for 2024, double the limit from the year prior. Unfortunately, NWSL salary details are not typically reported publicly. One salary that is known is that of Barbra Banda, who earns a $525,000 annual salary after she arrived on the second-largest transfer fee in league history. Despite her price tag, the increased cap space from 2023 should leave additional room to add more top players to the roster. 

The second rule is that each team was given seven international roster slots at the beginning of 2024. The Pride gained an additional slot in a trade with Utah Royals FC that included Carly Nelson, bringing their total to eight. Six of these slots are currently occupied by Luana, Amanda Allen, Barbra Banda, Grace Chanda, Evelina Duljan, and Sofia Manner, leaving the Pride with two slots remaining. 

Lastly, the Pride are allowed 26 players on their active roster, a category that excludes certain players such as those with a season-ending injury (SEI). Of the 30 players on Orlando’s roster, four — Luana, Simone Charley, Megan Montefusco, and Viviana Villacorta — are on the SEI list. In the case of Villacorta, club training videos posted to social media hint that Pride fans might not have to wait too long for her return to action. 

Regardless of the seemingly full roster today, Carter and staff do have levers at their disposal to create room in the squad. They may choose to loan out players in need of minutes or mutually agree to terminate the contracts of players not in the club’s current or long-term plans.

Available Free Agents and Potential Roles

Because the Pride are playing so well, it is especially tricky to find the right players to sign to add depth or upgrade a starting role. However, there are a few areas that the club could target. Listed below are several high-profile, out-of-contract players that fit these roles.

Laura Freigang – Forward

The Orlando Pride attack is currently performing at a high level, and Banda is a big reason why. Since her debut, she has scored, assisted, or drawn a penalty for 13 of the Pride’s last 15 goals. However, there has been a lack of production when Banda is not on the pitch, as Sean Rollins recently wrote. Adriana has typically been an attacking focal point for the Pride, but she has been hampered by knocks and fitness this season. To make Orlando’s attack more resilient to these absences, someone like Laura Freigang would add more goal-scoring depth to the front line and help carry the load.

Freigang is a 26-year-old German international with 27 caps to her name. For the past four seasons, she has starred for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Frauen-Bundesliga, where she scored 48 times and assisted 15 times in 82 career appearances. She pairs these creation numbers with a 76.4% pass completion percentage, making her one of the better all-around forwards in Europe.

Prior to her time in Frankfurt, she played collegiately for Penn State, sharing an alma mater with current Pride players Kerry Abello and Cori Dyke. This familiarity with the U.S., as well as the increased finances available to NWSL clubs, can make playing in the States an appealing option for Freigang, as well as other players abroad. 

Julia Grosso – Attacking Midfielder

Orlando has played in a handful of different formations so far this season, sometimes to maximize a weakness that Head Coach Seb Hines sees in the opposition, and sometimes to cover gaps created by injury. The midfield has been the area of the pitch that has had to deal with the most absences, namely Luana’s season-ending illness and Angelina’s ongoing recovery from a knee injury. 

As mentioned above, the Pride have already signed Chanda to add depth and versatility to the midfield. From the club’s comments when she signed, it is obvious they view her as a gifted attacker that can cover multiple positions. If the Pride do not feel they are done reinforcing the midfield, they may take a long look at Julia Grosso.

Grosso is a 23-year-old Canadian who has just completed a three-year stint at Juventus in Italy, the same club from which the Pride signed Duljan. At Juventus, Grosso featured in 50 matches, scoring nine times. Despite her young age, she already has 63 appearances for Canada, but has fallen down the pecking order as of late and there have been rumors of her moving to the NWSL to be closer to home and national team scouts. 

Grosso’s passing and goal-scoring numbers are among the top for midfielders in Europe, though her defensive metrics show a player that prefers to join the attack. This profile could make her a different and intriguing option for Pride staff, depending on how they view the evolution of the midfield and the role of Chanda.

Lucy Bronze – Right Back

The Pride could improve their midfield depth in an unexpected way, by signing a new defender. In recent weeks, Hines has solved the issue of Orlando’s injured midfielders by pulling Haley McCutcheon from right back to defensive midfield and moving each member of the back line one position to the right to cover. This game of dominoes could be avoided altogether by adding another starting caliber right back and moving McCutcheon to the midfield on a more permanent basis. This could also shift the back line back to the left one space, allowing Abello to move forward.

One of the most exciting players in the world, Lucy Bronze, is out of contract at Barcelona and could be available, although she is sure to have many clubs interested in signing her. The 32-year-old English international was voted Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020. For Barcelona, Bronze won just about every trophy possible in the past two seasons, including each of the last two UEFA Women’s Champions League, Liga F, and Spanish Supercopa trophies, as well as the most recent Copa de la Reina.

Despite all of the success, Barcelona is struggling to afford contract renewals for their top players, the same issue plaguing Barcelona’s men’s team. It is already rumored that U.S.-based clubs are interested in Bronze’s signature if she does not renew. Given that she could start for almost any club in the world, the Pride should do what they can to jump the queue for Bronze.

Sandra Panos – Goalkeeper

The last role that Orlando may consider adding is an additional goalkeeper to compete with Anna Moorhouse. While Moorhouse boasts four clean sheets and a 76% save percentage, she has been error prone in her time in Orlando, leading to crucial dropped points. 

In the winter window, the Pride signed Sofia Manner to the goalkeeper position, stating they “expect [her] to challenge for the starting position,” but she has yet to make an appearance for the club. McKinley Crone has been the bench option. Manner and Crone are on one-year deals, club options notwithstanding, so the goalkeeper position is one that will need attention soon.

It just so happens that another great Barcelona player is available due to the team’s financial constraints. To truly elevate Orlando’s goalkeeping core, 31-year-old Sandra Panos would be an excellent addition. Panos spent the last nine seasons in Catalonia, but local reports have hinted at interest from teams in the U.S., England, and Mexico. Similar to Bronze, a player of this caliber cannot be ignored when they are available. It just remains to be seen if a top club in the NWSL can entice the Spanish international to cross the Atlantic for a new opportunity.

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Need Goal Production When Barbra Banda is Off the Field

Barbra Banda has been a goal-scoring machine, but the Pride need an alternative when she’s not on the field.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride made waves in the women’s game when they signed Zambia international striker Barbra Banda from Chinese Women’s Super League club Shanghai Shengli. It’s been an incredibly successful acquisition with Banda immediately becoming one of the most impactful players in the NWSL. However, the club needs to figure out how to succeed without her contributions as well.

Following the 2021 NWSL season, the Pride began a complete rebuild under former general manager Ian Fleming. Using the Washington Spirit as a model, they traded stars like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger for draft picks and Allocation Money. While the moves caused frustration among the team’s fanbase, the club used the money to acquire Brazilian international Adriana, re-sign club captain Marta, and sign Banda.

The deal for Banda came close to breaking records. The $740,000 transfer fee is the second highest in the history of the women’s game. A move like that — along with her international scoring record — comes with enormous expectations and, so far, Banda has lived up to the hype.

It took some time for Banda to arrive in Orlando because the signing came while she was taking part in Olympic qualifying for Zambia. Once she arrived, the goal contributions began. She made her debut on April 19, coming on in the 61st minute for Ally Watt. While she didn’t score in her debut, she looked dangerous and the goals soon came.

The Pride have scored 15 goals in the last seven games and Banda has been part of 14. This includes eight goals, three assists, two penalties drawn, and a goal following the blocking of one of her shots. The only goal she wasn’t directly part of was Emily Sams’ opener against the Seattle Reign on May 19. However, she had a brace in that game.

To say that the Banda signing has been a successful one would be an understatement. While the Pride were a playoff caliber team without her — they narrowly missed the postseason last year — the striker’s addition makes them arguably the best team in the league. But her success this season also raises some questions about the rest of the squad.

It’s incredibly rare that a field player plays every minute of every game. That’s even more so for an attacking player that runs as much as Banda during games. Players need rest to avoid overuse and possibly seeing a dip in form later in the season. This is one of the reasons why Banda was taken off at halftime against San Diego Wave FC Friday night.

The Pride have scored multiple goals in five games this season. They netted two late in the season opener against Racing Louisville FC, before Banda’s arrival. The other four have been in Banda starts and she’s contributed to all but one of those goals. Clearly she had a significant impact on the team’s ability to score, so what happens when she’s not on the field?

Prior to May 24 against the Portland Thorns, Banda had played over 80 minutes in all of her starts for the Pride. The two most recent games she’s been replaced at halftime. In the first one, she had already netted a first-half brace and the Pride had a commanding 2-0 lead at home. However, they were only leading by a goal in San Diego when she was replaced by Marta.

The absence of Banda on the field was apparent Friday night. San Diego had chances in the first half, but the Pride created problems for the Wave’s back line throughout the first 45 minutes. After recording six shots in the first half, they only had three in the second. Makenzy Doniak equalized in the 62nd minute and, despite losing the lead, the Pride still looked lifeless in the attack. That leads to the question of whether the Pride can find goals without their star striker.

The most obvious go-to player when Banda is off the field is Watt. The speedster is the only other striker to play significant minutes this season, but she’s only scored once this year. Other than Banda, the only Pride players with multiple goals are Summer Yates (3), Julie Doyle (2), and Marta (2).

While no other players come close to Banda’s goal production, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Several players contribute to goals, which can cause problems for opposing defenses. The bigger problem is that the Pride aren’t converting when Banda isn’t on the field. That’s not a concern when Banda comes off in the final minutes with a multi-goal lead. However, the Pride have been in one-goal games without the striker in the last two matches and been unable to score a goal that would put the game away.

When Banda is on the field, she’s the go-to attacker, a large reason why she has a league-leading eight goals this year. The Pride need to find a dependable goal scorer when the striker isn’t on the field. Potential goal scorers can be overlooked when a player like Banda is scoring at the rate she has this season, but those players should show up when she’s not on the field. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening.

The Pride have had a fantastic start to the 2024 NWSL season, including a 12-game unbeaten run and a league record eight-game winning streak. Much of the success can be attributed to the play of Banda, but the Pride need to find goals when she’s not on the field. If they can figure out that last piece, they might be unstoppable.

Continue Reading