The Orlando Pride (4-6-1, 13 points) used a brace by Adriana and a Messiah Bright goal off a poor pass to beat the Portland Thorns (5-2-4, 19 points) 3-1 at Exploria Stadium. Sophia Smith started the scoring in the 20th minute, but the Pride scored three unanswered to beat the Thorns for the first time since 2021.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made three changes to the attack for this game. Marta returned to the starting lineup after coming on at halftime against the Houston Dash last weekend. She was joined by Ally Watt and Julie Doyle, who got her first start since her injury on April 2.
The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff were in the central midfield behind Marta, Adriana, and Watt with Doyle up top.
The Pride conceded in the 20th minute, which is around when they’ve given up the first goal against Portland in the last three meetings. But while they’ve conceded a quick second in those games, they bounced back in this one. They were led by Adriana, who scored on a great free kick and converted in the second half after a great pass from Watt.
The Pride were the first team to go on the attack. They won the first corner inside the first minute and Watt forced Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby into her first stop in the third minute when she sent the ball into the six-yard box.
Watt sent a dangerous cross through the box a minute later, but nobody in purple could get on the end of it and it went harmlessly out of play.
The Thorns had their first chance of the game in the sixth minute, when Christine Sinclair found Morgan Weaver near the top of the six. McCutcheon and Moorhouse closed down the attacker, but Weaver didn’t get much of the ball anyway and it was sent out of play for a corner kick.
The Pride kept going to the right through Watt, who was playing on the wing. In the 12th minute, Watt did well to beat Meghan Klingenberg and create a shot, but it was blocked. Two minutes later, Strom played a great ball down the left for Doyle. The second-year player dribbled into the box, but got tripped up and was unable to get a shot off.
Portland had a good chance to open the scoring in the 16th minute when Klingenberg sent a cross towards the far post. Sinclair was there to get her head on the ball and sent it directly towards the end line, but she was beyond the post, so it went out for a goal kick.
Smith had her first chance of the game in the 18th minute when she dribbled into the box from the left. Montefusco did well to keep her wide, forcing her to shoot from a tough angle and right at Moorhouse.
Two minutes later, Smith opened the scoring. Weaver, who was causing problems for the Pride back line down the left, sent a cross to the center of the box. Hina Sugita made a run into the box, trailed by Smith. Strom followed Sugita to the near post and nobody was there to cover Smith, allowing her to beat Moorhouse and give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
“Definitely disappointing,” McCutcheon said about conceding the first goal. “Because we scouted that inline cutback ball and made it a point to think about marking up in the box. And unfortunately, it was just a good transition moment on their part. But we chose to again, just put it behind us and do better next time.”
Watt had a chance in the 24th minute to equalize when she took a shot from just outside of the box. It was on target inside the near post, but Bixby dove to catch it. Despite the dive, the Portland goalkeeper seemed to have it the whole way.
Three minutes later, the Pride found their equalizer. Natalia Kuikka fouled Doyle just outside of the Thorns box, picking up a yellow card and providing the Pride with a great free kick opportunity. Marta and Adriana stood over the ball with the latter taking the set piece. Bixby dove to her right and was close to stopping it, but Adriana’s free kick snuck just inside the near post to even the game at 1-1.
Marta had an opportunity to give the Pride the lead in the 34th minute, when she challenged Klingenberg one on one. The Brazilian attempted a curling shot with her right foot that looked as though it would’ve been on target, but the left back did well to block it wide. The ensuing free kick found the head of Strom, but she was falling backwards and Bixby eventually caught it.
After a flurry of chances in the first half hour, there was only one in the final 10 minutes. Crystal Dunn took a shot from near the top of the six-yard box, but Moorhouse was there to make the stop.
At halftime, Portland had more possession (52.8%-47.2%), shots on target (5-4), corners (4-2), and better passing accuracy (79.1%-71.9%). The Pride had more crosses (10-6) and both teams had nine first-half shots.
The Pride got off to a great second half start, taking the lead in the 47th minute. It started when Watt sent a great ball forward for Adriana. The Brazilian dribbled into the box and cut inside to beat Meaghan Nally, opening space for a shot. She placed the shot perfectly inside the far post for her second goal of the game and gave the Pride a 2-1 lead.
“I’m very, very happy and I have been putting pressure on myself to have a great performance to be able to help even more my teammates,” Adriana said about her brace. “So I’m really happy that I got to score on the opportunities I was given, so I could help the team with this win and my goals.”
In addition to being the second of the game by Adriana, it was the 100th goal by a Brazilian player in NWSL history.
In the 51st minute, Cluff received the ball outside of the Thorns box and attempted to give her team a two-goal lead. But the attempt was right to Bixby, who made the easy stop. Hines made his first change of the game shortly after that attempt, bringing Messiah Bright on for Doyle.
Adriana was looking for her third in the 61st minute when Watt played another great ball into the box. Adriana met it with her head near the penalty spot, but it was a little too high and she wasn’t able to redirect it on target.
Attempting to maintain the lead, something the Pride struggled with early in the season, Hines made a second change in the 66th minute, replacing Watt with Kerry Abello.
In the 68th minute, Dunn made a good run to the top of the Pride box. She had Smith making a run past the penalty spot, but played it across for Michele Vasconcelos instead. The second-half substitute shot from just outside of the box, but it was blocked by Madril.
Shortly after that attempt, the Pride scored their third of the game. However, this time it was from a Portland mistake. Izzy D’Aquila received the ball on the left from Dunn and played it back for Kuikka. But the pass was way off target, going behind the defender. Bright took advantage of the opportunity, taking possession, using a good first touch to beat Bixby, and putting it in to give the Pride a surprising 3-1 lead.
“I know she’s been working hard and she puts a lot of pressure on herself,” Hines said about Bright. “I know every forward is always gonna get judged on goals and we’re really pleased with her, the staff, that she was able to get a goal and she took it really well.”
Marta had a chance to score a fourth for the Pride in the 73rd minute when Bixby punched a free ball out, but only to the top of the box. The Pride captain shot, but Bixby did well to get her right foot to the attempt, knocking it out of play.
That was the final action of the game for Marta, who was immediately replaced by Erika Tymrak. Hines also made a defensive change, replacing Cluff with Celia.
The Thorns were able to create some opportunities inside the final 15 minutes as they looked to get back into the game. Vasconcelos attempted a shot in the 77th minute and Hubly in the 78th minute, but neither attempt had much space and didn’t cause much trouble for Moorhouse. Vasconcelos and D’Aquila attempted shots in the 71st and 73rd minutes, respectively, but neither of those were on target.
Six minutes were added to the second half and the Pride did well to pack the middle, decreasing Portland’s chances on goal. In the second minute of stoppage time, Smith took a long-distance shot that was on target, but it was right into the arms of Moorhouse.
The Pride did well to keep possession and run down the clock, keeping the ball in the Thorns’ end for much of the final 10 minutes. The visitors had one last chance with a cross into the box, but Moorhouse came out to catch it. Referee Danielle Chesky blew the final whistle before Moorhouse could send the ball downfield, securing the 3-1 win for the Pride.
At full time, Portland had more possession (58.6%-41.4%), shots (19-16), corners (7-4), and better passing accuracy (79.6%-72.5%). The Pride had more shots on target (8-7) and crosses (16-12) and secured their third-ever win over the Thorns.
“It was good,” Hines said about his team’s performance. “You can see the effort that the players have put in. We had a good chat after the Houston game about what we need to do. Bring it back, back to our identity, our style of play, and we showed today the commitment from the players, the desire, the attention to detail, and sticking to the game plan was brilliant. And you have to win the game in multiple ways. And today we saw an opportunity to soak up a little bit of pressure and try to be lethal in the counterattack and the goals were well taken.”
The win snaps a three-game losing streak to the Thorns during the past two seasons that saw the Pride outscored 12-0. The result also snapped a three-game unbeaten run for Portland and a two-game losing streak for the Pride.
From a statistical standpoint, it’s also a surprising result. The Thorns had more shots from inside the box (13-8), touches inside the opponent’s box (39-20), and passes in the final third (123-88). But of the team’s seven shots on target, four came from Smith and no other players had more than one, allowing the Pride to focus on their primary attacking threat.
With this win, the Pride now have victories over the top three teams in the league, having beaten the San Diego Wave and Washington Spirit earlier this season. It’s a surprising fact since they’ve struggled against teams further down the table and are fighting to get into a playoff position.
“We have to stick to our principles, and maybe sometimes against opponents that are not top teams, we think maybe we can get away with that a little bit just subconsciously,” McCutcheon said about defeating those opponents. “And again, it’s just lessons that we’re learning throughout the season. And so I think we go into these big games, knowing that we have to be at our absolute best. And now, as we continue on, we know that we have to do that every single game.”
The win is also the Pride’s third consecutive at Exploria Stadium after two straight losses to start the season. Hines has spoken several times about making the stadium a fortress and it seems as though the team is doing that, tonight in front of a season-high 7,319 fans.
“I said that at the start of the year, we had to make this a fortress,” Hines said about the home wins. “We had to make this an environment that’s difficult to play in. And with the last three games, we’ve shown that. The crowds are terrific. The crowd fully get behind the team and push them on and that helps. Having that 12th man in the stand is brilliant to have.”
The three points move the Pride up to eighth in the NWSL standings, just two spots and four points behind the final playoff spot. They’ll look to continue the momentum gained tonight when they face the North Carolina Courage away next Saturday night.
Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List
The Orlando Pride have placed center back Megan Montefusco on the season-ending injury list following surgery on her right foot.
The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that center back Megan Montefusco has been placed on the season-ending injury list. The defender had off-season right foot surgery, performed by the club’s official medical team, to repair a long-term problem.
“This is an unfortunate situation for Megan, though we’re happy she was able to address an issue that has plagued her for some time, and we are confident she will come out of this a stronger athlete,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Our club is fully behind her and will support her throughout her rehab process, as will our amazing partners at Orlando Health. Our goal is to help Megan get back on the field as safely and smartly as possible, and we are behind her every step of the way. We look forward to seeing her back out on the pitch as soon as she is ready.”
The Pride originally acquired the defender in a trade with the Houston Dash on Jan. 28, 2022 that saw Marisa Viggiano go the other way. She was a regular starter at center back that year and through most of 2023, but lost the starting position when the club signed Brazilian international Rafaelle. Montefusco has made 45 appearances (42 starts) for 3,773 minutes in all competitions over her two seasons in Orlando, scoring one goal.
The 31 year-old signed a new contract with the Pride on June 15, 2023 through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. As one of the team’s main representatives alongside fellow center back Carrie Lawrence, Montefusco appeared at Orlando City’s preseason game against the New England Revolution, signing autographs and taking part in a question-and-answer session while wearing a walking boot.
What It Means for Orlando
This news is a bit of a blow to Orlando’s depth on the back line. Montefusco was the first center back off the bench late last year and was expected to have the same role this year. However, her absence will make room for Lawrence, who missed the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason, and Tori Hansen, who is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory FC in Australia. The duo will now compete for the third center back spot unless the club replaces Montefusco with another veteran, as the NWSL transfer window remains open.
This injury could also open up a spot for the Pride to sign 2024 second-round NWSL Draft pick Cori Dyke, who the club took at No. 22 overall out of Penn State. Dyke has experience at center back in college. She played as a central midfielder for the first four years in college, but moved to center back for her final season. Despite moving to the back line, the 2023 season was her most productive offensively, as she recorded five goals and six assists.
Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024
What are the top five questions for the Orlando Pride heading into the 2024 NWSL season?
The Orlando Pride have begun their preseason training for the 2024 NWSL season and will play their first preseason scrimmage on Thursday afternoon. The team nearly made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2017, narrowly missing out on the final day of the season. The team’s been busy this off-season, looking to improve the squad. However, there are still some questions to be answered before the competitive games start.
Here are five burning questions about the Pride for 2024.
Who Will Start in Goal?
The Pride signed English goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse from French side Bordeaux on Jan. 31, 2022 to back up Erin McLeod. When the Canadian left after the 2022 season, Moorhouse was elevated to starter. She played well at times last year, but was inconsistent. However, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines showed confidence in the 28-year-old, starting her in 19 of the team’s 22 regular-season games.
In December, the Pride traded backup Carly Nelson to the Utah Royals for Allocation Money. The move came 11 days after they signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner, indicating the club was planning for the departure. While Moorhouse will undoubtedly start the season as the team’s number one, Manner could claim the position if Moorhouse’s inconsistency returns. It will be something to keep an eye on this year.
Who Will Start in the Defensive Midfield?
The Pride focused on the team’s back line last year, but much of the effort this off-season has been on the defensive midfield. The team traded for Haley McCutcheon on Aug. 18, 2022 and it appeared as though she would start in the position. However, Hines moved her to right back last year, where she’s become the regular starter. It then looked like recent draft picks Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff would be the duo, but Cluff was traded to Utah on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection and Villacorta tore her ACL late last year.
The club focused on the position this off-season, bringing in Brazilian internationals Angelina and Luana, along with USWNT player Morgan Gautrat. All three will battle to start in the defensive midfield, especially since Villacorta is injured and fellow defensive midfielders Cluff and Jordyn Listro are gone. But it’s still unknown who will start in those positions. It’s a question that will likely be answered in the coming weeks as the Pride build for the start of the regular season in March.
Where is Ally Watt Best Suited?
After tearing down the roster in a full rebuild, the Pride made two significant acquisitions in August 2022. In addition to trading for McCutcheon, the Pride dealt Allocation Money to OL Reign (now Seattle Reign FC) for forward Ally Watt. The speedy attacker quickly became the second option up top for the Pride, typically playing behind rookie Messiah Bright last year and starting the odd game. However, that’s not the only position she played.
Hines has shown he values versatility and illustrated that with Watt last year. In addition to playing up top, Watt was deployed on the right side of the midfield. Her speed and ability with the ball was an asset in the position, and she was praised by teammates in the role. They love having her on the right and Julie Doyle on the left, the two fastest players on the team. The questions now become: which position is she best at, and where does she best fit in with this team?
Who will Replace Messiah Bright?
Possibly the biggest question for the 2024 season is who will replace the starting striker. The Pride drafted Bright with the 21st overall pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft out of TCU, and she quickly became the focal point of the attack. Her six regular-season goals last year tied Adriana for the team lead. However, the forward requested a trade this off-season, citing personal reasons, and was shipped off to Angel City FC.
The club did sign Simone Charley, most recently with Angel City, who could replace Bright. However, she’s coming off a season-ending injury and wasn’t as effective in Los Angeles as she was in Portland. Other options include Canadian international Amanda Allen or Argentina international Mariana Larroquette. Watt might be the most likely to start the season up top as it stands, with Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter recently telling our SkoPurp Soccer podcast that 2024 will be “the season of Ally.” But it remains to be seen who will be the Pride’s new number nine.
Will We Discover the Pride’s New Number 10?
Marta has been the Pride’s number 10 since she arrived in 2017 and the team’s most prolific player. She leads the team all-time in appearances (102), starts (95), minutes (8,456), goals (31), and assists (18) in all competitions. However, she’s on the final year of a two-year deal that’s widely expected to be the last for the soon-to-be-38-year-old midfielder. If she does depart the club following the 2024 season, they Pride will need to find her replacement.
The club could go outside and find her replacement for 2025, but there are options in the current squad. The most talented player on the team currently is Brazilian international Adriana, who has typically played on the right side of the midfield, causing problems for defenses. She’s also switched with Marta at times, moving central, and has played there at the international level. The club also has Summer Yates, the former Washington Husky drafted in 2023. Yates slipped to the fourth round, where the Pride grabbed her, and Carter recently said she’s seen significant development in the second-year player.
While the primary focus is on this season, Hines could show his hand with who plays the most minutes behind Marta in the attacking midfield. While a final decision will probably be left to the 2025 preseason, we can get an idea of who might be in line for arguably the most significant role on the team during the 2024 campaign.
The Pride enter the 2024 season with more expectations than the last two years. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2023 and will be looking to improve this season. While most of the team is intact, there are some questions to be answered during preseason and the coming regular season. It will tell us a lot about the team’s 2024 season and the coming years.
Orlando Pride’s Summer Yates and Amanda Allen in Line for Breakout Seasons
Summer Yates and Amanda Allen could have breakout seasons for the Pride.
The Orlando Pride are in the third year of a full rebuild, although there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last season saw multiple young players take big steps forward in their development and this year will undoubtedly see more. Two players who currently look like they’ll play bigger roles in the team are midfielder Summer Yates and forward Amanda Allen.
Yates and Allen are two young players with bright futures that the Pride brought in during 2023. They drafted Yates out of the University of Washington with the third pick of the fourth round (39th overall) of the 2023 NWSL Draft. You usually don’t find this level of talent that late in the draft, but Yates was expected to go much higher. She began slipping through the second and third rounds, enabling the Pride to complete what could be the steal of the draft.
Rather than coming in through the draft, the Pride were able to sign Allen directly. The teenager made her way through the Canadian national team system, making her senior team debut in November 2022. She was seen as a player for the future but didn’t see much of the field last year.
It’s not a surprise to see young players in this team see significant minutes, as the Pride have focused on it over the past few seasons. It’s something that Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter spoke about with The Mane Land’s SkoPurp Soccer podcast last week.
“I think you develop through meaningful match minutes,” Carter said on SkoPurp. “Even if you look at some of the signings that we’ve made, young athletes, you look at Amanda Allen for instance, making sure she’s getting meaningful match minutes is really important to us.”
Yates and Allen are both likely to see more minutes this year but face different situations. Yates saw more time on the field during her rookie season, making 10 league appearances and recording 108 minutes. She made a further six appearances (two starts) in the NWSL Challenge Cup for 259 minutes and recorded two assists in the competition.
The Pride signed Marta to a two-year extension following the 2022 NWSL season, so this could very well be the last year of her career. Once the star is gone, the Pride will be looking for a long-term replacement and Yates could be that player. Carter even told SkoPurp that she’s seen development in the midfielder this off-season.
“(Yates) is flying, by the way. Summer Yates is chef’s kiss flying,” Carter said. “She had an unbelievable off-season. She’s like a whole new player this year.”
The midfielder was the primary playmaker for Washington in college and played that role when she appeared for the Pride last year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her play more minutes this season, especially since the club will likely lose Adriana at times to international duty.
Allen is in a different position than Yates but might have a similar opportunity to prove herself this season. At the end of last year, she was the fourth striker on the depth chart behind Messiah Bright, Ally Watt, and Mariana Larroquette. However, Bright asked for a trade this off-season due to personal reasons and was shipped to Angel City FC. The club could still bring in a veteran striker to replace the young forward, but Carter said it’s not a major concern for the team at the moment.
“We feel like we’re in a good place,” Carter said about the striker situation. “It’s not something that we’re terribly concerned about.”
However, she also said that the club has worked at strengthening the back line and midfield positions over the past two seasons. Now it’s time to look for goal scorers that can push the team to be a contender in the NWSL.
“If you look at it from a strategy standpoint, how we’ve approached the last year, we got to improve the back line. And that’s what we did first,” Carter said. “And then the priority became the midfield. And that’s what we did in the beginning of the off-season. And now we’re looking for established goal scorers.”
Watt was the starter at the forward position last year when Bright wasn’t available or needed rest. While it’s fair to assume she would simply move up to the number one spot on the depth chart, Carter further indicated the veteran would be the team’s nine.
“I feel like this is going to be the year of Ally,” Carter said about the forward.
The Pride emphasize versatility, something they’ve shown the past few seasons. While Watt will likely be the starting forward when the season starts, she also played on the right in 2023. Following her appearances last year in the midfield, her attacking teammates gave glowing reviews about having the speed of Watt on the right and Julie Doyle on the left.
The club’s focus on Watt up top might seem like a negative for Allen’s playing time. After all, the teenager didn’t appear much last season, only making three league appearances for nine minutes. She didn’t play much more in the NWSL Challenge Cup, making three appearances, with one start, for 91 minutes.
However, Allen has two things going for her. One is that the club values providing meaningful minutes to young players and Allen is seen as part of the future of this team. It’s also not easy to find proven goal scorers. Unless the club can find a proven goal scorer by the trade and transfer deadline on April 22, Allen will move up on the depth chart.
The focus for the Pride this season is improving on last year and making the playoffs for the first time since 2017. However, they also have an eye on the future with the team still being young. Last year, we saw young players like Bright and Emily Madril prove themselves at the professional level. This year we could see Yates and Allen make a similar jump.
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