Connect with us

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 3-0 as Pride Suffer Third Straight Road Shutout Loss

The North Carolina Courage dominated the Pride, handing them their fifth loss in seven road games.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (4-7-1, 13 points) were dominated by the North Carolina Courage (6-4-2, 20 points) tonight in Cary, NC, falling 3-0. Kerolin opened the scoring in the first half and Meredith Speck doubled the lead after the break. A late own goal by Haley McCutcheon in the 83rd minute put the game away as the Pride lost for the fifth time in seven games away from Exploria Stadium and the third straight without scoring a goal.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the team that beat the Portland Thorns 3-1 last weekend. Marta was unavailable due to a thigh injury, replaced by Messiah Bright. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse remained the same, with Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and McCutcheon. Mikayla Cluff and Viviana Villacorta were in the defensive midfield behind Julie Doyle, Adriana, and Ally Watt. Bright returned to the starting lineup after starting on the bench last weekend as the lone striker.

The Pride had the first attack of the game inside the first minute through Bright on the left, but her cross sailed out of play. Two minutes later, Adriana intercepted a poor pass by Kaleigh Kurtz. The Brazilian found Watt to her right, but her shot was deflected out by Malia Berkely for a corner kick. Unfortunately, the ensuing set piece was cleared away at the near post.

Watt had a second chance in the fifth minute with a long run down the right. The speedy attacker got into the box, but her shot was weak, from a poor angle, and right at Casey Murphy, allowing the goalkeeper to make an easy save.

The Courage got their first chance in the sixth minute when Narumi Miura carried the ball into the Pride box. She cut back to beat Montefusco and create a shot, but it was always going wide of the far post.

It looked like North Carolina would open the scoring in the seventh minute when Narumi played a long ball over the top of the Pride back line for Kerolin to run onto. She beat Madril to the ball, but the center back did well to catch up. Meanwhile, Moorhouse came off her line to clear the ball and Kerolin wasn’t able to get off a shot.

In the 12th minute, Berkely sent Tess Boade behind the Pride defense. Madril went in to challenge the attacker, but Boade came away with the ball and only Moorhouse to beat. The Pride goalkeeper came off her line to cut down Boade’s angle and made a great save to keep the game scoreless.

The Pride nearly created something in the 20th minute when Watt made a strong run through the midfield and played it long for Doyle. The second-year attacker almost reached it near the top of the box, but Murphy got there just before Doyle to clear it away.

Adriana created an opportunity in the 28th minute after McCutcheon won the ball from Mille Gejl near the North Carolina box. The Brazilian sent a low cross into the box that was flicked on by Watt for Doyle making a run behind. But Doyle couldn’t get to the ball and it went harmlessly through.

In the 32nd minute, North Carolina broke through. It started with a great ball forward by Gejl for Boade behind the Pride defense. Boade’s first touch didn’t allow for a shot, but she laid it off for Kerolin, who put it past Moorhouse and in off the post to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

A long ball by Montefusco for Doyle in the 42nd minute created a chance for the Pride. Doyle caught up to the ball before it crossed the end line and sent it in for Watt. The ball was cleared, but only to Bright near the top of the box. The striker attempted to create space to shoot, but couldn’t get around Berkely, who blocked it.

That was the last decent chance of the half as the Pride went into the break down, 1-0. At halftime, North Carolina had more possession (70.8%-29.2%), shots (6-4), shots on target (3-1), and crosses (8-5), and passed more accurately (90.3%-68.1%). Both teams had two corner kicks and the Pride didn’t lead in any meaningful statistical categories.

“We had a good talk in the locker room,” Watt said about the team’s mood at halftime. “We need to get our energy up. We need to fix our press. And we did. And it was working in the second half.”

The Courage had a golden opportunity to double their lead in the 48th minute when Emily Fox made a run into the Pride box behind Villacorta. Kerolin spotted the run and played it forward, sending Fox in on goal. Moorhouse came off her line to challenge Fox, staying on her feet and blocking the shot to keep the deficit at one.

The Pride felt they should’ve had a free kick in a dangerous position in the 49th minute, when Cluff found Doyle making a run behind Ryan Williams. Murphy came out to the top of the box to challenge the attacker. Doyle went down and the ball was caught between Murphy’s legs. The Courage goalkeeper scooted back inside the box to pick up the ball. It seemed as though Doyle wanted a penalty, but referee Calin Radosav allowed play to continue.

Hines made his first change of the game in the 53rd minute, bringing Kerry Abello in for Bright. It was a forgetful night for the rookie striker, who was rarely in possession of the ball and only threatened the Courage back line once in the first half.

The Pride were given a great opportunity in the 56th minute when Denise O’Sullivan fouled Watt at the edge of the North Carolina box and directly in front of the goal. Adriana stepped up to take the set piece, but sent it directly into the wall. It went to Villacorata, who took a shot, but it was blocked. Eventually, the ball ended in the arms of Murphy and North Carolina was able to clear.

In the 63rd minute, it appeared as though the Courage found their second goal when Kerolin lifted a ball towards the back post for Boade. McCutchen challenged the attacker, but was behind her, allowing Boade to get to the ball first. The attacker fell forward, knocking the ball off Moorhouse and inside the far post.

Immediately following the goal, the assistant’s flag went up for offside. Radosav put his hand to his ear as the video assistant referee checked to see if Boade was in an offside position when the ball was played. While she was behind McCutchen, Madril, and Montefusco, it was much closer with Strom at the opposite post. However, the call was upheld and the Pride stayed within a goal.

The Pride had conceded a significant amount of possession without hitting the Courage on transition. They made a change in the 72nd minute, replacing Doyle with veteran midfielder Erika Tymrak.

In the 73rd minute, an Adriana corner kick was punched out by Murphy. It ended up with Montefusco, who laid it off for McCutcheon, but the pass was too soft and North Carolina sprinted the other way with an advantage in numbers. Fortunately, Villacorta got back to put pressure on the cross and McCutcheon cleared it out of play.

The Courage finally doubled their lead in the 78th minute when second-half substitute Olivia Wingate played the ball into the box for fellow substitute Speck. The midfielder used a good first touch to beat Montefusco and create enough space for a shot. Moorhouse got down to get a hand on the ball, but she didn’t get enough of it. The ball rolled just inside the post to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

North Carolina struck again in the 83rd minute when a long ball from the back found Kerolin sprinting down the right. Madril tried to catch up, but Kerolin reached the ball first and sent a cross into the box. Montefusco intercepted the cross, but a bad touch gave it back to Kerolin. The Brazilian redirected the ball towards goal, but it went off the post. McCutcheon tried to clear it, but sent it off Montefusco and in for an own goal and a 3-0 lead for the Courage.

Hines made two final changes in the 86th minute. With the game out of hand, Amanda Allen and Summer Yates entered for Cluff and Watt.

Despite the result being beyond doubt, the Pride did their best to avoid being shut out. They created three consecutive corner kicks in second-half injury time. Strom was charging in on the second, but the cross was headed away just before it reached her. The other two were cleared much easier, maintaining the clean sheet.

In the end, the Courage ended up with more possessions (67%-33%), shots (16-11), shots on target (6-1), and passing accuracy (86.9%-69.7%). The Pride had more corner kicks (6-4) and crosses (14-13), but couldn’t break through the North Carolina defense.

“We weren’t at it today,” Hines said about the performance. “Every second ball of North Carolina was there. They pressed effectively, (we) didn’t have that sharpness, and it’s becoming a theme away from home. And that was the message after the game. We’ve got to figure this out away from home, we need to start picking up points away from home. You know, we can’t always rely on our home form.”

“Energy,” Watt said about the difference between the Portland win last weekend and tonight’s loss. “We just had to want it more. We were just a little passive and just wasn’t getting it done right.”

The Pride’s game plan was clear from the outset. They’d give up plenty of possession in the game and hit the hosts on the transition. For this reason, the Courage had 70% of the ball in the first half and 67% at full time, leaving the Pride defending for the majority of the game.

“The game plan was to be threatening in transition,” Hines said after the game. “I felt early on we caused them problems. They weren’t able to play through the lines as often as they’re probably used to in previous games. And there was moments where we could have been threatening in transition and we just weren’t threatening in transition.”

Statistically, North Carolina dominated the game. They consistently sent long balls behind the back line for Kerolin to run onto, creating trouble for the Pride defense. Two of those passes resulted in goals. It looked as though Madril and Montefusco weren’t ready for those balls, but Hines said they’ve worked on those plays.

“One thing North Carolina did more than Portland was they played a lot more longer balls in behind the back line,” Hines said. “And we work on that quite often, dealing with long balls, making sure that we’re race ready, dealing with the space behind. You know, it looked like today we just weren’t prepared for that.”

The game had a significant impact on the crowded NWSL standings. The three points for North Carolina saw them jump from sixth to first. Meanwhile, the Pride remain in eighth, three points behind the Houston Dash and five points behind NJ/NY Gotham FC for the final playoff spot.


The Pride will look for a better performance next Saturday night when they face the Kansas City Current. While they lost to the Current earlier this season, they’ll be returning to the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium against the last-place team in the league.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals: Final Score 1-0 as Pride Claim First Win of 2024 NWSL Season

Marta’s 68th-minute goal lifted the Pride to their first win of the season over the Utah Royals on the road.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (1-0-3, 6 points) claimed their first win of the 2024 NWSL season by defeating the Utah Royals (1-3-0, 3 points) 1-0 at America First Field in Sandy, UT. Marta’s 68th-minute goal shortly after coming on as a second-half substitute was the difference between the two teams.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines only made two changes to the team that drew the Chicago Red Stars 1-1 two weeks ago. Julie Doyle and Summer Yates joined the starting lineup in place of Luana and Marta. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Brianna Martinez. Angelina moved from the attacking midfield back to the defensive midfield alongside Morgan Gautrat. The attack midfielders were Doyle, Yates, and Adriana with Ally Watt up top.

The most surprising omission from the lineup might have been Marta. The team captain was left on the bench after playing a pair of games for Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup during the international break.

“She had a different role today,” Hines said of his captain. “We were mindful of her energy levels. She played 90 minutes for Brazil on Tuesday and it was a quick turnaround with the travel also.”

It was also the first start of Yates’ young career. The midfielder played minimal minutes during her rookie campaign but has made a significant impact on the team’s attack this year, earning her first start for the Pride.

“That’s been coming with her,” Hines said about adding Yates to the starting lineup. “With the level that she’s had at the start of the season, she’s been brilliant. So she fully deserved the start today.”

Despite being the visiting team and playing in a difficult climate, the Pride were the better team from the opening whistle. Excellent performances by Yates, Adriana, Angelina, and Marta in the attack kept the Royals on their back foot and the center back pairing of Sams and Strom made it a relatively easy night for Moorhouse.

In the early minutes of the game, the Pride looked to attack through Abello on the left. In the third minute, she sent a cross into the box looking for Watt or Doyle, but Royals goalkeeper Mandy Haught was there to catch it. Three minutes later, Adriana tried to set her up for a cross, but Abello’s first touch was too strong and the ball went out of play.

The Royals nearly had their first chance in the eighth minute when a turnover by Doyle enabled rookie Ally Sentnor to send Hannah Betfort forward. Moorhouse initially was coming out to challenge, but retreated. Fortunately, Strom did well from her center back position to challenge the Utah striker and knock the ball out of play.

The game’s first shot came from an individual effort by Betfort. Receiving the ball from Dana Foederer at the top of the box, Betfort turned to lose Gautrat and get a shot off. It was on target, but Moorhouse was there to catch it.

The Pride had their first good chance in the 15th minute when Yates’ cross was blocked out of play by Madison Pogarch. Angelina’s corner kick was met by Adriana, who flicked it towards the back post with her right foot. Unfortunately, nobody could get on the end of it and the ball went harmlessly out of play.

In the 26th minute, Pogarch lost the ball to Yates and pulled on the midfielder’s arm trying to get it back, receiving a yellow card for her trouble. The ensuing set piece eventually ended up with Angelina outside of the box. The Brazilian took a shot aiming for the near post, but missed just wide. However, Haught wasn’t comfortable with the attempt, diving to ensure it didn’t sneak in.

The Pride had an excellent chance in the 37th minute when pressure by Yates forced a turnover to Angelina. Watt picked up the ball and played it forward for Yates, who found Angelina behind the Royals’ defense. It looked like Angelina had a chance from a tight angle, but she sent the shot wide.

An Adriana shot in the 40th minute was blocked and Pogarch got the last touch as it went out of play for a Pride corner kick. Yates took the set piece, sending it to the back post where Sams was charging in. The center back headed the ball back across the box where Gautrat attempted to redirect it on goal. Unfortunately, she sent her header wide of the target.

While the Pride had most of the attacking chances, Utah had one of its own in the 44th minute when Brecken Mozingo sent a long ball down the right for Paige Monaghan between Sams and Strom. Monaghan took possession in the box and shot from a tight angle, but Moorhouse was there to collect it.

Less than a minute later, the Pride nearly scored the opening goal. Adriana forced a turnover, enabling Yates to take control with her momentum going forward. The second-year midfielder found space between two defenders to shoot and it appeared to be on target, but Haught tipped it wide with a diving save.

Martinez might’ve gotten a little lucky a minute into first-half stoppage time when she lifted her foot near midfield to send the ball forward and caught Sentnor in the face. There was a brief stoppage of play, possibly as the video assistant referee checked for a possible red card. But Martinez was lucky to avoid any booking on the play.

At halftime, the Pride held the advantage in most statistical categories. They had more possession (51.5%-48.5%), shots (7-3), corners (6-1), and crosses (15-1), and better passing accuracy (83.5%-82.7%). However, a common problem early this season reared its head as the Royals put more chances on target (3-1) in the first half.

It didn’t take the Pride long to create a chance in the second half. In the 46th minute, a quick give-and-go between Adriana and Angelina sent Adriana forward. She sent a dangerous cross through the box that went past Watt and to Doyle at the back post. However, the midfielder couldn’t get a solid foot on the ball, sending it off target.

A minute later, Doyle had another chance when she intercepted a lazy pass by Agnes Nyberg. Dribbling into the box, Doyle decided to play it back for Watt at the top of the box instead of taking the shot herself. It was the wrong decision, as Kate Del Fava reached it first and cleared it away.

The Pride had a third good chance in the 53rd minute when Adriana made another long run into the Utah box. She found Doyle on the right, and the winger sent a low cross looking for Abello in front of goal. However, it was too close to Haught, who made the stop.

In the 54th minute, a challenge on Adriana resulted in the ball popping out wide to Watt. The forward carried it to the top of the box where she shot towards the near post. Once again, a long-distance attempt by the Pride was just wide.

Utah did little to trouble the Pride until the 58th minute, when Sentnor took a long shot. It was a strong hit and on target, but didn’t cause any problems for Moorhouse.

In the 58th minute, Adriana had a collision with Olivia Griffitts that resulted in the Brazilian requiring treatment. She briefly came back on after leaving the field, but quickly went back to the ground. As a result, Hines made his first change of the game, replacing Adriana with Marta.

It didn’t take long for Marta to make her mark on the game as she gave the Pride the lead in the 68th minute. It started with a quick pass from Marta to Watt on the right. The forward sent a cross to the back post that landed at the feet of Abello. Yates slid into the box to meet Abello’s first-touch cross, but missed. Instead, it went to Marta, whose first touch was a shot into the far netting, giving the Pride a much-deserved 1-0 lead.

“I saw that Ally (Watt) was getting into a crossing position and I knew that I had to make that back post,” Abello said about the play. “So I got up there and she hit it back post and I knew that we had other players in the box. So my only thinking was just to put it back across and let them do their thing. Someone almost got to it which opened up that path to Marta who put it away.”

“Marta takes a goal really, really well,” Hines added about the strike. “It comes from waves of attacks. One, two, third phase within that moment and then she just finished like perfectly into the corner.”

Hines made his second change shortly after, replacing Doyle with Haley McCutcheon in the 71st minute.

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 74th minute when Angelina sent a long ball for McCutcheon on the right. Cutting inside to beat her defender, McCutcheon played it to the far post where Watt was making a run. Nobody picked up the forward and she redirected the ball on target, but Haught did well to get down and block it out of play.

The ensuing corner by Yates was to the back post where Strom and Foederer both went for it. The collision sent the ball over the crossbar for a goal kick and left Foederer on the ground holding her left shoulder.

The Pride made their final changes in the 83rd minute as Mariana Larroquette and Ally Lemos entered the game for Watt and Yates. A minute later, Utah made three changes that included an appearance by former Pride midfielder Mikayla Cluff. It was Cluff’s first time facing the Pride after being traded this off-season.

Utah had a chance for an equalizer in the second minute of second-half stoppage time when Strom headed Griffitts’ cross out for a corner. The ensuing set piece by Zoe Burns went all the way through the box where Kaleigh Riehl collected it. The defender played it across for Sentnor, who took a long, on-target shot. However, it was too close to Moorhouse, who made the save.

While the Royals had plenty of possession during injury time, they struggled to threaten the Pride. As a result, the visitors were able to hold on for the 1-0 win, their first of the young season.

At full time, the Pride had more shots (14-5), corners (10-3), and crosses (22-5), and better passing accuracy (83.4%-82.6%). Utah had more possession (50.2%-49.8%) and shots on target (5-4), but Marta’s 68th-minute goal was the only conversion.

“We’ve obviously set out at the start of the year, considering how well we did last year, we knew that we needed to pick up more points away from home,” Hines said about the win. “What a great example today with three points away from home under tough conditions. Obviously, after an international break as well, and so I just love the commitment and the desire for the players to keep going and play the right way. And it’s a massive reward for them to come away with three points after having a really good performance tonight.”

“We were just missing that kind of final piece,” Strom added about getting a win after three consecutive draws. “We were knocking on the door, knocking on the door, and we finally got one through. What a goal by Marta. Are you kidding me? So I think we just needed that confidence and self belief. We knew it was coming. We were never in doubt. We were not leaving this field without three points. So, so happy we got it.”

The Pride arguably had their best performance of the young season tonight, controlling the game for the entire 90 minutes. It was a defensive accomplishment to get the first shutout of the season and holding onto the lead to claim all three points.

“I’m really pleased with the, obviously, shutout. That’s something that we need to continue to grow on,” Hines said after the game. “I do feel like both in possession and out of possession, we controlled the game for the most part. I thought Summer (Yates) and Ally (Watt) did a really good job with dictating the press for us in errors from Utah. And then I think what we can do to improve more is being a little bit more threatening in transition. You know, maybe get a few more shots at the opponent’s goal. But other than that, I’m just so pleased for them.”

The Pride were trying to avoid being the first team in NWSL history to draw its first four games of the season and did so with this away win. They also move to six points on the season and move into fifth in the league standings.


With a win under their belt, the Pride will now return home to Orlando, where they’ll welcome San Diego Wave FC next Friday night.

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride return to action tonight as they travel west to face the Utah Royals.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (0-0-3, 3 points) travel west to take on the Utah Royals (1-2-0, 3 points). This is the first of two games the teams will play against each other this season with the return meeting in Orlando scheduled for June 21.

Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.

History

The Royals first played in 2018 and 2019 before the team was purchased and relocated to Kansas City. The new owners of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake bought an expansion side, so it’s the first time the two teams have met since 2019, although this is an all-new side. The Pride were just 1-3-2 against the original Royals, with all games coming in the NWSL regular season.

The last time the Pride met Utah was on Aug. 17, 2019 in Orlando. Christen Press gave the visitors the lead in the 60th minute and Amy Rodriguez doubled the advantage in the 77th minute as the Royals won 2-0. Prior to that game, the teams played in Utah on May 25 with the same result. Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 31st minute from the penalty spot and Makenzy Doniak made it 2-0 in the 89th minute. The first game between the teams in 2019 was on April 27. The difference was a familiar goal scorer, as Press netted the lone goal in the 19th minute in a 1-0 result.

The 2018 campaign was the Royals’ inaugural season, and Orlando got the better of the newcomers, going unbeaten in three matches (1-0-2). In the 2018 season opener, Utah and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw. The Royals scored on their first chance of the game. They had an excellent spell of possession and, in the third minute, Diana Matheson put in a cross, and Gunny Jonsdottir — who later played for the Pride for two seasons in 2021 and 2022 — volleyed it into the back of the net. Marta tied things up from the spot in the 21st minute, and the game ended 1-1. 

About a month and a half later, the teams met again, playing to a 0-0 draw, this time in Rio Tinto Stadium. It was a relatively dull night with no goals and the majority of the action in the middle of the field. Both teams struggled on the attacking end. There were no shots on target in the first half and just three in the second.

While those first two matches ended in draws, the last meeting of 2018 finally saw a winner. On July 14, 2018, there was end-to-end action, and both teams saw chances in front of the net. Utah found an early goal, this time from Rodriguez in the eighth minute, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime. In the 52nd minute, a good through ball from Ali Krieger found Kristen Edmonds one-on-one with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith, who was caught out of position. Edmonds chipped the ball past Smith for the game-winner, and Orlando got its first-ever victory against the Royals.

Overview

The Pride have claimed points in all three of their games so far this season, though they’ve drawn each one. It started with a late Summer Yates goal to draw Racing Louisville FC 2-2 on the road before returning home for a two-game homestand. Marta’s late strike enabled the hosts to draw Angel City FC 1-1 and they drew the Chicago Red Stars by the same score two weeks ago.

Injuries and a lack of goals have been problematic for the Pride early this season. While their back line is almost completely healthy, the team is still missing Barbra Banda, who will likely be the starter after she arrives in Orlando Sunday morning. In the meantime, they’ll need other attacking options like Ally Watt, Marta, and Adriana to step up.

Utah is one of the NWSL’s two expansion teams, returning to the league after a four-year hiatus. As a result, they have a roster that’s trying to get used to playing with each other. Former Royals star Rodriguez is the head coach and has built the team with a combination of veterans and young players. The Royals lost two of their first three games, but beat the North Carolina Courage 2-1 on March 22, placing them even on points with the Pride.

The Royals used the first overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft on former North Carolina Tar Heel Ally Sentnor and the selection has been paying off. The rookie has scored two of the three goals for the Royals this season, coming in the two most recent games. The other goal was scored by Kate Del Fava in the team’s win over the Courage.

Tonight’s opponent has two former Pride players on its roster. Mikayla Cluff was traded on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection, and Carly Nelson was sent west on Dec. 12 for an international spot and Allocation Money. Both players grew up in the Salt Lake City area and went to local colleges, with Cluff attending Brigham Young University and Nelson the University of Utah. For this reason, the trades weren’t very surprising.

Nelson started the team’s first game, a 2-1 loss to the Red Stars, but has been on the bench for the two most recent games. So far, Cluff has only made one appearance, coming on as a late substitute against the Courage.

While the Royals have had a tough start to the season with two losses, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines likes what he’s seen from the league newcomers and believes that claiming points will be a tough task for the Pride.

“You look at Utah being a new team, (but) they have been in every game that they have competed in,” Hines said. “We looked at their first game against Chicago. I felt they controlled a majority of the game against Chicago and were unlucky not to get anything out of the game. They played North Carolina at home and managed to get a win against a difficult team, so they showed that togetherness and their willing to battle and fight. Even without the ball, they managed to get points, and then Washington could have gone either way. They have got three points out of three games and been unlucky in a couple of games, so it is going to be a challenge for ourselves to go to Utah and try to get something out of the game.

“It is more about ourselves and what we can do and what we can produce on the day. If we play some of our best football and we reward ourselves by getting ourselves in those areas of the field where we can be threatening and execute in that final third, then I think everyone will walk away with what we feel we deserve. Utah is going to be a tough game, obviously going to Utah is going to be a challenge with the altitude, but the players will be more than prepared and know what is at stake in the game.”

The Pride are still without three players that have suffered season-ending injuries in Simone Charley (right leg), Megan Montefusco (right heel), and Viviana Villacorta (left knee). Luana is also listed as out with an excused absence. While Rafaelle (foot) is listed as questionable, she’s been upgraded after a fractured foot has kept her sidelined for the first three games of the season.

Utah has two players out for tonight’s game, including Imani Dorsey (Achilles) and Ifeoma Onumonu (ankle). Additionally, Nelson is listed as questionable (illness).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, Kerry Abello, Brianna Martinez.

Defensive Midfielders: Angelina, Morgan Gautrat.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, Adriana.

Forward: Ally Watt.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Ally Lemos, Amanda Allen, Evelina Duljan, Mariana Larroquette, Celia, Carrie Lawrence, Haley McCutcheon, Marta.

Utah Royals (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Mandy Haught.

Defenders: Madison Pogarch, Kaleigh Riehl, Kate Del Fava, Olivia Griffitts.

Midfielders: Agnes Nyberg, Paige Monaghan, Dana Foederer.

Forward: Ally Sentnor, Hannah Betfort, Brecken Mozingo.

Bench: Lauren Flynn, Michele Vasconcelos, Zoe Burns, Addisyn Merrick, Frankie Tagliaferri, Cameron Tucker, Mikayla Cluff, Emily Gray, Cristina Roque.

Referees

REF: Thomas Snyder.
AR1: Noah Kenyawani.
AR2: Darren Bandy.
4TH: Jordan Downs.
VAR: Laura Rodriguez.
AVAR: Tom Felice.


How to Watch

Match Time: 9:30 p.m.

Venue: America First Field — Sandy, UT.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

Twitter: For live updates and rapid reaction, follow @TheManeLand and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride Midfield Rebuild: Key Stats Through Three Matches

Going inside the numbers on the Pride’s rebuilt midfield and overall team play.

Published

on

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride embarked on the past off-season with a clear plan of rebuilding in the center of the pitch. Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter described this as the second step of a back-to-front roster overhaul. To that end, the Pride signed Morgan Gautrat and Angelina from elsewhere in the NWSL and veteran Luana from her native Brazil.

Reviewing the profiles of these players, the skills recruited are clear. They are versatile athletes who are comfortable playing with the ball at their feet, passing through the lines to connect play, and doing the dirty work defending out of possession. They were brought in to act as the heart of a team that challenges for the playoffs in the 2024 season. Now, admittedly with just three matches played, it is time to take a look at the early performances of the new midfield compared to the prior season and evaluate the improvements so far, the areas for continued attention, and what it all means for the long season ahead.


Play Style and Roster Shakeup

Head Coach Seb Hines has a clear vision of what he wants from his midfield. Orlando almost always lines up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, where there are two central midfielders (CMs) in front of a traditional back four defense. The role of these CMs, sometimes dubbed defensive or holding midfielders, is twofold. When not in possession, they act as an additional line of defense in front of the center-backs in order to break up the play and stop the opponents’ progress forward. In possession, they are tasked with receiving the ball from the defense or goalkeeper, playing in congested spaces, and progressing the ball forward to the attacking players. 

In 2023, Mikayla Cluff, Viviana Villacorta, and Jordyn Listro garnered the lion’s-share of minutes at CM, featuring in 53 combined NWSL matches. Of this trio, Cluff was traded to Utah, Listro’s contract expired without her being re-signed, and Villacorta is still recovering from the ACL tear that cost her the end of the 2023 season. While everyone wishes Villacorta a swift recovery, it will be important for the Pride staff to bring her along slowly as she recovers from her third season-ending injury in as many seasons. This group, with the occasional fill-in player due to a lack of depth, helped the Pride finish seventh in the NWSL with a record of 10-11-1, just missing out on the playoffs due to goal difference. 

The new additions for 2024 — Gautrat, Angelina, and Luana — have each appeared in every match so far. Gautrat has started at CM three times and Luana twice, while Angelina has started each match, but twice in a more attacking, wide-midfield role to accommodate absences around the pitch. Evaluating the new CMs requires a statistical review of their performances in three key areas — defensive interventions, passing and possession, and attacking contributions. This is followed by a look at overall team performance to assess how the job done by the CMs fits into the bigger picture.


Defensive Metrics

The first set of metrics used for comparison between the 2023 and 2024 central midfielders is their defensive contributions. While there is no one-size-fits-all statistic to analyze individual players perfectly, combining several “defensive action” statistics can help. Clearances, blocks, interceptions, and successful tackles have been tallied for the six primary CMs from the past two seasons and normalized per 90 minutes to create the chart below. The calculated number of “Defensive Actions per 90 Minutes,” shown at the top of the bar for each player, summarizes how many times per match the chosen player is breaking up the opponent’s attack in these ways.

Of the six CMs, Luana is the most productive defender by this metric. The player typically starting beside her, Gautrat, is contributing significantly on the defensive end as well, providing a robust tandem in front of the back line. Combined, they are contributing three more defensive actions per 90 minutes than Cluff and Villacorta, the most common CM pairing in 2023. Lastly, Angelina’s defensive contributions should be taken with a grain of salt, as she has spent more minutes as a wide midfielder than a central one so far in 2024, which places her farther from the defending. Taken together, the 2024 CMs are showing promising improvement on the defensive end relative to the prior campaign.


Passing and Possession

Up next are two of the most important metrics for midfielders, starting with individual passing, and then team-wide possession metrics. To compare the passing abilities of the Pride CMs, the plot below shows how often and how accurately a player passes the ball. These numbers, again normalized per 90 minutes, are plotted on the horizontal and vertical axes, respectively.

Looking at the data above, it is immediately apparent that each CM from the 2024 squad is attempting more passes per game than the 2023 squad. Not only that, they are doing so more accurately, on average. Individually, Luana is passing at a similar statistical level to Cluff,  while Angelina is completing her passes at a slightly higher clip on much greater volume. Gautrat’s security with the ball is especially striking, demonstrating the composure expected of a player heavily involved with the U.S. Women’s National Team prior to several injury-marred seasons. It is important to note again that Villacorta, the most accurate passer from the 2023 trio, could have a role to play this season when she recovers from her injury.

Beyond the individual statistics, the impact of the improved passing abilities of the new midfielders can be seen in the full-team passing and possession data. The table below compares Orlando’s possession per match and the same passing metrics from above on a team-wide basis, as well as the Pride’s relative ranks in the NWSL.

Pride Possession and Passing in NWSL Matches 2023 to 2024
2023 Team % (League Rank)2024 Team % (League Rank)
Possession %46.4% (12th)53.7% (6th)
Passing %73.8% (5th)78.6 (4th)
Passes per Match302 (10th)395 (4th)

Reviewing the table above, not only have the pride improved in each of the passing and possession metrics from last season to this one, they are now in the top half of the league for all three statistics and the top third of the league for passing. It is credit to the new midfielders that they have made such an immediate impact on the overall style of play for the Pride in 2024. This is something Seb Hines and Haley Carter would’ve been keen to see implemented on the pitch after the squad lacked the appropriate skills for more possession-based play in prior seasons.


Attacking and Results

The last piece of the statistical puzzle for the central midfield rebuild is attacking contribution. Unfortunately, there is little data to this point in the season. Through the whole of the 2023 campaign, Cluff, Villacorta, and Listro combined for two goals and two assists — total — with three of the four goal contributions coming from Cluff. In 2024, the new-look midfield has assisted once so far, as Angelina fed Marta from a corner. Angelina also created an own goal from a corner that does not appear in the statistics. The 2024 CMs have only attempted two shots, placing one on target and not scoring. It may be a safe assumption that Hines and staff hope the occasional goal can be scored from the CM role, but so far in 2024 that has not been the case. Considering the number of absences from the back line to start the year, more conservative play from the likes of Gautrat and Luana may have been necessary to alleviate stress on the makeshift defense.

Lastly, looking beyond the individual performances, the most important metric for the Pride is whether they are playing well, creating goal-scoring chances, and preventing them at the other end. To evaluate this, the table below looks at the expected goals (xG), expected goals against (xGA), and points accrued per match between 2023 and 2024.

Pride xG, xGA, and Points Earned in NWSL Matches 2023 to 2024
2023 (League Rank)2024 (League Rank)
Expected Goals per Match1.40 (5th)1.00 (9th)
Expected Goals Against per Match1.31 (7th)1.20 (6th)
Points per Match1.41 (7th)1.00 (7th)

The table above paints the picture of a team that is defending marginally better than it did last year but attacking with less effectiveness. As for points, the Pride are undefeated with three draws from three games, two in comeback fashion, and sit seventh, the same as the end of 2023.  

The goal of this table is not to say that the team is worse off now than it was a year ago. Context matters, and just the opposite may be true. The context is that in the days leading up to the season, Megan Montefusco and Simone Charley suffered season-ending injuries, hurting both the defense and attack. Starting center back Rafaelle was also injured, but has since returned to training. Lastly, marquee summer signing Barbra Banda will be arriving after the international break and should be the game-charger that sparks a so-far listless attack.

Considering the early adversity faced, the rebuilt midfield has acquitted itself well to start the long NWSL campaign. The new CMs have been better equipped to pass and possess the ball, and the defensive metrics have shown an uptick individually and as a team. The final step is to turn these improvements into better results, and there is every reason to believe that this midfield can be the foundation to build off and push for a spot in the postseason.

Continue Reading

Trending