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Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit: Final Score 3-0 as Pride Dominate the Spirit On the Road

The Orlando Pride went on the road and took all three points against the Washington Spirit thanks to a brace from Julie Doyle.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (5-8-1, 16 points) returned to their winning ways by going on the road and winning 3-0 against the Washington Spirit (6-3-5, 23 points) at Audi Field. Julie Doyle bagged the first brace of her young career by scoring twice early on. An own goal caused by a cross from Ally Watt in the second half gave the Pride their third goal and the defense held on for its third shutout of the year.

The Pride have now swept the Spirit in regular season play — an impressive feat as the Spirit have spent most of the season near the top of the table.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made a few changes to the starting lineup he used in the 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Current last weekend. Marta and Adriana are with Brazil in preparation for the Women’s World Cup this month and were replaced in the attack by Messiah Bright and Doyle. Erika Tymrak also started, with Jordyn Listro back on the bench.

The Pride played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Anna Moorhouse in goal behind a back line of Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff served as the team’s defensive midfielders, with Doyle, Tymrak, and Kelly Abello creating chances for Bright up top. This was McCutcheon’s 100th regular-season appearance in the NWSL, and she served as the team’s captain.

A lengthy weather delay before kickoff didn’t stop the Pride from starting the game with plenty of energy. They found success early on, especially when attacking through the left wing. It only took eight minutes for the Pride to take the lead. After earning a throw-in, Bright did well to hold off her defender and get the ball to Strom, who made a nice cross that bounced in front of goal and found McCutcheon’s head right in front of goal. Spirit goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart came up with a save, but the Spirit couldn’t cleanly clear away the danger. The ball fell to Doyle in the box and she buried it on the half-volley for her first goal of this season.

“The way that we started the game was brilliant,” Hines said regarding the team’s hot start despite the weather delay. “Going after them full of energy and creating momentum, and actually scoring with that momentum that we haven’t seen in the past couple of games, that was a real focal point for us.”

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 13th minute when Bright got a powerful header on the end of a corner kick from Abello. The striker’s shot ended up in the back of the net, but the referee blew the whistle for interference that prevented Barnhart from making a play on the cross.

But it didn’t take long for the Pride to find that second goal, as Doyle continued to find room to work her magic on the left. After a nice move to get some separation from her defender, she whipped in a nice cross. Although Cluff wasn’t able to get her head to it in front of goal, her run was enough to force Barnhart into anticipating a shot and the ball curled into the inside netting. Tymrak was credited with the assist, her 20th in her professional career.

“What you saw today is her with a real intent to go after defenders,” Hines said about Doyle’s performance. “Be threatening in the attack and transition, be decisive with her decisions, driving at defenders, getting shots off, being clinical. That’s what we want from all the forwards. You’ve got an opportunity, you must take it, and she took it tonight.”

Doyle missed a majority of the season due to injury and has been easing her way back into action.

“It felt so good,” she said about her first brace. “We needed that. I needed that. There’s been a lot of pressure on getting an end product and so, to finally get three goals, to get a shutout, you definitely saw a team performance tonight and I’m so proud of everyone.

“It doesn’t stop after one goal. I made a small goal tonight to at least get two. Losing Marta and Adriana is a huge loss for us, so I think everyone realized that and knew that we all had to step it up and I think that’s what we did tonight.”

In need of goals themselves, the Spirit went on the attack. With many of their attacking players away with the United States, the Spirit relied on getting long balls over Orlando’s back line to reach Ashley Hatch. The American forward had a good opportunity in the 21st minute by driving in a low cross to Lena Silano, but Silano couldn’t get a piece of it.

Although the Spirit were starting to more effectively impose themselves on the match, the Pride still found chances to extend their lead. In the 29th minute, pressure from Bright in the box caused a poor clearance from Tara McKeown and Abello was there to intercept it in the box. The midfielder put her first shot of the match on frame and Barnhart had to tip it over the bar for a corner kick.

The Spirit’s first shot of the match didn’t come until the 32nd minute. Hatch laid the ball off for Ines Juarena to have a go from distance, and the French midfielder’s shot skipped wide of goal.

Abello had another chance in the 34th after Bright used some skill and speed to get downfield and find her at the top of the box. This time, Abello’s shot wasn’t on target and went well over the crossbar.

The Pride didn’t slow down their push to score and Doyle had a chance for a hat trick in the 40th minute by driving a headed shot towards goal that went inches wide of the post.

Both teams had chances after the referee indicated there would be three minutes of stoppage time before halftime. Hatch continued to facilitate things for the Spirit and played a nice ball in for Nicole Douglas on the right side, but the cross harmlessly went out for a goal kick.

A minute later and the Pride were on the attack once again. Doyle blocked a clearance, chased down the ball before it could go out of play, and then raced down the wing. Bright made a good decision to find a pocket of space away from the mouth of goal instead of continuing her run, and Doyle found her wide open. Her shot was on target, but deflected out for a corner, which the Pride couldn’t capitalize on before the halftime whistle blew. Doyle and the rest of the Pride offense were electric throughout the first half, playing with the same energy no matter what the score was.

“The best defense is a good offense, so if we can keep the ball in our attacking half then we’ll make everyone’s life easier,” Doyle said following the match. “I think that we know that we can do that and if we’re going at them, why let off?” 

Although the Pride had less possession (45.5%-54.5), they bossed the Spirit for a majority of the first half. They finished the first half with nine shots, putting four of the on target, while none of the Spirit’s three shots were on target. The Pride had a clear advantage on the wings and funneled their attack out wide often, leading the Spirit in crosses (14-2) and taking more corners (5-1). Orlando also had better passing accuracy (76.4%-74.4%).

The Spirit made a pair of changes at halftime, bringing in attackers Chloe Ricketts and Civana Kuhlmann for Douglas and Amber Brooks. Ricketts made her presence felt quickly, surging down the wing until taken down by a challenge from Abello that earned her the first yellow card of the match.

Madril misplayed a pass back to Moorhouse that had nowhere near enough power behind it, giving Hatch a golden opportunity in the 57th minute. Montefusco’s rush to close down on Hatch didn’t stop the Spirit forward from easing around her slide tackle, but it gave Madril enough time to recover and Hatch’s shot was sent sailing into the stands.

Doyle came off for Ally Watt before the ensuing goal kick took place and it didn’t take long for the substitute to make an impact. Abello found Watt in space and the forward used her speed to get down the wing and serve up a low cross that deflected off of McKeown and into her own net. It’ll ultimately go down as an own goal, but Watt did well to put the ball in a dangerous area.

“There were a couple times where we were pinned back,” Hines said, “but there was a lot of good concentration and focus on the task. A two-goal lead is always difficult, that next goal is the most important. I’m glad in the second hald we got that next goal and from there we seemed pretty focused and comfortable.”

The Pride made their second change in the 64th minute, with Celia replacing Bright as the Pride aimed to close the game out. Bright performed well in this match, particularly when holding up play for other players to get involved in the attack.

A long ball from McKeown found Hatch in the Pride’s half and Hatch beat Montefusco to go on the attack. Although the Pride had players behind the ball, Montefusco brought Hatch down and received a yellow card. It was a strange foul to commit considering Hatch was alone with Pride players ready to defend. The Pride didn’t pay the price for it though as they were able to handle the ensuing free kick.

The Spirit had another dangerous free kick in the 70th minute after a flurry of attacks and they created yet another opportunity for Hatch. Sam Staab curled in a venomous cross and a diving header from Hatch certainly had enough power behind it, but it went wide of goal.

The Pride then had a chance of their own from a set piece of their own soon after. A long ball into the box from Montefusco in the center circle found Watt, who headed it down for Cluff right in front of goal. Cuff took her shot quickly, but Staab did well to deflect it. The rebound went to Watt, who sent her shot over the goal.

Madril then got some redemption for her miscue earlier by putting herself between a long ball over the top and Hatch. The defender showed plenty of strength to hold off the veteran attacker, who received a yellow card for bringing Madril down.

The Pride refused to stay on the back foot against the Spirit. Watt and Cluff continued to attack out wide, but Barnhart and the rest of the Spirit defense prevented them from widening the lead any further. A cross from Cluff was snuffed out by Barnhart and a nice cutback pass from Watt didn’t wind up with a shot taken.

Moorhouse started to get more involved in things as the Spirit got more desperate to score. Hatch slipped a through ball to Camryn Biegalski, but Moorhouse closed down the angle and Biegalski dribbled it out of play trying to work around the goalkeeper. Moorhouse then came up with a save against Kuhlmann in the 82nd minute, jumping to parry the ball over the crossbar and out for a corner. The goalkeeper punched away the first corner for another, which ended up as a goal kick after a missed shot.

The Pride had a few more chances to truly put the game to rest. Watt had a decent opportunity in space, but sent her shot well off target from a tough angle. Abello was a bit closer with her shot from a free kick a minute later, not missing the top right corner of the goal by much.

Hines made his final changes in stoppage time, with Amanda Allen and Brianna Martinez coming on for Tymrak and Abello.

Moorhouse secured her clean sheet with a save against Hatch and the Pride were able to hold on for the 3-0 victory.

At full time, the Pride had less possession (44%-56%) but did much more with the ball. They finished the game with more shots (12-9), putting four of them on target while the Spirit put just two on frame. The Spirit created more chances in the second half than the first, but the Pride still had more crosses (27-9) and both teams had five corner kicks. The Spirit also had better passing accuracy (81.7%-79.9%), but the Pride dominated in the one stat that matters most in the 3-0 win.

“Seb [Hines] said from the beginning that he was just going to expect more out of us, ” Cluff said after the win. “We know what we’re capable of. We’ve shown it in spurts throughout the season and we can play such quality soccer and beat the best of the best. But it just kind of comes down to our determination and our desire when we step on the field every single game, no matter who we’re playing. So that was kind of the message going into this game and I think that we obviously accomplished that tonight.

This was just the Pride’s second win away from Exploria Stadium this season and snapped a two-game losing skid after defeats to the North Carolina Courage and Kansas City Current. Hines spoke on how the Pride took all three points on the road against one of the league’s best teams.

“[Tonight} was more about ourselves. We needed to have a reaction after the last two defeats. Recently, we haven’t been ourselves and going to an environment like Washington, it’s difficult, of course. But, we wanted to come here with loads of energy, loads of desire, commitment, and put a real good performance together for our fans, because they deserve it. The players know it, as well, we haven’t been ourselves. Go back to our identity and when we show what we’re capable of doing, that’s where you get your success. So I was really pleased with, the not just the goals, but their overall performance and their attitude leading into this game.”


The Pride will turn their attention to Friday’s match against OL Reign at Exploria Stadium before the break in regular-season action for the World Cup. Following that match, the Pride will play four consecutive NWSL Challenge Cup matches from July 23 to Aug. 9.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals: Final Score 6-0 as Pride Destroy Royals in Historic Performance

The Pride thumped the Utah Royals 6-0 in record-setting performance.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride (9-0-5, 32 points) got back to their winning ways and extended their unbeaten run to 14 games with a club-record 6-0 win over the Utah Royals (2-11-1, 7 points) tonight at Inter&Co Stadium. Barbra Banda and Marta each scored twice while Summer Yates and Ally Watt added one.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines deployed the same lineup that played to a scoreless draw with the North Carolina Courage last weekend. Anna Moorhouse was in goal behind a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Bri Martinez. Haley McCutcheon and Yates were the defensive midfielders behind an attacking midfield of Julie Doyle, Marta, and Adriana. Banda was again the lone striker.

The Pride dominated this game from the opening seconds. They constantly threatened the Utah goal and had little to do defensively for most of the contest. Their impressive accuracy of putting 21 of 28 shots on target was key as they netted a team-record six goals and won by the largest margin in team history.

The Pride created the first chance of the game in the second minute when Abello sent Doyle down the left. The speedy midfielder tried to get around Zoe Burns in the box, but the defender did well to slide in and knock the ball out of play. The ensuing set piece by Yates found the head of McCutcheon at the near post, but she sent the redirection over the goal.

The Pride’s high press forced a turnover from the goal kick, winning back possession and creating another chance. Receiving a pass from McCutcheon, Adriana played the ball across the field for Abello. The left back took a long-distance shot into the arms of Royals goalkeeper Mandy Haught.

It looked like the Pride might strike in the ninth minute through a defensive mistake. Lauren Flynn played the ball back for Haught who misplayed it. Banda darted for the loose ball, arriving at the same time as Haught. While the forward went down, Haught got to the ball first.

The Royals created their first decent chance in the 19th minute when Ally Sentnor played the ball wide for Madison Pogarch and made a run to the far post. Pogarch’s cross found Sentnor, but she could only head it back, where it ended up with Amandine Henry outside of the box. The French international’s shot was deflected by McCutcheon, giving the visitors a corner kick.

The ensuing set piece by Sentnor was headed towards goal by Pogarch. Kate Del Fava put a body on Moorhouse, but the Pride goalkeeper was able to grab the ball and end the threat.

The Pride quickly went the other way with Doyle dribbling down the left. She played the ball to Adriana near the top of the Royals’ box and the Brazilian continued it on for Banda on the right. The striker was looking for the far post with her shot, but the ball rolled wide.

In the 26th minute, Sams sent a beautiful long diagonal ball for Doyle on the left. Dribbling inside, the midfielder took an ambitious shot towards goal, but it went straight to Haught.

The Pride’s pressure kept the ball in the Royals third of the field and they quickly created another chance. Marta sent a dangerous ball in front of the goal where Adriana was running in. The pass was a bit too far in front of her, but Banda retained possession for the Pride on the right. The forward found Adriana in front of goal, but Haught was there.

The Royals goalkeeper should’ve been able to collect the ball, but spilled the chance, forcing Del Fava to clear it out for a Pride throw-in. Off of the restart, Abello sent the ball to the back post where Banda got her head to it and put it in to give the hosts a much-deserved 1-0 lead.

“The first goal, header back post. We talked a lot about her coming into this game being in the width of the goal, being in goal-scoring positions when we’re in crossing positions,” Hines said about the first goal. “And so she took that information on and she put herself in a threatening position.”

“The main target is to score in the first minutes because it keeps the game so easy when you score first,” Banda said about the Pride scoring first. “And I think for me, I feel scoring early goals is more important to the team when we keep calm, so that we are not pressured. So, I think we really wanted that goal.”

The goal was Banda’s ninth of the season, tying her with Portland’s Sophia Smith for the league lead.

In the 37th minute, Macey Fraser’s cross towards the far post was headed away by Martinez. Pogarch came flying into the play, taking Martinez out. The ball went to Ana Tejada, who sent a hard shot towards goal. It was on frame, but Moorhouse did well to get down and make the stop. In the meantime, Martinez remained on the ground after the hard contact. While she required attention, the right back eventually got up and was able to continue.

Following the restart, the Pride nearly got a second through an excellent effort by Yates. The second-year midfielder used her change of pace to beat Michele Vasconcelos and shoot. The ball was dipping under the crossbar, forcing Haught to tip it over.

The Pride took advantage of a terrible mistake in the back by Agnes Nyberg in the third minute of first-half stoppage time to double their lead. After receiving the ball, Haught played a short pass to Nyberg. She was looking to send it wide for Del Fava, but it was a weak pass. Yates took possession and beat Haught to give the Pride a 2-0 lead.

In the sixth minute of first-half stoppage time, Doyle played Adriana forward. A late challenge by Tejada saw the Brazilian go down and the defender was booked. The ensuing set piece by Adriana was tipped by Haught off the crossbar, but the referee determined that it went directly off the crossbar and issued a goal kick.

It was a dominant first half by the Pride, who had the advantage in possession (63%-37%), shots (12-4), shots on target (9-3), corner kicks (5-1), crosses (22-3), and passing accuracy (91%-77%).

“The message to the players at halftime is 2-0 is always a dangerous score line,” Hines said about his halftime speech. “We’ve got to make sure we get that third goal.”

The Pride continued their domination over Utah at the start of the second half, scoring just two minutes after the restart. Adriana’s cross was headed out by Tejada, but only to Marta at the top of the box. After controlling it with her left foot, the Pride captain sent her second touch inside the near post to give the Pride a commanding 3-0 lead.

“To get it so quickly after halftime was really important for us,” Hines said about the early second-half goal. “And I think that momentum kind of settled us into the rest of the game.”

The Royals attempted to get one back on the other end when Paige Monaghan found Henry with space in the 50th minute. The midfielder attempted a long-distance shot, but it never challenged Moorhouse. The bouncing ball was straight to the Pride goalkeeper, enabling the English shot-stopper to make an easy save.

The Pride nearly got a fourth in the 57th minute when Adriana lifted the ball wide for Banda. The Brazilian made a run to the middle of the six-yard box while Strom headed for the back post. Banda sent a dangerous ball across the mouth of the goal, just missing the foot of Strom.

Shortly after the chance, the Pride made their first two changes in the 59th minute. Cori Dyke and Angelina came into the game for Abello and Doyle.

Utah didn’t create many good chances in this game, but had one in the 64th minute when Henry played a great ball forward for Monaghan, sending her behind the back line. Monaghan dribbled into the box and sent a low cross through the six before Dyke could catch her. Halftime substitute Hannah Betfort was making a run, but couldn’t get to it, enabling the Pride to clear the danger.

In the 64th minute, Martinez went down off the ball. The right back required treatment, resulting in lengthy delay. During the stoppage, the Pride made two more substitutions. While Martinez was able to leave the field under her own power, she was replaced by Carrie Lawrence. Additionally, Ally Lemos came into the game for McCutcheon.

Adriana used a nice piece of skill in the 71st minute to flick the ball behind the Utah back line for Yates making a run into the box. However, Del Fava did well to get a touch to the ball, enabling Haught to collect it. Yates stuck a foot in trying to knock it past the Royals goalkeeper, but she was too late.

The teams headed to the sidelines in the 79th minute for the second-half hydration break. Hines took that time to make his final substitution of the night, replacing Yates with Watt.

The Pride almost took advantage of another bad pass by Utah in the 81st minute when Tejada sent the ball straight to Lawrence. The defender sent a long pass behind the Royals back line for Banda to run onto, putting the striker in on goal. She attempted to beat Haught to her near post, but the goalkeeper made an excellent one-handed stop, knocking it wide.

Lemos made her first significant impact in the 84th minute, when she played Watt through with the outside of her foot. Watt sprinted past her defenders and into the box, but Haught came off her line to claim the ball before the forward could get a decent shot off.

Banda took advantage of another bad pass in the back to score her second of the game in the 86th minute. Pressured by Adriana, Pogarch cut back and played a pass behind her to Tejada. The center back took her eye off the ball, resulting in it going behind her. Banda beat the defender to the loose ball, dribbled around Haught, and put it in to make it 4-0.

“Second goal is just raw talent,” Hines said about Banda’s second goal. “You know, her speed is incredible. She makes something out of nothing and having the calmness to go around the keeper and slot it with her left foot.”

The goal by Banda saw her take the league lead in goals with 10 on the season.

“I think when I get a chance, I have to put the ball at the back of the net,” Banda said about her scoring mentality. “If anything I didn’t score, then I just have to go back to my drawing board and work hard so that the next time I can find a goal.”

Just two minutes later, the Pride scored their fifth of the night. Again, Lawrence played a nice ball down the right for Banda, who sprinted behind Tejada. She found Marta wide open in the box and the Brazilian probably should’ve taken it first time. However, she took a touch before sending it past Haught and increasing the lead to 5-0.

Banda was looking to become the first Pride player to net a hat trick in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. She dribbled past a clearly tired Tejada and tried to beat Haught to her near post, but hit the outside of the net.

In the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time, the Pride took the largest lead in team history. It started when Marta backheeled the ball with a defender on her back for Banda. The forward sent a cross into the box that was very well taken by Watt. Her perfect first touch beat Flynn and the substitute put it past Haught to give the Pride a 6-0 lead.

The Pride nearly scored a seventh goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time. It came from a corner kick after Flynn knocked the ball out of play. Strom outjumped a pair of defenders to get her head to the ball, hitting it off the crossbar. That was the last chance as the final whistle blew seconds later, securing the Pride’s historic 6-0 win.

The Pride finished the game with the edge in possession (63%-37%), shots (27-11), shots on target (20-9), corner kicks (8-4), crosses (31-8), and passing accuracy (89%-78%).

“It’s an outstanding performance. Flawless really. You know, the amount of goals that the players scored and to get a clean sheet. I think most importantly, it was for the fans tonight,” Hines said about the game. “I think when you look at the fixtures and you look at days like today, you know, it means a lot to the community and so we had to do our job tonight. And the players fully did that. You know, they put a real show on for the fans and the supporters who have supplied and gone through, you know, moments of adversity eight years ago. And so we’ve thought that performance epitomizes what this team is about, and the determination, their grit, and the relentlessness to go after it and get a comprehensive win.”

“We talked so much about it and I think everybody thinks about the last two games that we did and they were not happy with the results and not happy with our performance,” Marta added. “We created but we didn’t score enough and especially in the last game. Tonight, we were determined to do something different, to score all of the goals that we didn’t score last game. So, I think we did a good job when we talk about defensive and when we go to attack or we have so much passion and hunger to score. So, I think this makes a huge difference tonight.”

The 6-0 win is the largest win in team history. Previously, the Pride had beaten Sky Blue FC 5-0 on Aug. 12, 2017 and the Chicago Red Stars 5-0 on Aug. 20, 2023.

“We had a good chat after the North Carolina game because we left the game feeling disappointed that we weren’t able to score the goals that we created. But you can see tonight there was a real passion, a real hunger to put the ball back in the net,” Hines said about the six goals. “And there were some really good goals tonight. And I still think we left some on the table as well, which is remarkable, but to end the game with Adri, Ally, Barbra, Marta as a front four is pretty scary. And as the game went on, you could see the spaces and the opportunities that present themselves.”

While the focus will be on the most lopsided win in team history, the Pride extended their club record and league-leading unbeaten run to 14 games. They’re now only six results short of the NWSL record of 20, set by the Washington Spirit between 2021 and 2022. It would be another league record after they set the longest win streak earlier this season.

“Of course, we know there’s going to come one point we’re going to lose games too. But so long no happen,” Marta said about the unbeaten run. “Let’s enjoy the situation because it’s so good to be involved in situations like that. Especially with Orlando how we’ve never had a run like this one before.”

This was a record-setting game on the field and in the stands. In addition to the most goals scored in a game in club history and the highest margin of victory in club history, the attendance of 9,656 is the highest attendance ever for a game not on opening day. It was also the second-highest attendance for a Pride game at Inter&Co Stadium and the third-highest attendance in club history. The Pride previously drew 14,525 in their first game at their current stadium and 23,403 in the first game in club history at Camping World Stadium.


Having returned home and gotten back to their winning ways, the Pride will now head back out on the road for a three-game league road trip. It starts Sunday, June 30 when the Pride visit Angel City FC in Los Angeles, CA.

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Orlando Pride

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

The Pride return home and welcome the last-place Utah Royals.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (8-0-5, 29 points) return home to face the last-place Utah Royals (2-10-1, 7 points). This is the second and final scheduled meeting between the two teams during the 2024 NWSL regular season.

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 season the two teams have met since 2019, although this is an all-new side. The Pride are 2-3-2 against the Royals all-time, with all games coming in the NWSL regular season.

The last time the Pride met the Royals was on April 12 in Sandy, UT. Marta started on the bench and came on for Adriana in the 62nd minute. It didn’t take long for the Pride captain to make an impact, netting the game’s lone goal in the 68th minute as the visitors left the Beehive State with a 1-0 victory.

The 2019 season was the final one for the original Royals and the Pride faced this opponent three times. The first game between the teams was on April 27 and the difference was Christen Press, who netted the lone goal early in a 1-0 result. On May 25 in Utah, Amy Rodriguez opened the scoring from the penalty spot and Makenzy Doniak made it 2-0 late. The third meeting was on Aug. 17 in Orlando. Press gave the visitors the lead in the 60th minute and Rodriguez doubled the advantage late as the Royals won 2-0.

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 from Rodriguez, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime. In the second half, 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 enter this game after ending a two-game road trip that saw their league record eight-game win streak come to an end, but the extension of their season-opening unbeaten run to a club-record 13 games. They drew 1-1 with San Diego Wave FC and played to a scoreless draw with the North Carolina Courage, becoming the first visiting team to get points in North Carolina this season.

The two most recent games have seen the team’s defense remain strong. The Pride held a 1-0 halftime lead in San Diego and ended up conceding just once against a potent offense. The Pride backed that up by keeping the Courage — who’d won their first five home games — off the scoreboard.

In the two games prior to the North Carolina contest, Barbra Banda came off at halftime. The team’s star striker played until the 90th minute in this one, a positive going into tonight’s matchup. However, she didn’t score or create any goals against the Courage. It was the first time in nine games that Banda didn’t score a goal, assist on one, or draw a penalty.

The Royals are coming off four straight 1-0 results. The first three were losses to the Courage, Kansas City Current, and Washington Spirit. They flipped the trend on June 16 by beating fellow league newcomers Bay FC away from home.

Tonight’s opponent has struggled offensively and defensively this season. Utah is the only team in the league to have scored single-digit goals, with seven, and one of four teams with more than 20 goals conceded. The Royals’ 21 goals against are third most behind Bay FC and Seattle Reign FC, both with 25.

As you might expect from a team with only seven goals on the season, nobody has stood out as an attacking threat. Kate Del Fava and rookie Ally Sentnor lead the team with two goals each. Meanwhile, Cameron Tucker, Olivia Griffiths, and Dana Foederer have one each. Sentnor has also been the most prolific provider for Utah, recording a team-leading three assists.

Utah’s defensive unit has been much better in recent weeks. The Royals conceded multiple goals in six of their first nine games, including a season-high five goals against Racing Louisville FC on April 20. However, they’ve only given up one goal in three of their last four games and are coming off a shutout.  The recent success can be attributed to a defensive unit that’s getting used to playing together. The last three games have seen the same four in front of goalkeeper Mandy Haught, including Lauren Flynn, Ana Tejada, Del Fava, and Zoe Burns.

“We’re excited to be back at home in front of our fans,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s game. “It’s been a while, so it’s exciting. Friday night should be nice, should be good. You know, after Utah’s last result, we can’t take them for granted. We have to be on top of our game. After the game against North Carolina, we were disappointed not to come away with three points. But the performance was terrific. You know, their attitude, the commitment going into an environment like that. I am proud of them and I was really impressed with the players. So we have to continue with that same attitude, same mentality against Utah, and hopefully get a couple of goals and the three points.”

The Pride will have to win those points without several players, including Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Morgan Gautrat (concussion), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), Rafaelle (leg), and Viviana Villacorta (knee). 

Utah will be without four players for tonight’s game, including Imani Dorsey (Achilles), Olivia Griffiths (hamstring), and former Pride players Carly Nelson (excused absence) and Mikayla Cluff (foot).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

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

Defensive Midfielders: Haley McCutcheon, Summer Yates.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.

Forward: Barbra Banda.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Angelina, Amanda Allen, Ally Lemos, Mariana Larroquette, Alex Kerr, Carrie Lawrence, Cori Dyke, Ally Watt.

Utah Royals (3-5-2)

Goalkeeper: Mandy Haught.

Defenders: Lauren Flynn, Ana Tejada, Kate Del Fava.

Midfielders: Zoe Burns, Agnes Nyberg, Amandine Henry, Macey Fraser, Madison Pogarch.

Forwards: Ally Sentnor, Michele Vasconcelos.

Bench: Hannah Betfort, Dana Foederer, Emily Gray, Addisyn Merrick, Paige Monaghan, Brecken Mozingo, Cristina Roque, Frankie Tagliaferri, Cameron Tucker.

Referees

REF: Alyssa Nichols.
AR1: Ethan Buege.
AR2: Rhett Hammil.
4TH: Russell Miller.
VAR: Laura Rodriguez.
AVAR: Kaili Terry.


How to Watch

Match Time: 8 p.m.

Venue: Inter&Co Stadium — Orlando.

TV: None.

Streaming: Prime Video.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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Orlando Pride

The Pride’s Favorite Hunting Ground Is the Middle of the Box

A look into the Pride’s goals in 2024 and why it is really not a riddle why so many of their goals have come from the middle.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

In my article last week I took a look at Orlando City’s offense, or lack thereof, and so this week I am going to focus on a far more pleasant topic — the undefeated Pride and where their goals have been coming from thus far this season. Let’s take a look at this heatmap (the darker the red, the more goals in comparison to other locations) that I made below, sourced from data I took from fbref.com for the distance away from the goal and from espn.com for the general location on the field for each goal:

Now, a few things you’ll notice about this heatmap:

  • The Pride have scored 19 goals themselves thus far this season (opponents have gifted them two own goals), and 16 of the 19 (84%) have been from inside the 18 and pretty much right in front of the net. The one goal from outside the 18 was a rocket from Emily Sams on May 19 at Seattle, and that too was basically from the center of the goal, just 23 yards away, so it shows up in that very pale pink stripe outside the 18-yard box.
  • Most of the goals were scored from in between the six and the 18 (average distance for those 14 goals in the dark red = 11 yards).
  • The Pride have not scored any goals on the left side of the field all season. This is interesting, because they do have several offensive players who are left-foot dominant (you may have heard of Marta, for example), but at least through 13 games, nobody has been able to get loose on the left side of the box and finish into the net.
  • The heatmap looks like it came from Microsoft Excel…because it in fact did come from Microsoft Excel. I know that there are programs and websites out there that can provide better graphics and which may have much more detailed tracking on the exact locations shots were taken. Our team at The Mane Land will happily do all the research and share what we find. All you have to do is buy us some coffees and we will invest that right into giving you the content you desire!

Being that most of the goals scored this season by the Pride have all been in that same central location, there is not a lot of suspense in looking at the leaders in goals by location. As you surely guessed, since she leads the team in goals, Barbra Banda also leads the team in goals scored in the center of the box. What I found more interesting, however, was how those goals came about.

The website fbref.com’s shot tracking, provided by Opta, includes the last two offensive actions prior to the goal for every goal scored in every match. They call these “goal creating actions,” and here are the possible actions: live-ball pass, dead-ball pass (i.e free kick), take-on (beating a player off the dribble), taking a shot, drawing a foul, and stealing/intercepting a ball while on defense. Shown below are all 16 of those goals scored in the middle of the box, listed in order from the start of the season, and what you will see is that every goal pattern is unique, highlighting the diversity of ways the Pride have put the ball into the back of the net:

  1. Pass (Live) by Amanda Allen – Goal by Summer Yates.
  2. Pass (Dead) by Angelina – Goal by Marta.
  3. Shot by Kerry Abello – Goal by Summer Yates.
  4. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Angelina.
  5. Pass (Live) by Julie Doyle – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  6. Foul Committed on Barbra Banda – Goal by Summer Yates (penalty).
  7. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Ally Watt.
  8. Pass (Live) by Ally Watt – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  9. Take-On by Barbra Banda – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  10. Pass (Live) by Emily Sams – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  11. Foul Committed on Barbra Banda – Goal by Adriana (penalty).
  12. Pass (Live) by Marta – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  13. Shot by Haley McCutcheon – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  14. Shot by Rafaelle – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  15. Take-On by Barbra Banda – Goal by Barbra Banda.
  16. Pass (Live) by Barbra Banda – Goal by Julie Doyle.

While there are no goal patterns that have emerged yet for the location on the field where the Pride score the most goals, there is a name that jumps off the page when you look at that list — the aforementioned leading goal scorer, Barbra Banda. The Zambian is clearly far more than just a clinical finisher, though. She also drew two fouls that led to penalties, took on and beat two defenders to give herself openings to score, and also played three passes in open play for goals, including the most recent goal scored by the Pride — a Julie Doyle volley on a beautiful cross from Banda.

For the season, Banda is third in NWSL in total goal creating actions with 10, and first in goal creating actions per 90 minutes (GCA90) with 1.39, a value that is more than double the player currently in eighth (let me repeat, she is averaging more than double the person ranked in eighth!) place in the NWSL. Her GCA90 of 1.39 is also 16% higher than that of Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, who finished ranked first in England’s Women’s Super League last season with a GCA90 of 1.2. This article was not originally intended to be a Banda lovefest, but it is quite difficult to write about the Orlando Pride’s offensive success without a brief trip down the middle of the rabbit hole to look at just how good she has been this season.

Channeling my inner yoga instructor and returning us to center, the last piece to look at around the Pride’s goal scoring is to look at their shot locations and how they are doing from all sections on the field. The side-by-side heatmaps below use different colorings. The left heatmap shades from white to red as the total shots taken increases, and the right heatmap is styled more as hot/cold, with low percentages of success being blue and high percentages of success (read: goals) turning red.

I expect that were we to look at the heatmaps of most soccer teams, they would all likely look very similar to the Pride’s heatmaps above. It is highly likely that teams will try to shoot most frequently from the middle of the areas closest to the goal, and it is highly likely as well that they will achieve higher percentages of success from shots in the middle of the field and close to the goal. Just like teams in the NBA have identified that corner 3-point shots and shots in the paint are the primary places that they want to look for their shots, most soccer teams are game-planning their offenses around creating shots right smack in the middle of the 18.

Opposing teams know this, of course, and that is where the battle of wills and wits comes into play that we love watching so much. So far this season, the Pride have clearly been winning these battles, as evidenced by the fact that even though defenses are trying to stop them, they have still managed to take 76 of their 195 shots (39%) from the most dangerous spots on the field and have scored 16 goals on those shots, a conversion rate of 21%.

If they keep up their current goal-scoring pace the 2024 Pride are on pace to surpass their total goals scored from 2023 (27 goals) within the next 4 games, and they have an outside chance to score the most goals of any Pride team ever (current leader = 2017 Pride with 45 goals) if they can slightly increase their goals/game rate during the second half of the season. I think they have a legit chance to do this, and if they do I expect it will be because they continue to excel at pouncing on the opportunities they create in the center of the box.

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