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Orlando Pride vs. OL Reign: Final Score 1-0 as the Pride Win Their Second Straight

Messiah Bright’s 16th-minute header was the difference as the Pride beat OL Reign at Exploria Stadium.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride (6-8-1, 19 points) won their second straight game, beating OL Reign (7-5-3, 24 points) 1-0 at Exploria Stadium tonight. Messiah Bright’s 16th-minute header from a perfect Julie Doyle cross was the difference in the contest.

It was just Orlando’s second win ever against OL Reign in the all-time series (2-6-7).

The Pride came out with the same 4-3-3 starting lineup from last weekend’s 3-0 win over the Washington Spirit. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was the usual of Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Kerry Abello, Viviana Villacorta, and Mikayla Cluff were in the midfield behind a front line of Doyle, Bright, and Erika Tymrak.

The Reign were missing nine players in this game, which was noticeable as the Pride dominated the entire 90 minutes. The visitors had a brief attack right after kickoff, but they didn’t challenge Moorhouse and the Pride controlled the rest of the game. Even when the Pride brought on defensive substitutions late in an attempt to see the game out, the Reign couldn’t create opportunities in the final third.

OL Reign kicked off and quickly created the first chance of the game. Bethany Balcer and Elyse Bennett used some quick passing to create a shot for the latter, but Moorhouse got down to block it wide and out for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece was headed out by Sam Hiatt for a goal kick, ending the early threat.

The Pride got their first chance shortly after on the other end, when former Pride center back Phoebe McClernon attempted to shield the ball from Doyle. But she was the last to touch it, giving the Pride a corner kick. The ensuing kick ended up with McCutcheon, but her shot was blocked out of play by Olivia Athens. She had a second chance from a second Villacorta corner kick, but this one went high and wide left.

The Pride nearly took the lead in the fourth minute with an own goal. Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce came out to collect the corner, but Ryanne Brown got to it first. The collision sent the ball back towards goal, where it bounced off the post, allowing the visitors to clear it.

Tymrak had a chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Abello found her on the left side of the box. The veteran midfielder attempted to beat Tullis-Joyce from a tough angle, but the Reign goalkeeper did well to get down and make the stop.

In the 16th minute, the Pride did take the lead from a fantastic individual effort by Doyle. The attacker received the ball on the left and beat Brown one-on-one, before sending a beautiful ball to the top of the six-yard-box. Bright beat Lauren Barnes to the spot and powered her header past Tullis-Joyce to give the Pride an early 1-0 lead.

“I really was just trying to make sure that I stayed within the frame of the goal and just making sure I was in areas to put myself in a position and my team in a position to get the finish. And it worked out really perfectly,” Bright said about her goal. “The buildup was perfect coming from each individual, so I was just happy to get on the frame with it.”

“You see Julie’s intent to take the fullback on and Messiah times her run perfect and it’s some bullet header. It’s brilliant. I love headed goals,” Hines added. “So, I was excited for her and, you know, it’s great for Messiah to get that other goal because she’s deserved it. All the work ethic and what she puts into the game. The harsh reality as a forward, you’re always gonna get judged on goals. So now you’ve seen her put herself in good positions to score goals and the execution was perfect.”

Already down a goal, things got worse for the visitors in the 20th minute when Jess Fishlock went down away from the ball. The midfielder received treatment on the field for a few minutes before coming off for Nikki Stanton.

The Reign were unable to clear the ball in the 28th minute, creating another opportunity for the Pride. Bright got to the ball before Stanton, knocking it back to Abello. The midfielder was far from goal, but attempted an ambitious shot anyway. It was difficult to tell if it was on target, but Tullis-Joyce palmed it away to be sure.

Bright had a chance for a brace in the 34th minute when Tymrak sent her behind Hiatt. The striker dribbled deep into the box and got a shot off, but Tullis-Joyce came out to cut down the angle, blocking it out of play.

Abello created a chance in the 39th minute when she cut inside to beat McClernon and sent a low shot towards goal. Unfortunately, the ball rolled just wide of the far post. Tymrak was making a back-post run, but couldn’t get there in time to redirect the ball on target and the Reign survived the scare.

In the 44th minute, McCutcheon played a long ball for Tymrak who just stayed onside. The midfielder played it across for Bright, but it was a little too far for a one-touch shot. The rookie forward did well to hold the ball up, shielding and eventually turning Brown to get off a shot. But it was right to Tullis-Joyce, who made the stop.

Both teams put one shot on target in stoppage time. McClernon found Bennett in the box for the first, but her header was right to Moorhouse. On the other end, McCutcheon found Bright, but she couldn’t get much on the header and Tullis-Joyce made an easy stop.

The Reign had more possession in the first 45 minutes (52.6%-47.4%), but the Pride had more shots (12-3), shots on target (6-2), corners (6-2), and crosses (12-7). The visitors had two shots during their first attack, but didn’t find another shot until first-half stoppage time and the Pride took a 1-0 lead into the break.

The Pride got the first shot of the second half in the 50th minute when Abello sent an ill-advised shot towards goal from the left that went right into the arms of Tullis-Joyce. A better attempt came on the other end when Veronica Latsko sent a dangerous ball through the box. It went over the head of a ducking Bethany Balcer and just out of the reach of Olivia Van der Jagt and Olivia Athens, going harmlessly out of play.

In the 54th minute, Cluff and Tymrak used a nice give-and-go to beat Van der Jagt, opening up a shot for Cluff at the top of the box. The midfielder attempted to chip Tullis-Joyce, but sent the ball over the crossbar.

The Pride made their first change in the 62nd minute, as Ally Watt entered the game for Doyle. It was a like-for-like change, as Watt and Doyle are arguably the two fastest players on the team. Watt took over Doyle’s position and the Pride remained in the same formation.

Watt didn’t take long to make her presence felt. In the 64th minute, she took the ball from Van der Jagt after Cluff applied pressure. Carrying the ball to the top of the box, the speedster attempted to play Bright behind the defense, but the pass was a bit too far in front.

The Pride made their second change in the 67th minute, resulting in some shifting of positions but keeping the same formation. Celia came on and took over at right back, replacing defensive midfielder Abello. McCutcheon moved from right back into the defensive midfield.

In the 72nd minute, second-half substitute McKenzie Weinert was sent behind the Pride defense by fellow substitute Alyssa Malonson. Moorhouse came off her line to block the attempt, but it went to Balcer, whose shot was blocked by Celia. It didn’t matter anyway as the assistant’s flag went up for offside on the initial ball forward.

A scary moment occurred for the Pride in the 76th minute when Barnes sent Bennett into the Pride box with a long aerial ball. Moorhouse came out to collect it and Bennett slammed into the Pride’s starting goalkeeper. Moorhouse went down hard and had to receive attention from the Pride medical staff, but was able to continue. Meanwhile, Bennett was issued a yellow card for the challenge.

The Pride continued to look for a second goal to put the game away and Bright had multiple chances as the clock neared 90 minutes. In the 84th minute, Tymrak played the ball wide for Watt and the substitute sent a low cross into the box for the striker. Bright collected it and turned, but hit the ball well over the crossbar.

In the 86th minute, Bright made a great run into the box, using some slick moves to beat McClernon and Barnes. She created enough space for a shot, but hit the outside of the near post.

After Bright’s second miss, the Pride made their two final changes, looking to see out the three points. Defensive players Jordyn Listro and Brianna Martinez came into the game for attackers Bright and Tymrak.

Due to some extended stoppages where players required medical attention, the fourth official displayed nine minutes of injury time, a large number the Pride weren’t wanting to see. While the Reign won a pair of free kicks in the opposing half, they weren’t able to get any shots off and the Pride held on for the 1-0 win.

The Reign ended the game with more possession (51.3%-48.7%), but the Pride led the other statistical categories. The hosts had more shots (16-5), shots on target (7-2), corners (6-2), and crosses (15-12), and better passing accuracy (72.7%-67.3%).

“It was exciting. Especially when the fourth put nine minutes up at the end,” Hines said about the game. “But now listen, the players put a lot of work into that performance today and they got the reward for it. They started the game really fast. The front four put Seattle under pressure straight from kickoff, got an early goal, probably could have scored a couple more if the ball just dropped inside the frame of the goal, but you know they were brilliant from start to finish and that’s what it takes to win a game of football in this league.”

This is the second clean sheet for the Pride in as many games after keeping the Spirit scoreless last weekend. Also notable is that the Pride hung onto their lead late with nine minutes of added time. Seeing out games was something the team struggled with earlier this season, but they were able to see this one out to claim all three points.

“I think that was almost the best thing that could have happened to us because we’ve learned through experience and learned the hard way,” Montefusco said about conceding late goals earlier this season. “Not always the way you want to do it, but honestly, I look back and I’m thankful for it. Because you see it tonight. We’re so focused, we’re so tuned in and locked in those moments. The nerves are there and you just don’t want it to happen again. So you do anything you can to see the game out and the look on everyone’s face was just so motivated to finish out the game because we just wanted to end it and show the crowd and everyone here tonight that we deserve that win and we’re not going to let it slide.”

“Early on, we learned the hard way. It was obviously disappointing because we dropped points early on in the season,” Hines added. “You’ve seen the progression of the players have made, the team’s made since that moment. So now we’re holding the ball in the corner seeing it out. We have that determination to not concede and that’s brilliant, managing games much better.”

This was the last game before the Pride head into the World Cup break that lasts until late August. The next NWSL regular season game for the team will take place on Aug. 20 when they welcome the Chicago Red Stars to Exploria Stadium.

The Pride enter the break on a two-game winning streak with two clean sheets. It’s a great way to enter the extended time off, but Hines said that he has mixed feelings about the momentum heading into the down period.

“You can go two ways, right? Because, you know, you have good momentum, we’ve got six points the last two games, two clean sheets, four goals. You know, you want the next game to come around quickly, but I think the players deserve this time off now,” Hines said. “It’s important for them to reset the batteries and go again for the last push at the end of the season. Because you know there’s still a lot of points left on the table.”

The three points gained tonight don’t move the Pride far up the table, but it keeps them within touching distance of the sixth and final playoff spot. They’re currently on 19 points, tied with Racing Louisville for seventh in the league, and jumped the Houston Dash, who fell to the Red Stars tonight. They’re one point out of sixth place behind San Diego Wave FC, who play tomorrow.


While the Pride have over six weeks between league games, they’ll have four Challenge Cup games in that time. That stretch begins on July 23 when they welcome NJ/NY Gotham FC to Exploria Stadium.

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 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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