The Orlando Pride (7-8-1, 22 points) had their best performance of the year in their first game after the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup break, crushing the Chicago Red Stars (5-10-1, 16 points) 5-0. Rafaelle and Mariana Larroquette both scored on their debuts for the team and Messiah Bright scored the first brace of her young career. The fifth goal was by midfielder Mikayla Cluff.
The return of the World Cup participants meant that Marta and Adriana rejoined the lineup. Rafaelle also entered the lineup at center back, replacing Megan Montefusco and making her Pride debut. The back line in front of goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse was Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Rafaelle, and Haley McCutcheon. Viviana Villacorta and Kerry Abello were in the defensive midfield behind Julie Doyle, Marta, and Adriana, with Bright up top.
Similar to their first meeting in Illinois on May 27, the Pride dominated this game from start to finish. Other than a brief flurry of blocked shots in the first half, Chicago couldn’t get anything going offensively. However, while the Pride were unable to hit the target in their first meeting, they put five behind Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in this one.
The Pride dominated possession in the opening minutes, creating all of the opportunities in the opposing end. In the 11th minute, Marta attempted to play Bright behind the Chicago defense, but the rookie striker wasn’t expecting it. Two minutes later, Rafaelle sent a terrific ball behind the back line for Bright. Unfortunately, her first touch was too heavy, allowing Naeher to collect it.
The first shot of the game came in the 13th minute, when Doyle, who the Pride were constantly playing to outside early, sent a low cross into the box. It looked like the defense would easily clear, but there was some miscommunication. Marta took advantage, reaching in to put the ball on goal. However, the close-range shot was right to Naeher.
The Pride finally took the lead in the 14th minute from a corner kick. Adriana and Marta stood over the ball, with Adriana stepping over it. Marta’s cross was outside of the six-yard box and beyond the back post, where Rafaelle got her head to it. The newly-signed Brazilian sent the ball towards the opposite post where it beat Naeher for the opening goal.
“Obviously, Rafa is a world class center half,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about the opening goal. “And you know, she’s been threatening in her career off set pieces, and it’s nice to get that early goal. Nice for her to get that goal early on as well.”
Less than a minute later, McCutcheon nearly doubled the Pride’s lead. She attempted to play the ball across for Bright, but it was blocked right back to her. The right back’s second ball was a shot towards the far post that sent Naeher diving, but it went just wide of the post.
Marta came close to scoring in her first game back with the team in the 19th minute, when Doyle’s low cross was cleared out by Kayla Sharples. The clearance went to Marta outside of the box and the Pride captain took an ambitious shot on goal. It was a good strike, but went just over the crossbar.
The Pride doubled their lead in the 24th minute when McCutcheon blocked a long-distance attempt by Penelope Hocking — Chicago’s first shot of the game. She played the ball forward for Doyle, who immediately sent Bright into the Red Stars half. Hocking slid in with a very late challenge on Doyle, but referee Anya Voigt waved play on. Taylor Malham was on the striker, but left her too much space. Bright took advantage of the room, sending the ball inside the far post to give the Pride a 2-0 lead.
“I think when you just think about it in the moment and think it’s just picking your moments, I’m usually more of an attacking player that looks to go in the box,” Bright said about her first goal of the night. “So I think just trusting myself with my shot and knowing that I do have the range to kick it outside of the 18 as well. So I just took a chance and just really just had a good technique on it.”
“I think we’ve had games before where we’ve had those chances in the first 15, 20 minutes and we haven’t put them away,” Madril said about scoring two goals early. “And then it just puts more pressure on us to try to get that goal and then we have to work harder to just get those goals. So I think it’s great to get those two goals early and kind of let things calm down and kind of play or composed soccer and keep the ball and have Chicago chase the whole time.”
Before the Red Stars could restart, Voigt went back to the challenge on Doyle, issuing Hocking a yellow card for the late challenge.
Bright had a chance for a first-half brace in the 29th minute when a quick give-and-go between the rookie and Marta sent Bright behind the Red Stars defense. She got herself in position to shoot as she entered the box with Malham closing in, but the attempt was right to Naeher.
After only taking one shot in the first 34 minutes, the Red Stars had two good chances in the 35th minute. Strom attempted to shield St-Georges from the ball near her own end line, but St-Georges was able to play it back for Ava Cook. The forward took a touch to create space from Rafaelle and shot. Fortunately, Madril was backing her fellow center back up and blocked it. The rebound went right back to Cook, who laid it off for Yuki Nagasato behind her. Nagasato’s shot beat Rafaelle, but was blocked by Strom.
A minute later, the Red Stars forced Moorhouse into her first stop of the game when Casey Krueger found Hocking to her left. Hocking had some space for a shot and tried to beat Moorhouse to her near post, but the Pride goalkeeper got down to block it out of play.
The Red Stars had one more first-half opportunity in the 36th minute, when Nagasato found Julia Bianchi outside of the Pride box. The midfielder took a shot from distance, but Madril stepped in front of it for the block. The small flurry of chances was the only Chicago threat in the first half and the Pride were able to take a 2-0 lead into the break.
After 45 minutes, the Red Stars had more possession (51.7%-48.3%), but the Pride had more shots (9-5), shots on target (4-1), and crosses (11-7), and better passing accuracy (85.5%-81.2%). Both teams had two corners in the first half.
It looked like the Red Stars might get back into the game in the 49th minute when Krueger sent a long ball for Jenna Bike, who came on at halftime for St-Georges. Bike got behind the Pride defense, but Strom slid in to take the ball away. Hocking and Bike, who went down on the play, threw their arms in the air, claiming it should’ve been a penalty. But Voigt decided it was a clean challenge.
The Pride quickly went the other way with Adriana playing it forward for Marta. The Brazilian used the outside of her left foot to send Bright behind the Red Stars defense. Naeher came out of the box to challenge the striker, but Bright remained calm, dribbling around her and putting it in for her second goal of the night.
“The main thing that was going through my mind was just making sure I stayed even with the back line so I wouldn’t be caught offside,” Bright said about the goal. “But also just having that separation as well to break off once she passed. It is quite amazing how she got the ball through there. It’s Marta, so I mean, couldn’t expect nothing less. But my main thing was once she played it, I saw Naeher coming out, so I just went around her and the goal was wide open. I was kind of getting off balance a little bit so my main thing was just placing it, putting a little heat on it, and just redirecting it in the goal.”
It was Bright’s sixth goal of the season, tying her for fifth in the league. It’s also her first career brace, something the rookie says she’s been aiming for.
“I’ve been searching for that career brace for a minute now,” Bright said. “So it was pretty, you know, good to just get that. And I was actually aiming for a hat trick but, you know, take it a game at a time.”
Chicago had a chance to get one back in the 59th minute when Bianchi’s long-distance shot was blocked out of play by Rafaelle. The ensuing corner kick got under the arm and Moorhouse, but, fortunately, the Pride were able to clear.
Hines made his first changes of the game in the 60th minute. Cluff, Larroquette, and Jordyn Listro entered the game for Doyle, Bright, and Villacorta.
It didn’t take long for Larroquette to make an impact as she scored 3:46 into her Pride debut. The new forward received the ball on the left side of the box from Cluff and cut inside to beat her defender. The Argentine placed her shot with her right foot past Naeher and into the top corner to give the Pride a 4-0 lead.
“For Larroquette, you know, coming in and, you know, you can see the hunger that she brings to try and score.”Hines said about the new striker. “Every moment she wants to score.”
Four minutes later, the Pride scored a fifth and it was another substitute. Cluff played Adriana down the right and the Brazilian used some good footwork to beat Amanda Kowalski. Cluff continued her run into the box and Adriana found her. Cluff’s first touch was a soft shot inside the far post to give the Pride a 5-0 lead.
With the game well under control, the Pride made two final changes. Megan Montefusco came on for Rafaelle in the 70th minute and Summer Yates replaced Adriana in the 73rd minute.
The Pride nearly had a sixth in the 82nd minute when Abello beat her defender and sent a cross towards the top of the six-yard box. Naeher tried to knock the ball away, but only put it in front for Larroquette. Unfortunately, the Argentinian couldn’t get her foot on the ball and the Red Stars cleared.
Chicago had a chance to get on the scoresheet in the 85th minute when Ella Stevens sent fellow substitute Ally Schlegel behind the Pride defense. Schlegel’s first touch should’ve been a shot on goal, but it was a heavy one instead. Moorhouse came out to challenge and the two collided, resulting in the ball rolling out of play. Moorhouse was down briefly and required medical attention, but was able to continue.
The fourth official put up six minutes of second-half stoppage time, but the Pride were content with their five-goal lead. The only chance in the dying minutes came in the first minute of added time when Krueger did well to keep possession in the Pride box and send the ball towards the penalty spot. Cari Roccaro met the ball and took a shot, but Madril got in front of the attempt, blocking it wide.
The Red Stars finished the game with more possession (51.1%-48.9%) and corner kicks (6-4), but weren’t able to create much from them. The Pride had more shots (13-9), shots on target (7-1), and crosses (17-15), and better passing accuracy (85.6%-82.8%).
“The players were brilliant today,” Hines said about the performance. “From start to finish, the intensity of how they did everything, from attacking to defending. We talked heavily about taking our opportunities, end product in the final third. And, you know, they were brilliant. I can’t speak highly (enough) of them. You know, we’ve felt like that performance has been coming. But it’s nice to finally get a good score line at the end of it.”
The five goals are the most the Pride have scored in a game since May 26, 2018 when they beat the Red Stars in Illinois, 5-2. It’s their largest win since Aug. 12, 2017 when they won 5-0 over Sky Blue FC at Exploria Stadium. It’s also the first time that the Pride have beaten the Red Stars in Orlando, now with a record of 1-7-1 at home against tonight’s opposition.
In addition to team history, the Pride also set some league history tonight. They did that earlier this year by conceding the latest goals in league history, but this time it was positive. Brazilians Marta, Adriana, and Rafaelle all had a part in goals, the first time in NWSL history that three players from the same country other than the United States had goal contributions in the same game.
It was a clutch performance for the Pride as they attempt to qualify for the NWSL playoffs for the first time since 2017. Racing Louisville lost last night, so the Pride move in front of them into seventh place. The final playoff spot is currently held by San Diego Wave FC, which is three points ahead of the Pride after this weekend’s games.
The win makes the Pride’s next match even more essential as they welcome the Wave to Exploria Stadium Friday night with a chance to climb even on points for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 2-1 as Ally Watt and Adriana Lead Pride to Vital Win
The Pride used two first-half goals to beat the North Carolina Courage, moving up to seventh in the NWSL.
The Orlando Pride (8-10-1, 25 points) returned home in a must-win game and took care of business, beating the North Carolina Courage (8-7-4, 28 points) 2-1 at Exploria Stadium. Ally Watt scored the earliest goal in Pride history, giving the hosts the lead inside the first minute. Adriana doubled the advantage in the 32nd minute, which was all the Pride needed. Manaka Matsukubo got one back in the 52nd minute, but North Carolina couldn’t find an equalizer and the Pride took all three points.
Despite being on the road, the Courage dominated possession in this game. The Pride played like the typical visiting team, defending fiercely and hitting the opposition on the counter attack. It was successful, as they scored twice with that method and nearly had more. The task became easier when Malia Berkely was sent off in the 78th minute, enabling the Pride to control the dying minutes.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 to OL Reign on Sept. 3 in Seattle. Carly Nelson started in goal for the suspended Anna Moorhouse, who was sent off in the third minute in the team’s most recent game. Watt entered the lineup in the striker’s role for Messiah Bright, and Adriana returned to the lineup after missing the trip out west, replacing Kerry Abello. Bright and Abello started this game on the bench.
The back line in front of Nelson was Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Madril, and Haley McCutcheon. Mikayla Cluff and Jordyn Listro were the starting defensive midfielders behind Julie Doyle, Marta, and Adriana. Watt was the lone forward up top.
Cluff and Viviana Villacorta started the season as the defensive midfield partnership. That changed to a Villacorta and Abello partnership with Cluff and Listro coming off the bench. However, Cluff and Listro have started the last two games, an interesting switch as the season nears its end.
“It’s tough decisions, right? There’s not a lot (of separation) between the four midfielders, between Jordyn, Kayla, and Vivi. They’ve all done really well this season,” Hines said about the change. “So it’s being adaptable, giving players opportunities. We felt like it was a good balance in the midfield with Kayla and Jordyn.”
The Pride got off to the best possible start in this game. Listro intercepted a Matsukubo pass at midfield and played Adriana forward. Watt ran around left back Emily Fox, reaching the ball at the top of the 18. Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy came out and got a piece of the shot, but not enough as the ball rolled in to give the Pride an early lead.
“Ally took her goal really well,” Hines said about Watt’s strike. “Very pleased for Ally because she’s put so much work into her craft the last couple of weeks. And she gets a reward with a goal.”
“I think you just realize you have — we have — full trust and faith in them with anything,” Watt said about playing with Marta and Adriana. “Adriana is called the wizard for a reason. She gets balls off in the most magical way I’ve ever seen, honestly. So, I think we just have full trust in them. So when we make the run, we fully know that we’re going to get that ball if we execute properly. And when they’re on the ball, they might do some magic on their own, but they’re going to feed it to you as well. So, we always have to be prepared for whatever they’re going to be providing, because they’re very unpredictable players. And that’s what we love about them.”
The goal crossed the line 38 seconds after kickoff, making it the earliest goal in Pride history. It was only 16 seconds off of the league record of scoring 22 seconds into a game.
“We talk about starting the game quickly,” Hines said. “You know, the first pass, first dribble, setting the tone straight from kickoff. And it’s the best way to start a game, scoring a goal.”
The Courage had their first chance of the game in the eighth minute when Ryan Williams’ cross was headed out of play by McCutcheon. Haley Hopkins jumped over Doyle to reach Berkely’s corner kick at the back post, but sent it straight to Nelson.
In the 13th minute, Williams received the ball from Kerolin and dribbled into the Pride box. The right back cut inside and played a short pass where Kerolin had run past Rafaelle. The midfielder found forward Tess Boade wide open at the top of the six-yard box, but Boade couldn’t get over the shot and sent it over the target.
A Pride goal kick in the 16th minute ended up with Rafaelle, who attempted to play it short to Strom on the side. But Kerolin intercepted it. After quickly playing a pass to the middle for an open Boade, Rafaelle took down her international teammate, earning the game’s first booking.
The ensuing free kick by Narumi Miura was short to Kerolin and the Brazilian lifted the ball to the top of the six. Nelson came out strong, initially fumbling the ball after midair contact with an opposing attacker, but eventually collecting it. Kaleigh Kurtz charged into Nelson and both players went to the ground. Referee Danielle Chesky called a foul on Kurtz, ending the North Carolina threat.
The Pride had a chance to double their lead in the 24th minute when Watt found Adriana in the box from the left. Miura got in front of the shot, blocking it back to the midfielder. Adriana took a second shot, but Miura got in front of that one as well, enabling the Courage to clear.
The Pride scored their second goal right after the restart of the first-half hydration break. Nelson restarted with a goal kick to Strom, who sent the ball forward for Adriana. The attacker left it for Marta, whose back heel was blocked by Berkely, but it went right back to her. The second pass attempt by Marta was wide to Doyle, who sent Adriana behind the Courage back line with her first touch. As Miura attempted to catch up with the Brazilian, Murphy stayed on her goal line. Adriana put it into the corner of the net from the top of the six-yard box, giving the Pride a 2-0 lead.
“I saw Marta get it, and whenever Marta gets it on her left foot, that means I’ve got to run into the back space, because I know that she can find me through. And that’s what she did,” Doyle said about her assist. “And then I saw Adriana had a ton of space in behind, because they were really high. And Adriana’s so fast. I’m just like, all I have to do is get it to her and I know that she’ll do great things. And that’s what we saw.”
Poor passing in the 44th minute nearly gave the Pride a chance for a third when Murphy played a short ball to Berkely in the Courage box. The center back nonchalantly sent it back to her goalkeeper, wide of the target. Watt, one of the league’s fastest players, attempted to beat Murphy to the ball and got a piece as Murphy attempted to clear it. But the visitors were able to get it away without any damage.
At halftime, North Carolina had far more possession (69.4%-30.6%), but couldn’t do much with it. Meanwhile, the Pride were happy to hit them on the counter, resulting in a halftime lead. While both teams had four first-half shots, the Pride put two on target and the Courage put one on frame. North Carolina also led the Pride in corner kicks (1-0) and crosses (6-1), and passed more accurately (91.6%-74.2%).
“Going into the second half, we changed our formation a little bit when we had that water break, so we just went over it again. Because passing information is difficult in that kind of situation,” Watt said about the halftime message. “(Hines) was telling us that I’m going to put the pressure on you. You guys are 2-0 up, and that’s a dangerous lead to have. They can come in and score and get momentum, and they certainly did score, but we did a really good job hanging onto it. And then the red card happened and we were just able to take control of the game and everything.”
The Pride created a pair of chances within the first five minutes of the second half. In the 48th minute, a Kurtz pass across for Miura was intercepted by Watt. The forward sprinted towards the Courage box, pulling up when Berkely got in front of her. Adriana called for the ball, but Watt took the long-distance shot herself. It didn’t cause any trouble for Murphy at the near post, who easily collected it.
A minute later, the Pride went on another counterattack. Doyle turned her defender and played a give-and-go with Marta on the left. The midfielder sent a low cross into the box for Adriana, but it was too far in front of her and Fox cleared it away.
The two missed opportunities proved costly in the 52nd minute when North Carolina got a goal back. Hopkins played the ball wide for Fox and the defender sent a cross into the box. Hopkins had made a run, but let the ball run past her to Matsukubo waiting behind, unmarked. The 19-year-old didn’t miss her opportunity, putting it past Nelson to cut the Pride lead to 2-1.
Three minutes later, the Courage had a chance for an equalizer when Kerolin sent a cross toward Fox in the middle of the box. The left back redirected the ball towards goal, but couldn’t get over it and the attempt went over the crossbar.
Shortly after the miss, Hines made his first substitution of the night. Regular starting striker Bright entered the game for Watt. The Pride made two more changes in the 64th and 65th minutes, replacing Doyle and Cluff with Abello and Villacorta.
A controversial moment occurred in the 66th minute when Adriana dribbled into the North Carolina box. She cut inside to beat Kerolin, before Fox came back to win the ball. The ball popped up and appeared to hit Fox’s arm at the edge of the box, which was up to shield her face. The play is only reviewable for a penalty, but the video assistant referee didn’t call for Chesky to take a look.
“In the 66th minute, the referee observed the ball hit the NC Courage player’s hand, which was in a natural position,” Chesky responded after the game. “At the next stoppage, the VAR checked the incident and confirmed no clear or obvious error.”
The comeback got more difficult for the Courage in the 78th minute when Berkely was sent off. A short free kick to the center back resulted in a bad pass into the box. Madril got to it first, sending it downfield. Adriana was the first to the ball and used her speed to get behind Berkely. The center back, who was clearly the last defender, took down the midfielder and Chesky immediately issued a red card. The VAR checked the play and confirmed the decision, giving the Pride a player advantage for the final 12 minutes.
The Pride nearly took advantage and scored a third in the 82nd minute when Marta’s shot was blocked out by Kurtz. The ensuing corner kick by Adriana found a wide-open Rafaelle beyond the back post. The center back’s header was off the outside of the post, keeping the score at 2-1.
The fourth official showed five minutes of second-half stoppage time, but that was increased when Rafaelle’s inadvertent elbow found the head of Courage substitute Tyler Lussi. Blood was dripping down her face, so the forward needed to change her shirt and shorts. Hines took the opportunity to make two final changes, replacing Adriana and Listro with Brianna Martinez and Celia.
While the Pride had a defensive lineup for the final minutes, the 10-player Courage were unable to create any chances. The Pride did well to maintain possession, continuously taking it to the corner to run the clock out. It was a successful strategy as they held on for a crucial win.
North Carolina ended the game with significantly more possession (67.2%-32.8%), but was unable to create more chances with it. Both teams had 10 shots and the Pride put more on target (3-2). The Courage had more crosses (14-11) and passed more accurately (88.7%-73.2%). The Pride had more corner kicks (4-2).
“Massive win tonight,” Hines said. “Running out of games now. Only three games to go and we have to give absolutely everything. I think looking back, you know, some of the performances are brilliant. We haven’t rewarded ourselves with the three points and you know, I’m so happy that we were able to get up in the game, take our opportunities. And a lot of credit has to go to the players, because they’re the ones who are competing, going out there day in, day out in training and performing at such a high level in the field. We’ve made it uncomfortable for North Carolina, going up in the game and then not giving them too much to try and play through the lines and stop that rhythm. But you have to have the right mindset to do that, and I felt everyone from back to front did their job and they were brilliant at their job.”
“We’ve been working so freaking hard, and it’s so nice to finally get the reward, because I think you’ve seen this team have games like this and sometimes it just doesn’t go our way,” Doyle added. “So for it to finally go our way, it’s just such a relief.”
It was a unique home game for the Pride because the hosts usually have the majority of possession. It was the opposite in this one because the Courage dominated possession and the Pride had to maintain their concentration. That’s something the team has had trouble with this season, especially on set pieces.
“We knew they’re a team that gets 500 passes per game. So credit to them,” Doyle said. “They’re a super good football team, so we knew we had to be disciplined in our defensive shape. That’s what we’ve been working on all week and we really just had to stay compact.”
The win sees the Pride jump the Houston Dash, Racing Louisville FC, and Angel City FC, from 10th to seventh place. They’re now only one point behind the Washington Spirit for the sixth and final playoff spot. While they’re tied with Angel City on points, the Pride currently hold the tiebreaker on goal difference.
The Pride now have a two-week break before they take the field again. They were supposed to play Angel City in Los Angeles on Thursday night, but that game was delayed until Oct. 2 because of the upcoming international break.
Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
The Orlando Pride return home after a two-week break to face the North Carolina Courage at Exploria Stadium.
Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (7-10-1, 22 points) welcome the North Carolina Courage (8-6-4, 28 points) to Exploria Stadium. This is the fourth meeting between these two teams this year and the second in the NWSL regular season.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Courage have played 22 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage. The Pride are 4-13-5 in those games (4-10-1 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-3-2 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).
The most recent meeting between the two teams was a July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina. The Pride didn’t show up for that one, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Radcliffe and Malia Berkely gave the hosts a 2-0 halftime lead before Frankie Tagliaferri made it three, and a late brace by Haley Hopkins completed the 5-0 result.
The game prior to that was on June 17 in North Carolina and, again, it was all Courage. Kerolin and Meredith Speck gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before a Haley McCutcheon own goal made it 3-0 to North Carolina. On April 19 at Exploria Stadium, the Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up Ally Watt for the opening goal. But Denise O’Sullivan equalized in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
Prior to that game, they last played on Sept. 21, 2022, at Exploria Stadium. The Courage got off to a great start when Debinha scored in the second minute. The Brazilian then assisted Tess Boade in first-half injury time to double the lead, and later added another, dooming the Pride to a 3-0 defeat.
The previous 2022 meeting came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring early. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead with her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win.
The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place on April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start in this one, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.
The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored late to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha and Havana Solaun goals helped the Courage take home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized moments later and the teams drew 1-1.
The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game in a scoreless draw.
Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, meeting twice. The first was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.
The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on April 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but scored four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by the Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.
The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.
The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on Apr. 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando when the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted a late winner, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.
Three games ago, the Pride were in a great position to qualify for the NWSL playoffs for the second time in team history. They were two points out of sixth and facing the team occupying that spot in two consecutive games. They fell 2-1 to San Diego Wave FC at home on Aug. 25 and fought valiantly, despite being down a player for almost all of the 1-0 loss against OL Reign.
The Pride now find themselves in a tough position. They’re four points behind the Washington Spirit with four games remaining, but there are three teams between them. Angel City FC and Racing Louisville FC are two of those three teams and the Pride will face both in the coming weeks. Regardless, they’ll likely need to finish the season on a four-game winning streak to qualify for the postseason.
The quest for their longest winning streak of the season and the longest since 2017 begins tonight. The team will be without starting goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse, who was sent off in the third minute against OL Reign two weeks ago. Carly Nelson will take her spot in the lineup after a terrific display in Seattle.
The key attacking player missing against OL Reign was Adriana, whose four league goals are second on the Pride behind Messiah Bright’s six, and her three assists lead the team. She wasn’t on the availability report prior to the game in Seattle but didn’t make the trip. Her return tonight would be a boost to a team that desperately needs three points.
The Courage suffered back-to-back 2-1 losses to Angel City FC and the Portland Thorns on either side of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup break, but have grabbed draws in their last two games against the Chicago Red Stars and NJ/NY Gotham FC. The latter of those games saw the Courage take a 2-0 lead into halftime only to give up three goals in the second half, drawing 3-3.
While the Pride were off last weekend, the Courage hosted Racing Louisville in the Challenge Cup final. North Carolina won the trophy in a storm-delayed game with goals by Kerolin and Japanese international Manaka Matsukubo.
The player to stop for North Carolina is Brazilian international Kerolin, who leads her team with nine goals and three assists. She’s been a terror against the Pride in the previous games and keeping her off the scoresheet will be key if the Pride hope to get anything from this final meeting between the teams.
The Courage have a balanced lineup with a consistent back line that has resulted in them having the second-best goal difference in the league. Their 26 goals scored is tied with the Wave for second-most, and their 19 goals conceded is tied with Gotham and Louisville for second fewest.
“Obviously, they’ve had some success with winning the Challenge Cup. So they’ll have some good momentum, high spirits,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s opponent. “But, as always, we have to focus on ourselves. We’ve lost our last two games, but in that, the performances have been good. Obviously, different circumstances, but the performances have been pretty consistent all season. We want to continue to make this a difficult environment to play. We’re playing against arguably the best footballing team in the league, so it will be a really good challenge for us, but our mindset is win every game that comes towards us.”
North Carolina is without six players tonight. Emily Gray (knee), Clara Robbins (lower leg), and Meredith Speck (knee) are out for the season. Estelle Johnson (thigh), Rikako Kobayashi (knee), and Brittany Ratcliffe (thigh) are also out for this game.
The Pride are only missing two players tonight and both were expected. Carrie Lawrence (knee) is out for the season and Moorhouse is serving her one-game suspension after being sent off last week.
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Carly Nelson.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Madril, Haley McCutcheon.
Defensive Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff, Jordyn Listro.
Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Marta, Adriana.
Forward: Ally Watt.
Bench: McKinley Crone, Erika Tymrak, Megan Montefusco, Messiah Bright, Mariana Larroquette, Kerry Abello, Viviana Villacorta, Brianna Martinez, Celia.
North Carolina Courage (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Ryan Williams, Kaleigh Kurtz, Malia Berkely, Emily Fox.
Defensive Midfielders: Narumi Miura, Denise O’Sullivan.
Midfielders: Kerolin, Manaka Matsukubo, Haley Hopkins.
Forwards: Tess Boade.
Bench: Katelyn Rowland, Brianna Pinto, Sydney Collins, Kiki Pickett, Olivia Wingate, Mille Gejl, Frankie Tagliaferri, Tyler Lussi, Rikke Madsen.
REF: Danielle Chesky.
AR1: Bennett Savage.
AR2: Cameron Siler.
4TH: JJ Bilinski.
VAR: Alexandra Billeter.
AVAR: Joel McKell.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!
Orlando Pride Sign Tori Hansen and Kaylie Collins To New Deals
The Pride have signed center back Tori Hansen goalkeeper Kaylie Collins to new contracts and sent them on loan to Australia.
The Orlando Pride announced tonight that defender Tori Hansen and goalkeeper Kaylie Collins have signed new contracts through the 2024 NWSL season. Both players were subsequently sent on loan, with Hansen going to Melbourne Victory FC and Collins to Western Sydney Wanderers FC of the A-League Women in Australia for the 2023-2024 season.
“Tori has worked hard this season, and we believe she has a bright future ahead. So we’re excited to agree to a new contract and to work with her further on her development,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “It was a priority that we find a high-performance environment where Tori can get valuable match minutes and leadership opportunities and the team and staff at Melbourne Victory offer just that. We are excited for Tori for this next step in her career and look forward to supporting her upcoming season in Australia.”
The Pride selected Hansen with the first pick of the third round (25th overall) in the 2023 NWSL Draft out of the University of North Carolina and signed her on March 29 to a one-year deal with an option year. The center back played sparingly during her first three seasons with the Tar Heels, but started 26 games during her senior year, recording eight goals and two assists. That one season was enough for selection into the first-division league.
Hansen started the first two Challenge Cup games during her rookie season with the Pride, playing all 180 minutes. She surprised everyone during the second game of the competition, scoring the opening goal in the 10th minute of a 4-2 loss at the Washington Spirit on May 10. Despite only making those two appearances, she was on the bench for the other four Challenge Cup games and nine league games. But she didn’t appear on the team sheet after the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup when Rafaelle was signed and Megan Montefusco was sent to the bench.
Collins was initially selected by the Pride in the 2021 NWSL Draft in the fourth round (34th overall) out of the University of Southern California, where she was named to the All-Pac 12 team twice. She didn’t appear in her rookie season with the Pride, but played one Challenge Cup game last year, a 1-1 draw against NJ/NY Gotham FC.
Despite the departure of starter Erin McLeod prior to this season, Collins remained the third choice goalkeeper behind Anna Moorhouse and the newly-signed Carly Nelson. She’s made two appearances, a league start on April 15 against Gotham and a May 10 Challenge Cup start against the Spirit. She’s conceded seven goals in her three professional games, saving 10 of her 17 shots faced.
“Since joining the club in 2021, Kaylie has been a valuable member of our goalkeeping corps and has continued to grow as both a player and a person. We believe she has the potential to become a top goalkeeper in this league, and gaining competitive experience and meaningful game minutes while in Australia is critical to her development,” Carter said about Collins in a press release. “We’re looking forward to cheering her on during the A-League season and keeping track of her progress over the next few months.”
What It Means for Orlando
It might seem odd to give these players new contracts and immediately send them out on loan, but both contracts run through the 2024 NWSL season and they’ll be playing through the winter months. These new contracts enable the Pride to keep them on their books while they play during the off-season and bring them back in the for 2024 campaign. Both will have the chance to develop in a good, competitive league.
Since Hansen’s been on the team sheet 15 times this season, the Pride clearly think she can contribute. They currently have six defenders that can play center back, including Carrie Lawrence, who suffered a season-ending injury during preseason. Three of those six players — Caitlin Cosme (24), Emily Madril (24), and Hansen (22) — are 24 years old or younger, and Hansen is the youngest of the group. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said during the draft that Hansen was a long-term project, and at just 22, there’s still plenty of time for her to develop.
Collins is the third-string goalkeeper and, at 24 years old, the youngest of the goalkeeping group. Moorhouse is only 28 and Nelson is only 25, but Moorhouse’s contract expires after this season. Meanwhile, Nelson’s runs through 2024. Whether Collins will be second or third on the depth chart next season largely depends on whether Moorhouse returns next season.
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