Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Must Overcome Club History to Make Playoff Push

There can be no postseason for the Pride unless they completely rewrite the club’s late-season history.



The Orlando Pride missed a golden opportunity to jump above the playoff line on Friday. The Pride entered the match two points behind San Diego Wave FC in the standings and a win would have lifted Orlando above the California side and into a playoff position with five matches to play in the 2023 NWSL season.

Orlando played well overall against the Wave, keeping former Pride and USWNT striker Alex Morgan quiet and limiting San Diego’s chances. However, two coverage errors on corner kicks and the Pride’s lack of finishing quality in the attacking end allowed the visitors to escape Orlando with all three points.

Despite the loss, nothing much has changed for the Pride. Orlando sits just behind the sixth playoff spot, but now is chasing OL Reign — the team it will visit on Sunday. The scenario hasn’t changed, just the opponent. A Pride win will lift Orlando above the playoff line with just a few games left in the team’s 2023 campaign.

However, the Pride will not just be fighting a difficult opponent — Orlando has never won a road game against the Reign, going 0-4-3 in seven previous trips — but also their own history. The Pride’s tendency to fade badly at the end of the season has been well established. The team has cratered at the end of every season of its existence except for the lone playoff year of 2017. In fact, that season, Orlando went 6-0-3 to close the regular season before falling 4-1 away to Portland in the club’s only previous playoff appearance. That 2017 season was the only season in which Orlando won its final game of the regular season.

Here’s how Orlando’s seasons have finished since the team’s inception in the non-playoff years:

2016: 0-7-1
2018: 0-4-2
2019: 0-5-2
2020: 0-2-2 (No NWSL season; Fall Series only)
2021: 0-5-0
2022: 0-5-1
2023: ???

As you can see, the Pride have finished all but one full season on prolonged winless streaks. If you toss the lone playoff year aside as an outlier and discount the lost 2020 season in which the Pride only participated in the four-game Fall Series, with a lot of younger players seeing action, you get an average winless streak of six games to conclude each NWSL season and there are very few draws in there.

The final five Pride matches will all take place after the month of August. This has historically been the worst time of the season for Orlando in terms of results. The Pride have an all-time record of 3-20-9 in all competitions from Sept. 1 through the end of the season. Two of those three wins came in the team’s only previous playoff season of 2017, when the Pride went 2-1-2 after August concluded. The only other Pride win after August came on Sept. 11, 2021 against Racing Louisville at home.

Here is the Pride’s record each season after Aug. 31:

2016: 0-3-1
2017: 2-1-2 (the loss was in the playoffs)
2018: 0-1-0
2019: 0-4-2
2020: 0-2-2 (No NWSL season; Fall Series only)
2021: 1-5-1
2022: 0-4-1
2023: ???

An all-time record of 3-20-9 after August is beyond awful, and only having one single win from Sept. 1 through the end of the season since 2017 is dire indeed.

It won’t be easy for the Pride to turn these dubious trends around. As previously mentioned, they’ve never won a road game against the Reign.

After visiting OL Reign, Orlando will face a North Carolina Courage team that has toyed with the Pride in the last two meetings. The Courage have won the last two matchups — one regular-season game and one in the Challenge Cup — by a combined 8-0 scoreline. Those games were both on the road. The Pride managed to draw the first Challenge Cup meeting at home, 1-1 against North Carolina, but dropped points from a winning position late by allowing a 99th-minute strike by Denise O’Sullivan.

Orlando is just 4-10-1 in league play against the Courage in the all-time series, and just 1-5-0 at home against North Carolina in league play. If you include all competitions, the Pride are 4-13-5 vs. the Courage.

After the Courage match, the Pride will travel back across the continent to face Angel City on the road. The Pride are 0-1-0 in the season series after allowing Katie Johnson to score a 100th-minute game winner back on April 2. Angel City is one of the hottest teams in the league right now, going unbeaten in six (3-0-3), and the California team is just one point behind Orlando in the standings.

After Angel City, the Pride are on the road again to face Racing Louisville, which is also just one point behind Orlando. Like Angel City, Louisville is getting better at the right time, having lost just once in its last six games (2-1-3). The Pride have yet to win a road game at Louisville, going 0-2-0 in the regular season and 0-2-1 in all competitions.

Orlando closes the season against the Houston Dash. The Dash won the only previous meeting this season, 2-0 in Houston. The Pride have won only once in their last 10 meetings with Houston across all competitions, although if you want a bright side, that was at home last year. The 2023 season finale will also be in Orlando. But the Pride have only won their final game of the regular season once, and that was a much better Orlando team.

If these numbers seem to spell certain doom, it’s important to remember that this is all historical data, and past performance doesn’t always serve as a predictive tool. This year’s Orlando Pride team has a chance to rewrite club history by finishing strong and bucking the trend of collapsing down the stretch.

With the NWSL’s teams so closely locked together this season, there’s no telling what the next five games will hold in store for the Pride. They could finish the season anywhere from about second to 12th in the league. History suggests the team will finish closer to the bottom than the top, but the law of averages almost certainly has to find some equilibrium at some point.


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