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

The Pride look to extend their two-game winning streak as they travel north to face the Washington Spirit.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (2-0-3, 9 points) look to extend their two-game winning streak and five-game unbeaten run as they face the Washington Spirit (4-1-0, 12 points) at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. This is the first of two regular-season games the Pride and Spirit will play, with the return game in Orlando scheduled for Oct. 6.

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

History

The Pride and Spirit have faced off 23 times since the Pride joined the NWSL in 2016. Orlando has a record of 7-9-7 in all competitions against Washington. This includes a 6-6-6 record in NWSL play and a 2-6-2 record in Washington.

The last time these teams met in 2023 came on Aug. 4 in Orlando in the NWSL Challenge Cup. The game appeared to be headed for a scoreless draw until the eighth minute of second-half injury time, when Mariana Speckmaier scored to give the hosts a 1-0 win

The teams met three other times last season, facing each other on May 10 at Audi Field in the NWSL Challenge Cup, and on May 20 at Exploria Stadium and July 1 at Audi Field in regular-season play. The May 10 meeting saw the Pride dominate the Spirit away from home. Julie Doyle got the Pride off to a great start, scoring a brace inside 16 minutes. A Tara McKeown own goal in the second half secured the 3-0 Orlando win.

The meeting prior to the July game capped off the Pride’s four-game unbeaten run in May. Marta converted a penalty to give Orlando the lead, but Sam Staab equalized five minutes later. Kylie Strom’s goal gave the Pride the surprising 2-1 win over one of the top teams in the league.

The teams were heavily rotated in their Challenge Cup game 10 days prior. However, the Pride got off to a great start when Tori Hansen scored early on a backheel. But the hosts took over late in the first half with long-distance goals by Lena Silano, Staab, and Marissa Sheva. Ally Watt got one back early in the second half, but Ashley Sanchez put it away in second-half injury time, resulting in a 4-2 loss for the Pride.

The teams met on July 17, 2022 at Audi Field. The Spirit dominated the game statistically, with more possession, shots, and shots on target, but they couldn’t find the back of the net, resulting in a scoreless draw.

The previous game was on May 27, 2022 at Exploria Stadium. Trinity Rodman gave the Spirit the lead early and Ashley Hatch doubled the lead after halftime. As the game entered second-half stoppage time, it appeared as though the Pride would fall for the second straight time, but a pair of late goals by Mikayla Cluff and Darian Jenkins stunned Washington with a 2-2 draw.

Prior to the draw in May, the Pride and Spirit played two games in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. The first was on March 19 in Orlando. The Pride had less possession and fewer shots, but a strong defensive effort allowed them to come away with a scoreless draw. The second Challenge Cup meeting came on April 3 at Audi Field. Gunny Jonsdottir scored the team’s first goal in four games. However, the Spirit already had a 3-0 lead. Rodman scored a late goal to put the game away as the Pride fell 4-1.

The two teams played four times during 2021. The first was on April 21 in the Challenge Cup. Sydney Leroux’s goal was the only scoring as the Pride won 1-0. Just two games later, the Pride opened their regular season by hosting the Spirit on May 16. Hatch gave Washington the lead, but Alex Morgan equalized to claim a 1-1 draw. The second regular-season meeting that year was on June 6 in Washington. Hatch opened the scoring, but Taylor Kornieck equalized minutes later, resulting in a 1-1 draw. The final meeting of 2021 came Aug. 22 at Audi Field. Marta gave the Pride the lead, but Hatch equalized just two minutes later. It looked like it would be a third straight 1-1 draw but Sanchez won it for Washington late.

Due to the pandemic, the Pride and Spirit didn’t play in 2020 but faced off three times in 2019. The first was on July 6 in Orlando. Marta scored a brace in the second half, leading the Pride to a 4-3 win. They played again on Aug. 24 in Washington. Crystal Thomas gave the hosts the lead and Marta equalized. But Hatch’s goal lifted the Spirit to a 2-1 win. The final game was supposed to be the following weekend, but was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian. Instead, the game was played Oct. 9 in Orlando. The Spirit dominated the rubber match, beating the Pride 3-0.

The first of two meetings in 2018 was on March 31 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Hatch scored a goal and added an assist in a 2-0 win for the Spirit. The Pride got their revenge in the second game in the same location. Alanna Kennedy’s goal was the difference as the Pride won 1-0. The final meeting that year was on July 7 in Orlando. Hatch gave the Spirit the lead, but Leroux scored just before halftime and Marta’s goal gave Orlando the 2-1 win.

The 2017 season was the first time the teams played three times in a year. Their April 22 meeting was the Pride’s first home game that year. Line Sigvardsen-Jensen gave the visitors the lead, but Danica Evans answered as the teams drew 1-1. They met for the second time that year in Maryland on July 8 when Marta and Mallory Pugh both scored braces in a 2-2 draw. The final game in 2018 was on Aug. 8 in Orlando. Marta, Camila, and Morgan all scored as the Pride ran away with a 3-0 win.

The Spirit swept the first two meetings in 2016, winning 2-0 in Maryland and 2-1 in Orlando.

Match Overview

The Pride entered the 2024 NWSL season looking to improve on a 2023 campaign that saw the team barely miss out on the playoffs. So far, this year’s start has been better than last year’s as the Pride drew their first three games. The 1-0 win in Utah extended their unbeaten run and Summer Yates’ first-half goal against San Diego Wave FC was enough for the Pride to claim back-to-back wins.

The early season was challenging for the Pride as they suffered injuries, suspensions, and international absences. However, they overcame those challenges, getting off to the second-best start through five games in team history and the best since 2021.

Last weekend’s win over San Diego saw second-half entrances of center back Rafaelle, who missed the first four games with a fractured left foot, and striker Barbra Banda, who missed the start of the season while on international duty with Zambia. The absence of Rafaelle resulted in left back Strom partnering Emily Sams at center back, a position she was playing for the first time as a professional. Despite the makeshift back line, which also included midfielder Kerry Abello, the Pride have claimed back-to-back shutouts and haven’t conceded multiple goals since their 2-2 draw in Louisville in the season opener.

The Spirit have gotten off to an excellent start to the 2024 NWSL season. Their nine goals scored is tied for fourth in the league, but their strength has been defensively. They’ve only conceded four goals this year, tied with three other teams — including the Pride — for the fewest goals conceded. After losing their first game of the year to the Seattle Reign, the Spirit have won four straight.

The Spirit’s back line consists of Casey Krueger, Annaig Butel, Gabrielle Carle, and Hal Hershfelt in front of former Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury, and it is among the best in the league. Butel missed the season opener, the team’s only loss, but the Spirit have a 100% record with the defensive unit.

Offensively, the Spirit are led by Croix Bethune with three goals and Hershfelt with two. Andi Sullivan, Ouleymata Sarr, Brittany Ratcliffe, and Hatch have each added a goal this year. USWNT regulars Krueger and Rodman have been the primary providers for the Spirit with two assists each.

The Spirit have one of the most frightening attacks that has largely been together for multiple seasons. McKeown, Hatch, and Rodman have been the members of the offensive core since 2021. Sanchez was the fourth member of the attack, but joined the North Carolina Courage this past off-season and was replaced by Sarr.

“It’s a tough game, Washington. Unbeaten in their last four with four wins. It’s a tough environment to go to, but we’re prepared,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said about tonight’s opponent. “Every game has different challenges. We know the threat that Washington has with the personnel that they have in that front line. But we have some dangerous players ourselves. It will be a good challenge for all of us and hopefully an entertaining game.”

While the Pride had been getting healthy, they have a long injury list for tonight’s game. Simone Charley (right leg), Luana (excused absence), Marta (lower leg), Megan Montefusco (right heel), and Viviana Villacorta (left knee) are listed as out. Morgan Gautrat (lower leg) and Adriana (leg) are questionable.

Only three players are missing for the Spirit tonight, including Civana Kuhlmann (knee), Makenna Morris (hip), and Courtney Brown (thigh).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, Rafaelle, Brianna Martinez.

Defensive Midfielders: Angelina, Haley McCutcheon.

Midfielders: Juile Doyle, Summer Yates, Kerry Abello.

Forward: Barbra Banda.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Ally Lemos, Amanda Allen, Evelina Duljan, Mariana Larroquette, Celia, Carrie Lawrence, Ally Watt, Cori Dyke.

Washington Spirit (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Aubrey Kingsbury.

Defenders: Casey Krueger, Annaig Butel, Gabrielle Carle, Hal Hershfelt.

Defensive Midfielders: Andi Sullivan, Croix Bethune.

Midfielders: Tara McKeown, Trinity Rodman, Paige Metayer.

Forward: Ouleymata Sarr.

Bench: Nicole Barnhart, Lyza Bosselman, Ashley Hatch, Anna Heilferty, Brittany Ratcliffe, Chloe Ricketts, Lena Silano, Heather Stainbrook, Kate Wiesner.

Referees

REF: Rebecca Pagan.
AR1: Zach McWhorter.
AR2: Austin Holt.
4TH: Gary Gutierrez.
VAR: Adorae Monroy.
AVAR: Kaili Terry.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: Audi Field — Washington, D.C.

TV: Bally Sports Sun.

Streaming: NWSL+.

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


Enjoy the match .Go Pride!

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Ally Watt to New Contract

The Pride have signed forward Ally Watt through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed forward Ally Watt to a new contract. The deal runs through the 2025 NWSL season and includes a mutual option for 2026.

“Over the last couple years, we have really seen Ally grow both on the field and off. She has worked incredibly hard to be the fittest she has been in her career, and it shows through the impact she brings to our front line,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Ally brings great competitiveness to the forward position on our team, while also being a great influence on our team culture. We’re excited for her to continue pushing herself and her teammates to be the best versions of themselves, and to have her continue as a vital part of what we are building.”

The Pride initially acquired Watt in a trade with OL Reign (now the Seattle Reign) on Aug. 15, 2022 in exchange for $125,000 in Allocation Money. The Watt trade was among the first that indicated the Pride were ready to begin dealing the assets they acquired for some of their older talent traded following the 2021 season.

Watt made her debut for the Pride on Aug. 20, 2022, coming on for Julie Doyle in the 64th minute of a 2-1 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC. She scored nine minutes later to create the dream debut for her new club, earning a new deal at the end of the season that kept her with the Pride through 2024. In nearly two years in Orlando, Watt has made 46 appearances (18 starts) in all competitions, recording 1,958 minutes, six goals and two assists. She also scored the fastest goal in team history, converting after 39 seconds on Sept. 17, 2023 against the North Carolina Courage.

So far this season, Watt has made 15 appearances with seven starts, recording 657 minutes. She has scored two goals and added an assist. Her most notable game this year was on May 1, when Pride Head Coach Seb Hines switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, teaming Watt with Barbra Banda. Watt scored the opener and assisted on Banda’s second goal in a 4-1 win over the Courage.

“We’re building something very special here in Orlando and I am grateful that I get to continue to be a part of it,” Watt said in the club’s press release. “I feel I have only grown since I’ve been here, and I’m more than excited to keep developing my game. This team and organization are my family, and staying here in Orlando to play in front of some of the best fans makes me so happy. Vamos Pride!”

Watt was initially selected with the ninth overall pick of the 2020 NWSL Draft by the Courage out of Texas A&M. She played professionally in Australia for Melbourne City before joining North Carolina for the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. However, she tore her ACL minutes into the first game, sidelining her for an extended period.

The Courage traded the speedster before the 2021 season to the Reign, where she made five appearances after returning from injury. She became a regular in 2022, playing in 21 of the Reign’s 22 games, recording a goal and an assist, before being dealt to the Pride.

What It Means for Orlando

Whether she starts with Banda in a 4-4-2 formation or comes off the bench later in the game, Watt has proven to be a valuable part of the Pride’s success since joining the club. Injuries were a concern since she’d had a previous ACL tear, but she’s remained healthy and has continued to be one of the fastest players in the NWSL.

The forward is already having her best season with the team this year, and there are still 10 games left in the regular season. With Banda away at the Olympics, Watt should get plenty of time starting during the upcoming NWSL X Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, providing valuable minutes.

While this signing provides depth at the forward position, Watt also has the versatility that Carter and Hines crave. In addition to playing striker, Watt’s speed has been utilized on the right side of the midfield before, matching the similarly fast Doyle on the left for a dangerous pairing. Her attributes make this signing an expected one as the Pride look to build on their historic season.

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Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Viviana Villacorta to New Contract

The Pride have signed defensive midfielder Viviana Villacorta to a new one-year contract with a mutual option for a second year.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed midfielder Viviana Villacorta to a new contract. The one-year extension keeps her in Orlando through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

“Viv has shown she has the potential to be one of the best midfielders in the league but has been unable to fully showcase that due to last season’s late injury,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Despite the setback, she has persevered, put in the work to get back on the pitch, and has remained an incredible teammate throughout the entire process. She has proven to be a difference maker when on the field, and we are looking forward to seeing her return soon.”

The Pride selected Villacorta with the ninth pick of the first round in the 2021 NWSL Draft. She decided to play her final season at UCLA but tore her ACL in the first game against Pepperdine, ending her collegiate career and delaying her professional debut.

Villacorta finally made her debut on May 1, 2022 against NJ/NY Gotham FC, replacing Gunny Jonsdottir in the 72nd minute. She soon became a regular starter under former head coach Amanda Cromwell and continued that role for Seb Hines, earning a new two-year contract on Dec. 7, 2022. During the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the defensive midfielder made 36 appearances (30 starts), recording 2,475 minutes and an assist. Unfortunately, the injury bug wouldn’t let her go.

The 25-year-old injured her ankle on Aug. 26, 2022 against OL Reign, requiring surgery and forcing her to miss the final five games of the season. Villacorta returned to her starting role for the 2023 season and almost made it through the entire year injury-free. But she tore her ACL again in a late-season training session, resulting in her missing the final three games and being placed on the season-ending injury list for 2024. Despite the setbacks, the Pride still feel she can contribute when healthy and have shown that belief with a new contract.

“I am so grateful for the club and staff for believing in me and giving me this opportunity,” Villacorta said in the club’s press release. “To be able to continue my journey with this incredible group of people supporting me, means the world. Orlando has been home for the past three years and I can’t wait to get back out on the field and give everything I have.”

Prior to being drafted by the Pride, Villacorta made 72 appearances for UCLA with 60 starts, recording seven goals and 16 assists. She was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List in 2020 and was Second-Team All-Pac 12 in 2018 and 2019.

Internationally, Villacorta represented the United States at the youth levels and started in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

What It Means for Orlando

The Pride made three significant moves to build depth in the defensive midfield this season, signing Luana, Angelina, and Morgan Gautrat. However, Luana was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma early in the season and Gautrat is 31 years old and has spent a lot of time on the injured list, so the Pride need defensive midfielders next season.

Villacorta has yet to prove that she can stay healthy, suffering severe injuries each year since being drafted. Despite these setbacks, she’s shown her ability while on the field. The two Pride head coaches in that time saw her as a regular starter and spoke highly of her skillset. If she can stay healthy, Villacorta can be an essential part of the Pride lineup moving forward.

While Villacorta might not return to action until 2025, the Pride want to see how she’ll fit in with this team when healthy. The one-year deal isn’t very risky as the team has built plenty of depth at all positions. If she can remain uninjured throughout the 2025 season, the club will likely pick up her option and possibly offer another extension. With the uncertainty of Luana’s absence, that could be key for the team’s future success.

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How to Win the NWSL Shield

Comparing the Orlando Pride and other 2024 NWSL shield contenders to previous winners.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

“We want to win the shield.”

That was the answer Orlando Pride defender Kerry Abello gave when asked what the team’s goals are for the rest of the 2024 season. She didn’t just stop there, adding that the team wants to win the NWSL championship as well. “We have proved that is our potential and we plan on going for it.”

There is little doubt that the Pride are now the favorites for the shield after defeating the Kansas City Current on the road (while down a player for more than half the game) in their final match before the Olympic break. The shield is the trophy awarded to the team with the highest point total after the regular season, while the NWSL championship is awarded to the team that wins the playoffs.

The shield is often considered a better indicator of best team from a given season, as it requires solid performances over the full season and not the final three games. With 16 matches played and 12 to go, the Pride are the only undefeated team in the league and they boast a three-point lead at the top of the table. Looking at the 10 NWSL shield winners to date, a clear picture emerges on what it takes to turn Orlando’s goal into a reality.

The Pride defeating the other shield hopefuls is a big part of why they’re in such a strong position just past the halfway point in the season. The matches against their peers in the table are sometimes called “six-pointers” because the points gained by the Pride are subsequently lost by their opponents. While Orlando won both road matches against Kansas City and the Washington Spirit, the return home matches against those opponents on Sept. 13 and Oct. 6, respectively, will be just as important as the season gets closer to the end, as will the two matches still to come against defending champion NJ/NY Gotham FC, currently in fourth.

Beyond the big matches, the NWSL is a league known for its parity, and any match can pose a challenge. Take, for example, the 2023 shield-winning San Diego Wave, who were able to claim the trophy with just 37 points, a tally already surpassed the 2024 Pride. In 2023, the gap between the teams at the top and bottom was so small that Orlando missed the playoffs with only six fewer points than the wave, and the last-place Chicago Red Stars were only seven points behind the Pride.

To put the current NWSL season into historical context, the graph below shows the points per match won by each prior shield winner, compared to the Pride, Current, and Spirit this season.

First and foremost, the graph above shows that the 2024 Orlando Pride are on pace to break the record for points in a season. That record was set by the 2018 North Carolina Courage team that earned 57 points en route to winning both the shield and the NWSL championship. Considering that Orlando is on pace to surpass that record, it is impressive that both the Current and the Spirit are almost stride for stride with the Pride and performing better than the average shield-winning squad as well.

Looking at historic shield winners and runners up, the competition in the NWSL is clear. The average gap between first and second place in the table over the past 10 seasons is just five points. In the past three seasons, the league was even closer, with gaps of two, one, and two points from 2021 to 2023, respectively. With four points currently separating first and third position in this season’s table, the trend of tight finishes is likely to continue.

Despite the similar records by the best teams this season, they are each racking up points in different ways. Kansas City has built a reputation based on a high-powered attack and willingness to simply outscore opponents. Orlando, on the other hand, has a defense-first mindset coupled with enough star power from Barbra Banda and Marta to win matches more pragmatically. Washington, for its part, lies somewhere in the middle, neither leading the league in attack nor defense but winning matches nonetheless. Reviewing how past teams won the shield can identify important themes for shield-winning sides, even though it doesn’t guarantee how the current season will play out.

Below, goals scored and conceded per match are plotted for previous shield winners to see how they won their trophies. The 2024 Pride, Current, and Spirit are added to assess the current shield race.

When it comes to attack, the Current are on another level entirely, leading all clubs in goals per match at 2.5. This performance, if it continues, would lead to the highest scoring season in league history. However, the plot once again shows the strength of the NWSL in 2024. Despite a clear offensive leader in Kansas City, the other teams fighting for the 2024 shield are well above average for prior winners and more than capable of scoring enough to win matches.

Between the points, goals, and goals conceded per match, it is the latter where the most clear differentiation can be seen. With only 0.75 goals conceded per match, the Pride’s defensive strength in 2024 is not far behind the best performing defenses in league history. Of their opponents, the Spirit have defended well this season, but not to the level of prior shield winners, and Kansas City is well below the defensive metrics of prior winners. 

In the first 10 seasons of the NWSL’s existence, only the Seattle Reign in 2015 conceded more than one goal per match on average and won the shield. Out of all that have done it, four led the league in both goals scored and fewest conceded. Three additional teams boasted the best defense, but only one team — again, Seattle in 2015 — scored the most goals without having the best defense, showing the limits to an attack-first approach.

Taken together, the prior seasons of the NWSL show that having a strong defense has been the most reliable path to an NWSL shield. Compared to the previous winners, the Orlando Pride have one of the best defenses in league history. They pair this strong defense with a potent attack exceeding the output of a typical NWSL shield-winning side. This combination has the team in first place in the table and on pace to win the shield with one of the highest point tallies of all time. 

Nothing can be taken for granted, however; Orlando’s opponents this season are setting records of their own and plan to push the Pride to the final weeks of the season. The Pride just need to keep their focus on the match in front of them. So far, they have shown the talent and the belief required of a shield-winning team, and the way to secure the trophy is to keep playing they way they did to get here.

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