Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 4-1 as Pride Win Their Fourth Straight

Goals by Ally Watt, Barbra Banda, and Julie Doyle saw the Pride beat the Courage for their fourth straight win.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (4-0-3, 15 points) won their fourth straight match and extended their unbeaten run to seven games (4-0-3) with a 4-1 win over the North Carolina Courage (4-3-0, 12 points). The hosts’ goals came from Ally Watt, Julie Doyle, and a Barbra Banda brace, while an Emily Sams own goal was the only score for the visitors.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made just one change to the starting lineup that beat the Washington Spirit 2-1 Friday night. Bri Martinez was suspended after receiving two yellow cards and was replaced by Watt. Hines changed from his usual 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2 for this game with a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, and Sams in front of Anna Moorhouse. Doyle, Summer Yates, Haley McCutcheon, and Angelina were in the midfield, with Banda and Watt up top.

“We felt today going into the game that there might be an area that we can exploit with North Carolina,” Hines said about the formation change. “You know, they like to high press, be really aggressive in those positions. And so to have two outlets with both Ally and Barbara, it was a joy to watch.”

The game was put out of reach in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Banda and Watt were put together up top for the first time and looked spectacular. Their speed was too much for the opposition to handle, as they both had an impact on the first three goals.

“That was our first game playing together in the front two and, honestly, just learning to play with each other, like just learning from each other in training and just watching her tendencies, and we just had to be there for each other as much as we can,” Watt said about the new partnership with Banda. “I think that’s all we depend on. When one of us has the ball, we need to be forward and be an option for them. And either they’ll find us or they’ll be on the way to goal.”

While the team wasn’t as threatening offensively in the second half, North Carolina wasn’t able to create many chances. They held far more possession, but little of it was in dangerous spaces. As a result, the Pride remained in control throughout.

The Pride got the first chance of the game inside the first minute. Angelina played the ball forward for Yates, who attempted to lift it over the top for Banda. Kaleigh Kurtz got to the ball first, heading back out but only to Yates. The Pride’s leading goal scorer attempted a shot from just outside the box, but it was right to Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy, who blocked it away.

Less than a minute later, the Courage got their first chance of the game. A give-and-go between Ryan Williams and Tyler Lussi enabled the former to send a low cross into the box. It found Narumi Miura near the penalty spot, but the midfielder’s shot was wide.

Yates almost had another opportunity in the sixth minute when Banda made a good run to the end line and played the ball back for her teammate. Yates attempted to turn and shoot with Williams closing down, but the ball got caught under her feet and she was unable to turn it on goal.

In the eighth minute, Doyle sent a good ball down the right for Banda. The forward got behind the Courage defense and caught up to the ball before it went out of play. Her first touch was a pass back for Angelina entering the box, but it was just out of the Brazilian’s reach.

Banda had a chance for her second goal in as many games in the 17th minute when she was sent forward by Yates. The striker was in a foot race with Felicitas Rauch, winning the ball and entering the box. Malia Berkely caught up with Banda, forcing her to cut back, and Murphy came out to block the attempt. Banda won a corner kick, but the Pride couldn’t do anything with it and North Carolina evaded any further danger.

The Pride had another chance in the 22nd minute when Doyle sent a cross into the Courage box. Watt flicked the ball towards the far post, where Abello was making a run, but she couldn’t control it and the ball went out of play.

North Carolina quickly went the other way and created a shot. Ashley Sanchez tried to send the ball into the box, but it was blocked out. It ended up with Lussi, who fired from distance. The shot was beyond the reach of Moorhouse and bounced off the crossbar.

The Pride took the lead in the 29th minute on a fantastic counterattack. Banda intercepted the ball in her own third and sprinted forward. The Zambian was much faster than the opposing defenders and had an equally fast teammate in Watt running alongside. Banda sent a gorgeous ball forward as Watt got behind the North Carolina defense and placed it past Murphy to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.

“The one thing I know is if Barbra’s running towards the goal, you better be up there with her,” Watt said about the goal. “And she played a beautifully weighted ball to my right and so I had to put it on goal, put it on frame. So I just did that and, yeah, it was one of the probably easier goals I’ve scored. Barbra put an easy ball in.”

Despite being up a goal, the Pride remained on the attack. In the 33rd minute, Doyle dribbled towards the box and sent a low pass towards Watt between the penalty spot and the six-yard box. Unfortunately, it was intercepted before it could reach the forward.

The Pride doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Banda sent the ball out wide for Watt. The attacker beat Kurtz and sent a beautiful ball into the box. Banda, who continued her run after the original pass, only had to touch the ball past Murphy to give the Pride a commanding 2-0 lead.

“I just know I got the ball wide. That’s kind of part of our game plan. We just feel, hey, play it wide and we’ll be on the ball,” Watt said about her assist. “And I just trust that we have people in the box. We’ve been really focusing on that and we’ve just really been trying to focus on finally timing our runs down and then we got it. I kind of swooped it with my left foot knowing that Julie and Barbra would be there and it fell perfectly to Barbra and she executed it perfectly.”

In the second minute of first-half stoppage time, the Pride scored a third. It started in their own half when McCutcheon won the ball from Denise O’Sullivan. She sent it forward for Watt, who quickly play Banda behind the Courage defense. Cutting inside to beat Berkely, Banda shot on goal. However, Murphy was there to make the stop. The rebound bounced right to Doyle, who put it in to give the Pride a 3-0 lead at halftime.

After 45 minutes, the Courage had much more possession (67%-33%), but the Pride led every other significant statistical category. The hosts had more shots (8-3), shots on target (8-0), corners (1-0), and crosses (5-4), and better passing accuracy (86%-77%). The biggest surprise in the first half was the Pride, a team that has struggled to hit the frame, put all eight shots on target.

The Pride looked to extend their lead in the 49th minute when Banda made a run behind the Courage back line near midfield. Angelina lifted the ball forward to send Banda through, but she was offside.

In the 51st minute, Haley Hopkins and Sanchez worked together to play the ball across for Lussi. The attacker’s shot was blocked by Abello, but it went right back to her. This time, Lussi attempted to play the ball back across for Sanchez, but Angelina intercepted it and eliminated the threat.

A minute later, the visitors got a goal back. It started with a ball to the top of the box for Manaka Matsukubo. The forward laid it back to Williams, who quickly played it to Hopkins wide open on the far side. Sams moved over to defend and got in front of Hopkins’ shot. Unfortunately, the deflection went past Moorhouse and in, cutting the Pride lead to 3-1.

Watt was looking for her second goal in the 55th minute when she took Berkely one-on-one in the Courage box. After one last cut outside, Watt shot for the near post. Murphy did well to cover that part of the goal and blocked the attempt away.

The Pride put a fourth one in the net in the 61st minute when Yates’ shot was deflected over the goal by Kurtz. Yates took the first corner, sending it to the back post. Banda headed the ball back in front of goal, but it was knocked out for another corner kick. Yates’ second corner was, again, to the back post. Watt got her head to the ball and Doyle beat Murphy to it. The last touch was by Strom, knocking it in and seeming to give the Pride a 4-1 lead.

However, the video assistant referee checked the goal and determined that referee Natalie Simon needed to have another look. After viewing the monitor, Simon determined that Strom was offside.

Right after the call, Hines made his first change of the game as Carrie Lawrence came on for Doyle.

The Pride had another chance for a fourth in the 70th minute when Sams sent Banda down the right. The forward had Watt making a run into the box, but the pass was a bit too far in front.

In the 76th minute, Hines made two more changes. Amanda Allen and Cori Dyke came into the game for Yates and Abello.

Right after the substitutions, Lawrence threw the ball in to Banda. The forward turned Miura, dribbled towards the penalty spot, and put the ball past Murphy to give the Pride a 4-1 lead. It was Banda’s third goal in the last two games, in addition to her two assists. She became the first player in NWSL history to record five goal contributions in her first two starts.

A scary moment occurred in the 81st minute. As Banda closed down Berkely, who was looking to send the ball down field, Berkeley’s foot hit Banda’s right leg. The forward went down in pain as the Pride’s medical staff came out to examine her. That was the last action for Banda as she was replaced by Ally Lemos. At the same time, Mariana Larroquette came on for Watt.

In the 89th minute, the Pride lost another key player to injury when Angelina went down holding her right knee. It occurred during a battle with Riley Jackson. As the two fought for the ball, Angelina’s knee turned the wrong way and she went to the ground. The Pride medical staff attended to the midfield and ended up having to help her back to the locker room. Since the Pride had already used all of their substitutions, they had to finish the game with 10 players.

The fourth official showed 11 minutes of stoppage time, but the Courage struggled to create chances. In the seventh minute, Berkely laid the ball off for Rauch. It was well struck by the left back, but Moorhouse got down to make the stop. That was the last chance by either team as the Pride held on for a dominating 4-1 win.

At full time, the Courage had far more possession (66%-34%), but the Pride had the advantage in shots (14-7), shots on target (12-2), corner kicks (6-2), crosses (10-5), and passing accuracy (83.8%-67.9%).

“I’m really, really pleased with the attitude of the players coming in here after being on the road against Washington and then a quick turnaround for tonight’s game,” Hines said about the performance. “They started really, really well on the front foot, a level intent to put North Carolina under pressure, especially in transition. I thought we were really threatening in transition. And so to be up in the game in the first half was really pleasing.”

It might surprise some to see a 4-1 Pride win when the Courage held so much more possession and 599 passes to the Pride’s 302. Hines said they understood the type of team North Carolina is and were ready to handle being off the ball for much of the 90 minutes.

“There’s different ways to win a game of football. You know, there’s going to be games where we don’t have as much possession as we would like. You know, we have to respect the opponent. North Carolina are a brilliant team,” Hines said. “They like to possess, they get over 500 passes per game, they make it really difficult for you to get any sort of pressure on the ball, and so I thought we identified the moments when to be aggressive, when to win the ball and play that pass forwards, and yet still be threatening. There’s not always going to be games like that. There’s going to be games where we have to possess and ourselves we’re getting 500 passes and maybe more percentage of possession. But, at the end of the day, we scored four goals against a really good side and managed to win the game at the end.”

The Pride are now tied in second with the Spirit on 15 points, just one point behind the Kansas City Current. They’re one more win from evening the team’s all-time record for consecutive wins and two results from equaling the team record for number of games unbeaten.

They’ll look to continue their good form Sunday night when they welcome Racing Louisville FC to Orlando.


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