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Orlando Pride vs. Racing Louisville FC: Final Score 1-0 as Banda’s Goal Lifts Pride to Fifth Straight Win

Barbra Banda’s 17th-minute goal lifts the Pride over Racing Louisville.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride (5-0-3, 18 points) won the battle of the unbeatens, defeating Racing Louisville FC (1-1-5, 8 points) 1-0 at Inter&Co Stadium tonight. Barbra Banda scored her fourth goal in three games and the Pride held onto the lead for 73 minutes.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the team that beat the North Carolina Courage 4-1 on Wednesday night. Angelina was out after suffering a knee injury during that game and was replaced by rookie Ally Lemos, who made her first professional start. 

“There were some nerves but also some excitement,” Lemos said about her first start. “You know, this is what I’ve been working towards ever since preseason and the season started. So I was just really excited to get out on the field and show what I can do and ultimately help the team win today.”

Starting in a 4-4-2 for the second straight game, the back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Emily Sams, Rafaelle, Kylie Strom, and Kerry Abello. Haley McCutcheon, Lemos, Julie Doyle, and Summer Yates were the midfielders, with Ally Watt and Banda again partnering up top.

This was far from the Pride’s best performance of the season, but they were able to grab a first-half lead and hold onto it. Chances by Louisville, which had drawn five of its first six games, were few and far between while the Pride searched for a second goal. Despite the narrow margin, only two late chances caused hearts in the stands to skip a beat.

Louisville took the first shot of the game in the fourth minute when Elexa Bahr received the ball outside the box. With nobody in purple closing her down, the forward turned and shot. However, she was unable to keep the attempt down, sending it over Moorhouse and her goal.

The visitors had a second chance in the seventh minute when Uchenna Kanu sent a cross across the face of goal. Moorhouse got her right hand to it, but only to Bahr on the far side. The forward took her second shot in the opening minutes of the game, again sending it over the target.

The Pride had their first attack in the ninth minute when Watt laid the ball back for Doyle. Dribbling inside, Doyle attempted to play Banda through, but it was well defended by Arin Wright.

In the 10th minute, Yates looked to get to the Louisville end line and send a cross in, but Wright got in front of the attempt, knocking it out of play. The ensuing corner kick by Yates bounced off the knee of Rafaelle, but the Brazilian center back couldn’t control it and the visitors cleared the danger.

Banda had a chance in the 12th minute to give the Pride the lead when Lemos won the ball back from Kayla Fischer. The midfielder sent it forward for Banda whose third touch was a shot from outside of the box. Lund went down to block the attempt away, but it didn’t appear to give the goalkeeper too much trouble.

Doyle had a chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Watt sent a great ball across to the back post. The midfielder was wide open to shoot on goal, but missed the target.

The Pride finally broke through in the 17th minute and from a familiar source. It started with a give-and-go between McCutcheon and Sams on the right side. The defender took a touch towards the end line and sent a cross to the back post, where Banda, despite being among the most threatening strikers in the league, was wide open. It was an easy header for the Zambian, who gave the Pride the early lead.

It was Banda’s fourth goal in the last three games, which sees her surpass Yates as the team leader. The cross by Sams resulted in her first professional assist in her second season.

“Just naturally you have to be a little bit higher, both in the attack and defense, higher up on the pitch. So I was just higher already and wanted to support Haley and she gave me the ball back and I just chipped it across and hoped someone was there to finish it. And luckily Barbra was there,” Sams said. “So yeah, I’m super happy to get my first assist.”

Louisville finally had another chance in the 30th minute when Emma Sears knocked the ball off Strom and out. Carson Pickett took the corner looking for Abby Erceg at the far post. The center back and Louisville captain climbed over Strom, but the ball went out of play, ending the threat.

Abello tried to make something happen on her own in the 36th minute. She played a give-and-go with Doyle to get her behind the Louisville defense and sprinted into the box. Banda was making a run and Abello looked for her, but two defenders were on the goal scorer, so Abello shot herself. Unfortunately, the attempt was directly to Lund, giving her no trouble.

In the 39th minute, Yates was trapped on the sideline, but chipped the ball to spring Doyle. Fischer took down Yates after the pass, and referee Alyssa Nichols called the play back when it was clear it wouldn’t result in an attempt on goal, issuing Fischer a yellow card. The ensuing set piece by Yates connected with the head of Rafaelle, but Lund tipped it over the crossbar.

Fischer nearly equalized in the 43rd minute when the attacker took a shot from outside the box. It looked to be heading inside the far post, but Moorhouse got down and tipped it wide. The corner kick was headed towards goal by Taylor Flint and Erceg was behind the Pride defense, but Moorhouse was quick to react, reaching the ball before Erceg could tap it in.

Banda nearly had her second goal in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. The forward beat Wright to a long ball by Abello and entered the Louisville box. She cut inside to lose Erceg and had nobody else in front of goal except Lund, but the center back did well to recover. She deflected the ball into the arms of Lund, keeping the score 1-0 at the break.

After 45 minutes of action, Louisville had more possession (56%-44%) and corner kicks (3-2) and better passing accuracy (88%-83%). The Pride had more shots (8-7), shots on target (6-2), and crosses (6-5). They arguably should’ve had a bigger lead, but missed some excellent chances in front of goal.

Despite a strong first half, Hines made two halftime substitutions. Adriana and Cori Dyke came into the game for Yates and Abello.

The Pride came out of halftime strong, immediately creating chances. In the 48th minute, Doyle found McCutcheon at the top of the Louisville box. Since nobody closed her down, McCutcheon went for goal. Lund initially jumped for the ball, but it sailed well over the target.

A minute later, Watt nearly doubled the advantage. After a poor pass into the middle was knocked back out, she quickly won it back from Kanu. The forward took a touch inside and fired towards the far post. It beat the diving Lund, but bounced off the far post.

Hines made the Pride’s third and fourth substitutions in the 58th minute. Amanda Allen and Morgan Gautrat entered the contest for Watt and Doyle.

In the 66th minute, the Pride had a free kick when Adriana was fouled by Lauren Milliet. The ensuing free kick by Lemos into the box was headed out, but only to Banda. The striker attempted a volley towards goal that was nowhere near the target.

Lemos had an opportunity in the 70th minute when she received a ball back from Adriana outside the box. The midfielder took a shot that was deflected by Erceg, resulting in Lund diving the wrong way. However, the deflection sent the ball over the crossbar.

The ensuing corner kick was tipped beyond the box by Lund, but the goalkeeper went down immediately after and required attention. During the set piece, her foot was stepped on by teammate Reilyn Turner. In the meantime, the players headed to the sideline for instructions and, after a brief stoppage, Lund was able to continue.

Louisville lacked any real threat in the second half, but Fischer tried to create something in the 78th minute. Receiving the ball outside the box, she sent a curling low ball towards the back post. It would’ve been dangerous if someone in white had been making that run, but nobody was and it went harmlessly out of play.

In the 82nd minute, Pickett sent a long ball for Bahr, who beat Strom into the opposing third. Moorhouse did well to come out and block the shot, but Turner was following and got to the ball. Fortunately, Rafaelle made a good tackle to knock it away before Turner could put it on goal. Rafaelle’s attempt to carry the ball out of the box was blocked by Sears to Sams and Sears fouled the defender, ending the threat.

“Anna did a really good job today of keeping that clean sheet,” Hines said about the save and her performance. “You know, could easily have been another goal for Louisville.”

The Pride made their last change in the 87th minute. After a strong performance in her first professional start, Lemos was replaced by Carrie Lawrence as the hosts looked to see out the game.

Erceg won a late corner for Louisville in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time when Lawrence knocked the ball out. Pickett’s set piece was into the six-yard box and it looked like Moorhouse had it. But she bobbled the ball briefly, scaring the 6,837 fans in attendance before grabbing the ball and falling to the ground.

At the full-time whistle, Louisville had more possession (54%-46%), corners (5-4), and crosses (12-11) and better passing accuracy (83.4%-80.3%). But the Pride had more shots (14-9), shots on target (8-3), and the all-important goal.

“I think today it was a tough game, obviously with the quick turnaround and everything that we put into on Wednesday. The emotions that we had to go through after Wednesday and then just to turn it around against a good Louisville team, who had a week to prepare for this game with a lot of energy,” Hines said about the game. “You could see towards the end, the players were on their last legs. But I can’t say enough compliments for them. You know, to have that grit, that determination, the attitude, the mentality to see the game out and walk away with three points and end the week with nine points with three games. I’m really, really proud of all the efforts that they put into it.”

“It’s tremendous,” Sams added. “I mean, all of us just had that determination to get that shutout and get those three points for all 90 minutes. It was a grind for 90 minutes. We came into this game not as fresh as we could have been, or especially as the other team, but we didn’t let that be an excuse to not play our best or try to play our best at least.”

The Pride have now won five consecutive games, tied for the team record. The other five-game winning streak came during the 2017 NWSL season, the only year in which they qualified for the playoffs.  The win also extends their unbeaten run to eight games, one short of the team record, also set in 2017.

The Pride have shown an ability to win games in different ways this season. They won a high-scoring 3-2 game against the Washington Spirit 10 days ago and have now won three games 1-0. It’s a team-wide approach and the success didn’t go unnoticed by their coach.

“I can’t just pinpoint on the back line because they are doing a great job, but it’s the whole team,” Hines said about the defensive effort. “Everyone’s doing their role and it’s really nice to see. And even the players who are coming onto the field, they have to do their job and their roles and responsibilities to, again, see the game out.”

The three points lifts the Pride over the Kansas City Current, who drew earlier in the day, to claim first place by a point. While the Current have a game in hand, it’s something to celebrate for a Pride team that has missed out on the playoffs in all but one of its previous seven NWSL seasons.

 “It’s just all smiles. We’re so happy,” Sams said about how the team feels about being in first place. “The team chemistry that we have, it’s just great. You know, we’re all joking and trying to have a good time around the facility and in the locker room. I think that carries over to the field too. We all just want to work for each other and play for each other. So it’s great. I mean, we’re all just having a good time all the time.”


After playing three games in 10 days, the Pride will now have nearly a week before they take the field again. Their next game is Saturday when they welcome league newcomers Bay FC to Orlando.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride wrap up their two-game road trip with a visit to the North Carolina Courage.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (8-0-4, 28 points) conclude their two-game road trip tonight against the North Carolina Courage (5-7-0, 15 points) in Cary, NC. This is the second and final time the two teams will face off during the 2024 NWSL regular season, although they will meet in the group stage of the Summer Cup.

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

History

The Pride and Courage have played 24 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage in 2017. The Pride are 6-13-5 in those games (6-10-1 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 on May 1 in Orlando. Barbra Banda and Ally Watt started up top together for the first time, a move that paid off in the game. In the 29th minute, Banda set up Watt for the opener. Watt repaid the favor in the 40th minute as the Pride went up 2-0. Julie Doyle added a goal just before halftime, giving the Pride a commanding lead. Emily Sams’ own goal was the only scoring for the Courage and Banda’s second of the night gave the Pride a 4-1 win.

The first game between the Pride and Courage in 2023 was on April 19 in Orlando. The Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up 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. On June 17 in North Carolina 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.

The Pride didn’t show up for the July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Ratcliffe 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 Pride finally got a win on Sept. 17, 2023 at home. Watt got the Pride off to a great start, scoring inside the first minute. After assisting on the first goal, Adriana doubled the lead before halftime. Manaka Matsukubo got one back for the visitors, but it wasn’t enough and the Pride won 2-1.

The first meeting in 2022 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. On Sept. 21, 2022 at Exploria Stadium, it was the Courage that got off to the better 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 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, 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 April 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.

Overview

The Pride are coming off a hard-fought 1-1 draw in San Diego, a result that snapped their eight-game winning streak. Julie Doyle opened the scoring in the first half with arguably the goal of the season, but the visitors equalized through Makenzy Doniak in the 62nd minute. Despite ending their winning streak, the draw extended the Pride’s unbeaten run to 12 games and kept them tied on points with the Kansas City Current atop the NWSL standings.

Banda has been the most impressive player for the Pride this season, scoring eight goals, recording three assists, and drawing two penalties in eight games. She added to her assist tally in San Diego, setting up Doyle’s first-half goal. The team has also been strong defensively and Head Coach Seb Hines has found his preferred back four. After shifting players around because of injuries and suspensions, he’s used Sams, Rafaelle, Kylie Strom, and Kerry Abello in five of the last six games. However, Rafaelle missed the San Diego contest and is out tonight with a leg injury.

The Courage have historically been one of the best teams in the NWSL, but have struggled this season. They’re currently tied with Racing Louisville for seventh in the league and have a -2 goal differential. They’re in the middle of the league in both goals scored and goals conceded, unsurprisingly leaving them in the middle of the table.

North Carolina has been led offensively by the players you’d expect. Tyler Lussi has a team-leading three goals, just ahead of Bianca St-Georges and Haley Hopkins, who have two each. Dani Weatherholt, Ashley Sanchez, Brianna Pinto, Kaleigh Kurtz, and Malia Berkely have all added one as well. The only player with multiple assists this year is Sanchez, the team’s primary playmaker. The U.S. international will likely cause the most problems for the Pride back line, making stopping her essential.

The Courage haven’t been bad in most games defensively this season. Other than the 4-1 loss to the Pride, the only time they’ve conceded more than two goals was in a 3-0 loss to the Houston Dash on May 24. However, they bounced back on June 8, only losing 1-0 to the Portland Thorns. They started the season with a four-person back line, but have recently switched to three in front of starting goalkeeper Casey Murphy, so it will be interesting to see how they line up tonight.

While the Courage have gotten off to a disappointing start, they’ve been excellent at home. The team has yet to drop points at WakeMed Soccer Park, winning all of their first five games, including a 2-0 win over the Thorns on April 13. Their home form will make winning a difficult task for the Pride.

“Results from them has shown that it’s a tough place to go and get points. They’re unbeaten, they’ve won every game there, and we expect nothing less than a tough game,” Hines said about the Courage. “So we’ll go out there, we’ll give everything like we have done in every game. We want to bounce back from almost a disappointing result away at San Diego. We know we can play better than that and so we’ll be going in there and looking for a win.”

Angelina (knee) isn’t listed on the injury report this week for the first time since her injury, but Morgan Gautrat (concussion) and Rafaelle (leg) have been added to players out. They’re joined by Celia (hip), Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), and Viviana Villacorta (knee). North Carolina will be without Sydney Collins (ankle), Estelle Johnson (maternity leave), Kerolin Nicoli (knee), Olivia Wingate (leg), and Ryan Williams (suspension), while Matsukubo (lower leg) and Dani Weatherholt (leg) are questionable.


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-4-2)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, Brianna Martinez.

Midfielders: Adriana, Summer Yates, Haley McCutcheon, Julie Doyle.

Forwards: Barbra Banda, Marta.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Cori Dyke, Carrie Lawrence, Ally Lemos, Angelina, Amanda Allen, Mariana Larroquette, Alex Kerr, Ally Watt.

North Carolina Courage (3-4-3)

Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.

Defenders: Felicitas Rauch, Malia Berkely, Kaleigh Kurtz.

Midfielders: Victoria Pickett, Denise O’Sullivan, Narumi Miura, Bianca St-Georges.

Forwards: Tyler Lussi, Haley Hopkins, Ashley Sanchez.

Bench: Marisa Bova, Julia Dorsey, Natalia Staude, Jenna Winebrenner, Riley Jackson, Maya McCutcheon, Landy Mertz, Brianna Pinto, Meredith Speck.

Referees

REF: JC Griggs.
AR1: Nicholas Seymour.
AR2: Tiffini Turpin.
4TH: John Rush.
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal.
AVAR: Tom Felice.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow @SkoPurpSoccer, the official Twitter account of our Orlando Pride podcast (The Mane Land’s main account will be providing updates on Orlando City’s match), and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage: Three Keys to Victory

What do the Pride have to do to earn a victory against the Courage?

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride head north to take on the North Carolina Courage Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The Pride will look to extend their season-long unbeaten streak and start another win streak against the Courage. A victory might put the Pride back on top of the NWSL table.

What do the Pride have to do to earn all three points on the road?

Shut Down the Courage

Barbra Banda might have more goals than North Carolina’s Tyler Lussi and Bianca St-Georges combined, but that doesn’t mean the two players are not a threat to score. This season, Lussi and St-Georges have three goals and two goals, respectively, accounting for five of Carolina’s 13 goals. Keeping those two in check is imperative to secure a victory.

Doing so will require the Pride defense to be effective when passing out of the back. The bad habit of dribbling into the opposition, or making poorly weighted passes in their own third needs to stop. If the Pride can improve the passing out of the back while maintaining their otherwise solid defense, the club can limit Carolina’s chances.

More Better Moorhouse

Anna Moorhouse is a pretty good shot stopper, but I still hold my breath on crosses and corner kicks. Moorhouse had a pretty good match against the San Diego Wave, and she needs to improve on that performance. She has faced 43 shots on goal with 32 saves and 11 goals allowed. That the number of shots is so low is a testament to the defense in front of her. Moorhouse has the physical tools needed, now she just needs to fine tune her decision-making and put a little stickum on the keeper gloves. If she can continue to build on that last performance on Saturday against Carolina, the Pride will have a good shot at continuing the unbeaten streak.

Help Banda to Help You

Even when teams try to stop Banda by putting multiple players on her, it’s never completely effective. However, if Banda’s teammates can create some space and some chances on their own, that will draw defenders from Banda, allowing her to be more dangerous. As such, it is important to players like Adriana, Marta, Ally Watt, Julie Doyle, and Summer Yates to do more on their own. Teams are worried about Banda and will defend accordingly. Now, the Pride just need to make them pay for doing so.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando Pride Summer Transfer Window: Notable Free Agents

A look at the Pride’s roster and which players could solidify Orlando’s title aspirations by joining this summer.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride are now 12 matches into the 2024 NWSL season, and they are performing at or near the highest levels seen in the club’s history. The Pride continue to pace the league, tied for first with the Kansas City Current, but continuous improvement is required to stay at the top. 

After the record-setting victory against the Portland Thorns, Marta summed up what it means to be top of the table, “we now look behind and see everyone running after us, so we just need to run [faster].”

The hard work of Orlando’s squad and coaching staff is showing on the field. Behind the scenes, Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter is closely monitoring the contract situations of the top players in Europe as many seasons abroad come to a close. On that front, Carter and staff have hit the ground running this summer by securing the signature of Grace Chanda, a highly-talented Zambian attacking midfielder meant to add new dimensions to the Pride in front of goal. Even after this signing, there may be room on the roster within the salary cap to add more talent to this squad.

Current Roster and Rules

The NWSL has three key limits on roster construction by which each team must abide. The first is the salary cap, which sits at $2.75 million for 2024, double the limit from the year prior. Unfortunately, NWSL salary details are not typically reported publicly. One salary that is known is that of Barbra Banda, who earns a $525,000 annual salary after she arrived on the second-largest transfer fee in league history. Despite her price tag, the increased cap space from 2023 should leave additional room to add more top players to the roster. 

The second rule is that each team was given seven international roster slots at the beginning of 2024. The Pride gained an additional slot in a trade with Utah Royals FC that included Carly Nelson, bringing their total to eight. Six of these slots are currently occupied by Luana, Amanda Allen, Barbra Banda, Grace Chanda, Evelina Duljan, and Sofia Manner, leaving the Pride with two slots remaining. 

Lastly, the Pride are allowed 26 players on their active roster, a category that excludes certain players such as those with a season-ending injury (SEI). Of the 30 players on Orlando’s roster, four — Luana, Simone Charley, Megan Montefusco, and Viviana Villacorta — are on the SEI list. In the case of Villacorta, club training videos posted to social media hint that Pride fans might not have to wait too long for her return to action. 

Regardless of the seemingly full roster today, Carter and staff do have levers at their disposal to create room in the squad. They may choose to loan out players in need of minutes or mutually agree to terminate the contracts of players not in the club’s current or long-term plans.

Available Free Agents and Potential Roles

Because the Pride are playing so well, it is especially tricky to find the right players to sign to add depth or upgrade a starting role. However, there are a few areas that the club could target. Listed below are several high-profile, out-of-contract players that fit these roles.

Laura Freigang – Forward

The Orlando Pride attack is currently performing at a high level, and Banda is a big reason why. Since her debut, she has scored, assisted, or drawn a penalty for 13 of the Pride’s last 15 goals. However, there has been a lack of production when Banda is not on the pitch, as Sean Rollins recently wrote. Adriana has typically been an attacking focal point for the Pride, but she has been hampered by knocks and fitness this season. To make Orlando’s attack more resilient to these absences, someone like Laura Freigang would add more goal-scoring depth to the front line and help carry the load.

Freigang is a 26-year-old German international with 27 caps to her name. For the past four seasons, she has starred for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Frauen-Bundesliga, where she scored 48 times and assisted 15 times in 82 career appearances. She pairs these creation numbers with a 76.4% pass completion percentage, making her one of the better all-around forwards in Europe.

Prior to her time in Frankfurt, she played collegiately for Penn State, sharing an alma mater with current Pride players Kerry Abello and Cori Dyke. This familiarity with the U.S., as well as the increased finances available to NWSL clubs, can make playing in the States an appealing option for Freigang, as well as other players abroad. 

Julia Grosso – Attacking Midfielder

Orlando has played in a handful of different formations so far this season, sometimes to maximize a weakness that Head Coach Seb Hines sees in the opposition, and sometimes to cover gaps created by injury. The midfield has been the area of the pitch that has had to deal with the most absences, namely Luana’s season-ending illness and Angelina’s ongoing recovery from a knee injury. 

As mentioned above, the Pride have already signed Chanda to add depth and versatility to the midfield. From the club’s comments when she signed, it is obvious they view her as a gifted attacker that can cover multiple positions. If the Pride do not feel they are done reinforcing the midfield, they may take a long look at Julia Grosso.

Grosso is a 23-year-old Canadian who has just completed a three-year stint at Juventus in Italy, the same club from which the Pride signed Duljan. At Juventus, Grosso featured in 50 matches, scoring nine times. Despite her young age, she already has 63 appearances for Canada, but has fallen down the pecking order as of late and there have been rumors of her moving to the NWSL to be closer to home and national team scouts. 

Grosso’s passing and goal-scoring numbers are among the top for midfielders in Europe, though her defensive metrics show a player that prefers to join the attack. This profile could make her a different and intriguing option for Pride staff, depending on how they view the evolution of the midfield and the role of Chanda.

Lucy Bronze – Right Back

The Pride could improve their midfield depth in an unexpected way, by signing a new defender. In recent weeks, Hines has solved the issue of Orlando’s injured midfielders by pulling Haley McCutcheon from right back to defensive midfield and moving each member of the back line one position to the right to cover. This game of dominoes could be avoided altogether by adding another starting caliber right back and moving McCutcheon to the midfield on a more permanent basis. This could also shift the back line back to the left one space, allowing Abello to move forward.

One of the most exciting players in the world, Lucy Bronze, is out of contract at Barcelona and could be available, although she is sure to have many clubs interested in signing her. The 32-year-old English international was voted Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020. For Barcelona, Bronze won just about every trophy possible in the past two seasons, including each of the last two UEFA Women’s Champions League, Liga F, and Spanish Supercopa trophies, as well as the most recent Copa de la Reina.

Despite all of the success, Barcelona is struggling to afford contract renewals for their top players, the same issue plaguing Barcelona’s men’s team. It is already rumored that U.S.-based clubs are interested in Bronze’s signature if she does not renew. Given that she could start for almost any club in the world, the Pride should do what they can to jump the queue for Bronze.

Sandra Panos – Goalkeeper

The last role that Orlando may consider adding is an additional goalkeeper to compete with Anna Moorhouse. While Moorhouse boasts four clean sheets and a 76% save percentage, she has been error prone in her time in Orlando, leading to crucial dropped points. 

In the winter window, the Pride signed Sofia Manner to the goalkeeper position, stating they “expect [her] to challenge for the starting position,” but she has yet to make an appearance for the club. McKinley Crone has been the bench option. Manner and Crone are on one-year deals, club options notwithstanding, so the goalkeeper position is one that will need attention soon.

It just so happens that another great Barcelona player is available due to the team’s financial constraints. To truly elevate Orlando’s goalkeeping core, 31-year-old Sandra Panos would be an excellent addition. Panos spent the last nine seasons in Catalonia, but local reports have hinted at interest from teams in the U.S., England, and Mexico. Similar to Bronze, a player of this caliber cannot be ignored when they are available. It just remains to be seen if a top club in the NWSL can entice the Spanish international to cross the Atlantic for a new opportunity.

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