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Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave: Final Score 1-1 as Winning Streak Ends at 8 Games

The shorthanded Pride scored first but had to split the points on the road with yet another different starting lineup.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The NWSL-record win streak is over but the team remains unbeaten in 2024 after a 1-1 draw against the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium. Orlando (8-0-4, 28 points) got a first-half goal from Julie Doyle and withstood ferocious attacking pressure by San Diego (3-4-4, 13 points) throughout the second half, conceding a deflected goal by Makenzy Doniak but holding on for a road point.

Orlando remains unbeaten in San Diego (2-0-1) and stays atop the NWSL standings, three points ahead of Kansas City, albeit with one more game played than the Current. The Pride are already within three points of their total for all of last season.

“Overall, I think it’s a good away point,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said after the match. “It keeps our unbeaten streak going as well. It’s always a tough place to come, San Diego away. You look at the personnel they have on the field, you know, internationals all over, but I thought we stood up to the challenge really well.”

Hines did not have a full-strength squad for the contest, with Brazilian internationals Rafaelle and Adriana out of the matchday roster and Marta on the bench after the trio played Tuesday night in Brazil. Anna Moorhouse started in goal behind a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Brianna Martinez. The midfield in the 4-4-2 consisted of Cori Dyke — her first NWSL start — Morgan Gautrat, Haley McCutcheon, and Doyle, with Barbra Banda and Ally Watt up top.

The Pride were sloppy out of the gate, turning the ball over repeatedly in the first five minutes. The hosts couldn’t produce any clear-cut chances off of those turnovers, however. The first decent look came in the sixth minute when Strom tried to shepherd the ball out of play but instead turned it over. The ball ended up with Mya Jones in the box and Strom recovered to block her first shot attempt. The rebound came back to her and she sent the follow-up shot off target.

Abello got muscled off the ball in the 11th minute, allowing Jones to get a cross from the right to the far post. Maria Sanchez was there and got her header on target, but it was right at Moorhouse for the comfortable save.

Orlando’s first look at goal came in the 16th minute when Abello stole the ball and sent it to Doyle on the right. Doyle fired her shot near post but missed wide into the outside netting, wasting the opportunity. Two minutes later, Banda tried a curling shot from outside the area on the left but sent it fizzing just wide of the right post.

Doyle took a pass from Watt and got into the box on the right in the 26th minute. Cutting back to her left, she sent a left-footed effort on goal but it was a weak dribbler right at Kailen Sheridan for an easy scoop.

Alex Morgan was sent in deep by Jaedyn Shaw in the 29th minute on the right side. Moorhouse perhaps could have gotten to the ball first, but she hesitated and had to make a big save from point-blank range to keep the game scoreless.

Banda sent in a good cross for Watt from the right in the 31st minute. Watt went down under contact but the referee wasn’t interested in making a call. The Pride won a corner out of it and Strom sent a weak header right at Sheridan.

Moments later, Strom slipped while defending Morgan, who was able to get a clean look at goal but fired her shot right at Moorhouse.

In the 34th minute, Banda got loose on the right and tried a cross that deflected out to the top of the area. McCutcheon ran onto it and fired but the shot was wide.

The Pride broke through two minutes later. Orlando countered off a San Diego set piece and the ball ended up with Banda on the right after a nice play by Martinez. Banda took on Naomi Girma and sent a cross into the middle for Doyle, who contorted her body and stuck out a leg to redirect the ball past Sheridan to make it 1-0 in the 36th minute.

“I definitely wasn’t satisfied with just one goal, and I knew that one goal wasn’t going to win the game. I think once you get one in, your confidence just goes up, and so I’m hoping that that was the start of more to come, but yeah, we’ll see. I’ve just got to keep shooting, and trusting my teammates, and being committed to getting in the width of the goal.”

“I thought we took our goal exceptionally well. It was great to see Julie get on the score sheet,” Hines said.

Banda nutmegged a defender and got in down the left in the 41st minute but her cross for Watt was tipped away by a defender’s toe.

The last chance of the half fell to San Diego, with Danielle Colaprico firing a dipping shot toward goal that Moorhouse tipped over the bar.

San Diego dominated the possession in the first half (65%-35%) and had the advantage in shots (8-6), shots on target (6-3), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (86%-74%), but the Pride had the only goal.

Marta came on for Banda — who Hines said was on a minute limitation for the match — to start the second half, making her 100th NWSL appearance. The substitution emboldened the hosts, who pressed forward without the fear of Banda’s pace and scoring threat. As a result, the hosts were on the front foot throughout the second half and the Pride’s block dropped deeper as they went back to their play of the first five minutes, repeatedly turning the ball over in their own half.

“It’s very difficult, because there’s not another player like Barbara,” Hines said. “She is always going to put fear in defenders. She’s going to keep defenders honest with starting position. I think if that scenario presents itself again, we still have quality players, and it may look a little bit different.”

The first chance fell for the Wave in the 54th minute when Morgan broke down the left with two teammates in the area and only one defender. Abello was the one defender, and she was able to knock the cross out for a corner. Gautrat cleared the ensuing set piece cross.

Watt got up the right in the 57th minute, with one of her limited second-half touches, but she sent either a cross or a shot attempt right at Sheridan.

Marta had a tight-angle shot in the 60th angle, but the effort was no trouble for Sheridan, who knocked it aside for a corner.

Two minutes later, the hosts equalized. Martinez gave too much space on the right side and it allowed a cross to find second-half sub Doniak. Moorhouse may have stopped the shot, but it deflected off of Abello and in to make it 1-1 in the 62nd minute.

“To be honest, I couldn’t see (the ball), because Kerry was stood right in front of me,” Moorhouse said. “It’s just one of those things. I think on a different day, Kerry can block it.”

“Obviously disappointed with the equalizer, but to see the game out and get a point away from home is pleasing for the staff and the players,” Hines said.

Two minutes after the goal, the Pride survived a scare. Moorhouse came off her line to get to a ball over the top, but she sent her clearance off an opponent and it deflected to Kyra Carusa, who tried to fire into the empty net from distance. Fortunately for the Pride, Carusa didn’t make good contact and sent her shot too low, where Moorhouse could catch it.

A poor giveaway in the defensive half led to a Carusa shot in the 71st minute but it was over the crossbar. The Pride immediately gave the ball back and Savannah McCaskill sent a cross to a wide-open Sofia Jakobsson at the back post, but she sent her header off target.

Substitute Mariana Larroquette nearly got in behind in the 79th minute on a good through ball but she didn’t have enough pace to stay ahead of Abby Dahlkemper.

Two minutes later, Jakobsson sent a dangerous cross to the near post for Doniak but it was just over her head and Moorhouse caught it.

Pride forward Alex Kerr, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2024 NWSL Draft, made her professional debut late, coming on in the 83rd minute for Watt.

San Diego survived a rare mistake by Sheridan in the 88th minute. The goalkeeper came off her line to catch a Marta set piece cross, but she spilled the ball and it laid in the box teasingly, but no Pride players could get to it. The ball was sent out of the box where Martinez gathered it and sent a poor cross out of play.

Nothing came of the six minutes of stoppage time for either side, with neither getting a clear-cut opportunity. Marta made a nice move to keep a ball in at the end line but sent a screamer out in front that was too close to Sheridan, who covered it. On the other end, a deflected cross fell to Kristen McNabb outside the area and the fullback sent a shot that sailed well off target.

That was it, and the teams had to split the points.

San Diego dominated the stat sheet, finishing with the advantage in possession (65%-35%), shots (19-9), shots on target (13-6), corners (6-2), and passing accuracy (85%-74%).

It wasn’t the kind of performance the Pride have shown during much of the unbeaten streak so far, but considering the unavailability of key players and a difficult road environment against a determined opponent, the draw isn’t the worst outcome in the first of four road games in the final five matches before the Summer Cup break.

“I think the players (were) coming off the field disappointed (with the draw) that they put themselves in a position to win the game,” Hines said. “Unfortunate not to see it out or get that second goal. But you know, every game has its challenges. I think there’s elements of our game that we can continue to improve on. I think we can control the game more in possession, find connections and our links, but again it’s a good away point. Last year we probably would have taken that, but the players have set high standards for themselves and so have we as staff.”

Moorhouse confirmed Hines’ observation.

“I think the biggest thing is disappointment,” the goalkeeper said about the game. “I definitely thought we defended well. We attacked well as well. I think we were very disappointed to come away with a point and not all three.”


The Pride will finish their two-game road swing on Saturday, June 15 at North Carolina.

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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