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Orlando Pride vs. Kansas City Current: Final Score 2-1 as Pride Win Battle of Undefeated Teams

Despite going down to 10 players in the first half, the Orlando Pride beat the Kansas City Current on the road.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride (11-0-5, 38 points) went on the road and handed the Kansas City Current (10-1-5, 35 points) their first loss of the season, winning 2-1 at CPKC Stadium in Kansas City. The Pride’s Barbra Banda and the Current’s Temwa Chawinga — the two top scorers in the NWSL — traded goals in the first half, and Marta scored the winner with a penalty kick in the second half.

Orlando was reduced to 10 players in the 42nd minute after Carrie Lawrence received her second yellow card, but the Pride were still able to win their 11th game of the season, claiming the battle of the league’s last two remaining unbeaten teams. The result extended the Pride’s unbeaten streak this season to 16 games — 17 dating back to last year’s season finale — and they are now first in the league standings.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the lineup that won 3-0 against Angel City FC, with Angelina replacing Haley McCutcheon in the midfield. It was Angelina’s first start since undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on her knee on May 9. Anna Moorhouse started in goal behind a back line of Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Lawrence. Julie Doyle, Angelina, Summer Yates, and Adriana made up the midfield, while Marta played a bit further up the pitch with Banda up top.

The Pride wasted no time in attacking and created the game’s first chance in the second minute. Banda charged toward the end line on the right and her shot forced a save from Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. Orlando cycled the rebound around until it wound up at the feet of Angelina, who took a low, driven shot from distance that Franch was able to gather.

It was just the start of a frantic battle between the league’s top offenses, as the match featured plenty of counterattacking. The duel between Strom and Michelle Cooper was one to watch up and down the wing and highlighted the back-and-forth nature of the match. Strom defended well against Cooper, but the 21-year-old had the Current’s first real chance in the sixth minute when a decent cross found her in the box, only for her to send it over the bar. Abello then went the other way, winning a corner after her cross was blocked.

Another important battle between individual players was Lawrence’s defense against Chawinga. It was just Lawrence’s second start this season after her injury in last year’s preseason, and stopping Chawinga is arguably the toughest assignment in the league. Chawinga is particularly lethal when counterattacking and Lawrence picked up the first yellow card in the 14th minute when she pulled the Malawian forward’s shirt to slow her down on the break. Though the Pride were able to safely deal with the ensuing free kick, the card put Lawrence in a tough spot early.

Sams made a critical tackle against Chawinga soon after, one of many great contributions from the defender. However, Chawinga was relentless in this match and had another chance in the 17th minute, nearly getting on the end of a loose ball in the box. However, Moorhouse was there to collect it and see out the danger. Moorhouse was called to action again in the 20th minute, making a save but spilling the rebound before chasing it down to push it out of play.

It was a physical match, and Marta received a yellow card in the 23rd minute for her reaction to a hard foul from Claire Lavogez. Marta will likely be heading back to Orlando with some bumps and bruises as it was just one of many times during the match that she was knocked down. Strom spoke after the match about how Marta’s passion in this match was a rallying point of sorts for the team.

“You saw the fire in her eyes today, and that is so contagious,” Strom said. “We see her fighting, and she’s the one throwing her body in front of everything, putting everything on the line. Everybody gets behind that, everybody in the locker room. We are so connected and that’s something so special with this team.”

That passion was evident soon after that foul, as Marta hustled to get in the way of an attempted clearance by the Current soon after. Banda was quick to get to the loose ball in the box, but she was forced into a tough angle and sent her shot wide.

In the 28th minute, the Current picked up their first yellow card of the night after Claire Hutton kicked the back of Marta’s leg while defending her.

The hydration break did little to slow down the breakneck pace of the game. In the 32nd minute, Marta didn’t get all of the ball on an attempted shot and the Current sprinted the other way. Lavogez took a crack at goal herself from outside the box, but the shot went just over the ball. A minute later, Marta was fouled yet again, this time in a decent area from distance. Angelina lobbed the free kick over the Kansas City defense, but Franch was there to catch it.

The Pride finally broke through in the 37th minute. Adriana found a nice pocket of space between Kansas City defenders and Marta found her fellow Brazilian with a nice pass. Adriana didn’t take long to shoot and it never had a chance at going in, but it did deflect off of Elizabeth Ball and Banda was there to jump on the opportunity. The Zambian forward was on it in an instant and beat Franch to give the Pride the lead.

It was Banda’s 12th goal in what has been a fantastic first season in Orlando. With that goal, she took the lead in the NWSL Golden Boot race as well.

That lead, both for the Pride and Banda, lasted all of two minutes. Chawinga bested Lawrence and was then off to the races, dribbling through Orlando’s defense and putting her shot past Moorhouse for the equalizer in the 39th minute. It was Chawinga’s 12th goal of the season as well.

The game wasn’t done changing though, as Lawrence received her second yellow card in the 42nd minute and was sent off. Lawrence had been defending Chawinga yet again and left her feet to tackle the forward from behind, leaving the Pride with just 10 players for the remainder of the match. Even though halftime was looming, Seb Hines immediately made a change with his first substitution in the 44th minute, bringing off Doyle to add another defender in Rafaelle. Hines has spoken often about the importance of goals right before halftime, so it made sense for him to bring on Rafaelle immediately to prevent conceding a late, first-half goal.

Chawinga nearly had her brace in the 46th minute after a nice first touch to beat Sams and set up a shot. Moorhouse redeemed herself with a phenomenal diving save to nudge the curling shot just wide and out for a corner. While she had some worrying moments in this match, this save was one of Moorhouse’s best of the season.

Although down a player, the Pride didn’t stop pushing for a goal offensively to close out the first half. However, despite a flurry of corner kicks from Orlando, the first half ended with the game tied 1-1 and the Pride at a disadvantage due to Lawrence’s exit.

The Pride had more possession (53%-47%), shots (7-6), shots on target (5-4), corner kicks (4-1),and crosses (9-8). The Pride also completed 76% of their passes, while the Current were successful on 72% of theirs.

Hines made another change at halftime, replacing Yates with McCutcheon in the midfield.

It didn’t take long into the second half for Marta to be fouled again, with Lo’eau LaBonta receiving a yellow card this time. The medical team came out as she stayed down, but Marta was ultimately able to continue.

It was hard to tell that the Pride were down a player at times, as Banda and Marta required plenty of attention from the Current and the team remained organized and consistent with its pressure. This wasn’t the first time the Pride have played well after a red card this season and it showed.

“You have to manage those moments. You have to not find excuses,” Hines said. “It could have been very easy to give up and say, ‘You know what, we’re playing the top of the table tonight at their grounds, we’re down to 10 players.’ That could have been your excuse, but we’re not like that. That’s not the attitude. That’s not the character that we have in this group. They embrace it. They use it as fuel. Even when things are going against them, they step up and have great attitudes throughout the whole game.”

Adriana, Banda, and Marta all had their shots blocked in a barrage of chances for Orlando in the 51st minute, earning a corner for their efforts. That corner was cleared by the Current and Chawinga was wreaking havoc at the other end in a flash. Her cross skipped in front of goal, but Moorhouse collected it before the Current could capitalize. In the 55th minute, Chawinga sent a shot directly at Moorhouse. The goalkeeper couldn’t handle it, but her back line was able to clear away the danger during the panic.

Kansas City Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski made his first substitution in the 56th minute, bringing in Bayley Feist for Lavogez. In the 57th minute, Hailie Mace was shown a yellow card for yet another foul against Marta.

Things took an unexpected turn in the 60th minute. Sams came up with another important tackle to spark a counterattack that sent Banda downfield in a hurry. The forward dribbled towards the box and then slipped a nice pass in to tee up a shot for Adriana. The Brazilian’s first shot was blocked, and she rushed to poke at the rebound, getting fouled by Franch in the process. Franch was shown a yellow card while Adriana remained down and the Pride were awarded a penalty. Marta took it and beat Franch to give Orlando an unlikely lead while down a player on the road. Purists may say her penalty kick was too driven to be a panenka, but it was crafty, deceptive, and wound up in the back of the net all the same.

The goal showcased Orlando’s commitment to keep attacking for a winner despite being a player down in the second half.

“It didn’t change,” Hines said in regards to the team’s game plan after the red card. “We came into this game with the intention that we wanted to win. Whether we have 10 players or 11 players, it doesn’t matter. We always feel like there’s an opportunity for us to win.”

Chasing a result, Feist had a shot from distance in the 66th minute. It took a deflection, but Moorhouse was able to make the save without any trouble. Hutton had a shot from distance in the 68th minute, but it went over the crossbar. The Pride’s defense did a great job limiting the Current to tougher shooting opportunities and pressed when needed to stop Kansas City from gaining momentum.

Hines then added some fresher legs with a pair of substitutions in the 69th minute, with Cori Dyke and Ally Watt replacing Adriana and Angelina. Watt did fairly well when defending and applying pressure, although she did concede a foul in the 74th minute that gave the Current a free kick in a dangerous area. Debinha is lethal from set piece situations, but the Pride’s wall did its job to stop the shot.

Banda had a chance to expand Orlando’s lead in the 80th minute, but Franch managed an impressive kick save to deny her. She had another chance in the 84th minute while surrounded by Kansas City players, but her shot went wide.

Andonovski made another change in the 85th minute, with Brazilian defender Lauren coming on for Ball. The Current started to pick up the pace, creating better opportunities as the game neared its end. Feist had a shot from distance that went over the bar like many others, but it wasn’t off by much.

Hines responded by bringing in another defender, with Bri Martinez coming off the bench for Marta to help see out the match. Moorhouse came up with another big save in stoppage time against Ellie Wheeler after the ball took a weird bounce off of Abello. The Current were relentless, but the Pride proved why they have the best defense in the league.

“I think it says so much about our mentality,” Abello said after the match. “Going a player down obviously isn’t the best situation, but you can still get points. We’ve played some of our better football when we’re a player down. We still found the spaces. We still played well. It’s all about making good decisions and just being gritty in the defensive third.”

Mace had a shot with plenty of heat on it that went just off target and Chawinga put a header wide of goal in the final moments in the Current’s best chances of an onslaught of attacks successfully endured by the Pride. The final whistle blew after a little over 10 minutes of stoppage time and the Pride claimed all three points on the road.

Lawrence’s red card shifted things as far as statistics go, but it was far from one-sided, as the Current finished with more possession (57%-43%), shots (23-15), shots on target (13-11), and crosses (26-11). The Current also completed 74% of their passes while the Pride completed 68% of theirs. Both teams had five corner kicks. Moorhouse finished the game with seven saves, and Franch ended up with three.

“We showed so much character, so much heart,” Strom said. “To be honest, even when we went a man down, we were never in doubt. We knew we could win this game. From the beginning of this year, we knew we had something special with this team and we just proved it.”

There was plenty of attention on this match as it pitted the league’s two previously undefeated sides against each other for the first time this season. It was the most impressive result yet for a team that has far exceeded expectations this season. Seb Hines has spoken often this year about the team’s tenacity and this match was a testament to the work the Pride have put in to reach the top of the table.

“To go down to 10 players so early in the game and show the character that we’ve been talking about all season long is just incredible,” Hines said. “To come into this environment, we knew that was going to be a tough game. Same amount of points, same amount of wins, same amount of ties, there was nothing between us going into this game. I think we showed our character, our personality.”


The win gives the Orlando Pride sole possession of first place in the NWSL standings after 16 games. They are in a great spot as the league takes a break for the Olympics and the Summer Cup. Marta, Adriana, Rafaelle, Angelina, Banda, and Grace Chanda will all be in Paris for the tournament.

The Pride’s next game will come in the group stage of the inaugural NWSL X Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup when they take on the North Carolina Courage on July 20. Their next NWSL match isn’t until Aug. 23, when they face the Houston Dash on the road.

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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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