The Orlando Pride will open their inaugural NWSL season away at the Portland Thorns at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 17. The league schedule maker has a sense of drama, as forward Alex Morgan, defender Steph Catley, and midfielders Lianne Sanderson and Kaylyn Kyle return to face their former team in the first-ever game for their new club.
The Pride will host their first NWSL game on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. against the Houston Dash at the Citrus Bowl, giving defender Toni Pressley an opportunity to suit up against her former club as well. The opening games were announced by the league and the clubs today, and the full details of the 2016 schedule are expected out as early as tomorrow.
Morgan scored 15 goals in 36 matches with Portland from 2013-2015. She missed much of last season on international duty with the United States during the Women's World Cup. Catley played 17 games with Portland from 2014-2015 in her first two NWSL seasons. Sanderson made five appearances with Portland last season without scoring. Kyle made 12 appearances with the Thorns a year ago, after spending time with the Houston Dash, Boston Breakers and Seattle Reign.
The Thorns and Pride were involved in some big off-season trades involving a number of high-profile players. In addition to sending Morgan to Orlando, the deal essentially sent USWNT Meghan Klingenberg and midfielder Lindsey Horan to Portland. The Pride plucked Sanderson from Portland's roster with the seventh pick in the NWSL Expansion Draft in early November.
Pressley played in 15 matches with the Dash last season. The 25-year-old has also played for the Western New York Flash and Washington Spirit. Orlando selected Pressley with the No. 8 pick in the expansion draft.
Portland is a very talented team and should challenge for the championship, boasting players like USWNT regulars Tobin Heath, Emily Sonnett, Klingenberg and Horan, as well as Canadian international star Christine Sinclair. Houston will be an attractive opening home opener, considering World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd is a Dash player, along with midfielder Morgan Brian.
The Pride becomes the first of the Orlando City teams to open on the road. Orlando City opened 2015 at home and will do so again in 2016, hosting Real Salt Lake on March 6. Orlando City B will open its inaugural USL season at home on March 26.