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Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns: Match Preview

The Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in their first official National Women's Soccer League match.

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The day has come. After months of anticipation and preparation, the Orlando Pride will take the pitch for the first time in their official National Women’s Soccer League debut. This evening, the Pride with suit up against the Portland Thorns in what is arguably the largest soccer city in North America. This will be a test for both teams, as both are stocked with international talent, and have been training without some of their top players for the last few weeks.

For those new to women’s soccer, here’s all you need to know about the Portland Thorns. The Thorns are led by former Washington Spirit head coach Mark Parsons. They lead the league in national team talent, with Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsey Horan, and Emily Sonnett from the United States, top Canadian striker Christine Sinclair, French midfielder Amandine Henry (although she is not yet with the team), Afghanistan forward Nadia Nadim, and Dagny Brynjarsdottir from Iceland. They were the first to win the NWSL Championship back in 2013, and currently hold the record for largest crowd at an NWSL game. That's a record Orlando hopes to break when they play the Houston Dash next Saturday at the Citrus Bowl.

Their preseason proved to be more challenging than some Thorns fan would have expected. They lost to both the Seattle Reign and the Houston Dash, only winning against Oklahoma State University. Look for Parsons to rely heavily on Heath, Nadim and Sinclair -- if she plays, as she's listed as doubtful with an Achilles injury -- as his main focal points in the attack. Their weak points include their defense, which has had less than ample time to train together.

The Orlando Pride, as we all know, are the new kids on the NWSL block. As the most recent team to join the league, there are still a lot of question marks regarding how the season will play out. As a refresher, the Pride are led by Head Coach Tom Sermanni, with Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Kayln Kyle, Steph Catley, and Laura Alleway as the backbone of the team. The Pride went undefeated during the preseason and play with a high tempo at all times.

Four Pride players are former Thorns, adding spice to the match. Morgan, Kyle, Catley and Lianne Sanderson were all former Portland players.

Projected Starting XIs:

Key points for the Pride defeating the Thorns will be their ability to shut down Tobin Heath, maintaining a high tempo, and communication.

If the Pride can shut down Heath, their chances go up drastically, as she is considered their top player and is on a high coming off of national team duty. She is talented on the ball and reads the field exceptionally well. If the Pride can contain her, they cut off a significant amount of the Thorns offense.

Look for Sermanni to try to keep the game fast paced. This will allow Morgan and Spencer to get quick runs up top, preventing the Thorns from setting up their defense, which will likely be pushing forward. Watch out for Morgan. This is her first time playing against her former teammates and she will likely be looking to make a difference and score some goals. Sermanni said at Media Day Thursday that he'll monitor Morgan as it's been awhile since she's played in a game and she may not be able to go for 90 minutes.

Finally, communication is key. The Pride have all of the necessary elements to defeat the Thorns. If they communicate, do their jobs, and work hard for 90 minutes, there is no reason why they shouldn’t walk away with three points.

For those of you wanting to watch the game, it will be live streamed on NWSL’s official YouTube channel at 10 p.m. Until then, check out some of these great plays and goals to get you excited for tonight.