Tom Sermanni's Orlando Pride will be counting on another crowd of 24,000 to return to winning ways against a Seattle Reign who, after falling down to Sky Blue FC on their opener, managed to take six points from their following two matches against Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City. In those games, the Reign scored four and conceded none.
Here is our scouting report on the Reign:
After an uninspiring performance on their home opener against Sky Blue FC, holders Seattle Reign have immediately found their feet on the ground and secured two consecutive wins, scoring four and conceding none, putting on impressive displays which highlights their status as champions. By nature, the 4-3-3 system is usually adapted in a more offensive way and the Reign are not an exception. Apart from having their post safeguarded by USWNT number 1, Hope Solo, their main force is their core of midfield, where they can boast the likes of Kim Little and also the experienced central midfielder Beverly Yanez. However, they are short of Jess Fishlock who is out for at least two months after a knee injury sustained against the Breakers.
GK Hope Solo (#1)
I guess you know her, right? After Nadine Angerer's retirement from International soccer, Hope Solo is by far the best goalkeeper in the world. Her reflexes, leadership, and successes are proof of an amazing career where she won everything both at club and national level. For the Reign, she transmits lot of experience and leadership which we cannot deny that were pivotal in last year's triumph in the NWSL. In their 1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC, she saved a Sarah Killion penalty to keep her team in the match.
MF Kim Little (#12)
A highly talented player who, at the age of 25, has already gained lot of experience both at the club and national level. She has played on three continents; Europe, Australia and North America and she also made her debut with the Scottish National Team at the age of 16. We already know that she is a creative play maker who is capable of creating havoc against the opponent's defensive line, where she can also deliver the final pass. However, to the surprise of everyone, in their last match against FC Kansas City, she replaced Fishlock as defensive midfielder and played brilliantly. More on her to come.
FW Beverley Yanez (#17)
27-year-old Beverley Yanez is one of their most experienced players. She may not be the one who constantly features on the front pages, however her work rate is unquestionable, and in recent years, she has also exposed herself as a valuable figure upfront. In their first win of the season, Yanez and Little connected immediately as both were creating goal scoring opportunities and delivered a sensational ball to Manon Melis who eventually scored. In the past, she was successful with INAC Kobe Leonessa, a Japanese team, and also had a short spell in Finland with PK-35.
Keys to victory:
Little in Name, Large in Talent - Need to Be Extra-Cautious
She is a genius with the ball. But she is also a genius off-ball. Against FC Kansas CIty, she filled Fishlock's boots and covered the defensive midfielder's role excellently. It is true that she was positioned deep, protecting the back line, however, she played more like a box-to-box midfielder, covering acres of the field. She truly covered every area as sometimes she was also playing at right back, forward and winger. Goalkeeper is the only position missing on her resume. Little had a 95% pass completion rate. In addition, she also recovered the ball in their own half 10 times. Superb.
Exploit the Right Flank
Right back Elli Reed is probably the Reign's weakest position, and we should constantly exploit that flank so we can have our say up front. She was absolutely out played by Kelley O'Hara in the fist match against Sky Blue FC, as the USWNT defender caused trouble. When under pressure, Reed sometimes does play in a nonsense way and we should take advantage from situations like these, if we really want to take something from this match. To be fair though, she did play well in the Reign's two wins.
We may be playing our first ever NWSL season. Yet, we have several players who have vast experience and can handle the pressure in matches like these, and it would not be a surprising approach if coach Sermanni decides to press the opponents in their defensive zone, allowing them to quicken their play. Players like Alex Morgan and Lianne Sanderson seem perfectly fit to battle up their defenders in order to put pressure on them.
On a side note, we have already won an indirect encounter against the Reign, as we topped the Sounder at Heart's NWSL Jersey Rankings, with our next opponents' kit placing at third place.
You can watch the Pride's fourth match of the season on YouTube or below.