As evidenced in their closely played 1-0 loss to Chicago on Saturday night, the Orlando Pride's starting lineup is without some of it's most important cast members. Captain Alex Morgan (U.S.), Monica (Brazil), Steph Catley (Australia), Laura Alleway (Australia), Josée Bélanger (Canada), and USWNT alternate Ashlyn Harris were all absent from the match while Canadian alternate Kaylyn Kyle, who was voted player of the match Sunday night, took over the captain's armband when Becky Edwards came off in the 59th minute for Dani Weatherholt.
When the team was first announced, the trio of Sarah Hagen, Kyle, and Morgan were a publicity tour de force for building interest in the club. Having two of the three original members of the club around while their teammates are away training for their international squads isn't bad for the club, all told. The NWSL will be suspending play during the entirety of the soccer tournament during the Olympics, and there will be no games played from Aug. 1 through Aug. 25.
The Pride have two more matches before the Olympic break begins and a match the day after the NWSL break concludes, where I wouldn't expect to see Olympians feature. Let's take a look at those matches.
Saturday, July 23 at Seattle Reign FC
Seattle Players Missing: Hope Solo (USWNT goalkeeper), Megan Rapinoe (USWNT midfielder).
Previous Match Result: Pride 2-0 Spirit.
Sarah Hagen scored the opening goal in the 12th minute and the departed Lianne Sanderson (the English aren't featuring in the Olympics this year so, she she could sorely be used) put the match away in the 87th minute to give the Pride three points against Hope Solo. Morgan helped set up both goals for the Pride, though, as her clinical cross to Hagen opened the book and her initial shot on Solo rebounded back to Sanderson for her to finish. Alleway also began the play that led to Hagen's goal.
The Reign only lose two players to the Olympics, and Megan Rapinoe has been out all season with an ACL injury sustained in Hawaii on a training pitch and has yet to feature for her club. So, really, it's just Solo missing from the usual starting lineup.
Sunday July 31 at Boston Breakers
Boston Breakers Missing: Whitney Engen (USWNT defender).
Previous Match Result: Pride 2-1 Breakers.
Well, this match only happened a week ago on Sunday, but we all remember how it played out despite it featuring roughly the same roster that will be playing again in just under two weeks. The Breakers scored in the fifth minute, but Kristen Edmonds netted herself a brace in the span of three minutes at the death and the Pride manage to steal away three points from Boston before you could say Bill Buckner.
As the match took place recently, both teams should feature similar rosters and lineups to the last time they played.
Friday, Aug. 26 vs. Washington Spirit
Spirit Players Missing: Ali Krieger (USWNT defender), Crystal Dunn (USWNT forward), Stephanie Labbé (Canada GK), Shelina Zadorsky (Canada defender), Diana Matheson (Canada midfielder).
Previous Match Result: Pride 0-2 Spirit.
Of the three teams the Pride are set to face surrounding the Olympics, the Spirit have maybe the closest to the Pride in the number of players leaving for the Olympics (though the Portland Thorns also have six players being called up to represent their country). Interestingly enough, none of the Olympians for the Spirit scored against the Pride, and instead their goals came from Argentinian Estefanía Banini and Nigerian Francisca Ordega.
Banini had a brace in the Spirit's last match, a 3-2 victory over FC Kansas City. Banini's goal against Orlando came off an Alyssa Kleiner low cross from the left that found its way into the box and made its home at the right side of the net. Meanwhile, Ordega's goal came on a play where she muscled Alleway off the ball and chipped over Harris.
So, while it may be a bit of a tough road ahead, the results that the Pride have in hand over two of their next three opponents are pretty encouraging. How do you think the Pride will fare while their Olympians are off representing their respective countries in Rio?