The Orlando Pride will play their first ever playoff match this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Common sense says that having to travel across the country and play a team Orlando has never beaten in that first playoff game will be incredibly difficult. The odds would seem to be against Orlando advancing to the final. But, as Han Solo said, “Never tell me the odds!” Here’s why the Pride will not only win at Portland but will also win the NWSL championship.
The Team is on the Front Foot
The Pride started out a bit slow this season. Alex Morgan was with Lyon, there were new faces, and a new stadium. Their schedule was loaded with tough games in the early going with road trips to North Carolina Courage, Portland Thorns, and Seattle Reign, plus hosting North Carolina at home. That was all in just the first seven matches, and during that time they went 1-3-3. The later half of the season has allowed the team to get on a roll at the right time. In their last nine matches, they have gone 6-0-3, including draws against Seattle Reign, Portland Thorns, and a win at North Carolina Courage. This latter part of the season form has built their confidence that they can go anywhere and beat any team. Including one they’ve never defeated. They have absolute belief they can go to Portland and get past the Thorns. If they do, then it’s a home match against a North Carolina team they’ve beaten before or a Chicago Red Stars team they have played tough against.
Marta, Morgan, and Harris
Yes, the other teams also have plenty of prime time players, but Orlando has a bunch of its own, and that 6-0-3 record the Pride have compiled recently reflects a team that is reaping the benefits of those players finally clicking on the field.
Ashlyn Harris is undoubtably one of the best goalkeepers in the women’s game. Aubrey Bledsoe played admirably when Harris was injured, but there’s no doubt the team has played better since her return. Additionally, it’s always best to have your captain on the field rather than on the sidelines.
Alex Morgan missed the first part of the season while playing at Lyon. Then she got hurt right before coming back to the Pride, delaying her return. However, when she did finally get back on the pitch, her lessons learned playing at Lyon, or her refound sense of purpose, has shown in her production. Since her return she has scored nine goals. That ties her for fifth in the NWSL, and with fewer games than the others. Additionally, she and Marta have seemed to found their groove in working together. That’s quite a tandem on the attack.
Speaking of Marta, the former five-time World Player of the Year has only scored 13 goals in her time with the Pride. Which is only good enough for second in the NWSL (the unstoppable Samantha Kerr has 17), but again she wasn’t with the team for the entire season. Marta’s experience, knowledge, and skill are entirely evident whenever you watch her play. She can get through multiple defenders, multiple times, in one run. She also elevates the play of those around her, and we already mentioned the partnership with her and Alex.
The Championship Game is at Orlando City Stadium
Yes, I know they have to make the Championship game first, but I think that will happen. So, once they are back in Orlando City Stadium, it becomes the ultimate home match. More than likely, it will be a sold-out stadium, consisting of mostly purple-wearing supporters. Plus, the opponent will be either North Carolina Courage or Chicago Red Stars. Both teams that the Pride have been able to hang with. Home field advantage is a real thing. Loud supporters spur on a team when it needs it and affect the visiting team.
There you have it. Three reasons the Pride will win the NWSL Championship this season. There are probably more, and other reasons why they won’t, but let’s focus on the positive, and enjoy it when a championship comes to Orlando.