Welcome to your match thread for this afternoon’s match-up between the Orlando Pride (0-1-1, 1 point) and the North Carolina Courage (2-0-0, 6 points). This is the first of three scheduled meetings between the two sides this season. The Pride will host the Courage on Sunday, May 14 at 5 p.m., and will return to Cary, NC to close the season on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m.
The Pride are winless but are coming off a 1-1 draw in which rookie Danica Evans scored the equalizer late against the Washington Spirit last week at home. Orlando has just one goal on the season despite leading the league with 40 shots through two matches. Obviously Tom Sermanni would like to see more ruthlessness and efficiency in front of goal and Marta should be able to help with that as she prepares for her first start with the Pride today.
Getting shots won’t be easy today. An offensively gifted Portland Thorns side forced only one save from Courage goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo in their 1-0 loss at North Carolina last weekend.
Scoring isn’t the Pride’s only worry today, as the Courage boast the talented strike partnership of Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams, along with new arrival Debinha, who opened her Courage account against Portland. Williams is the reigning league MVP and Golden Boot winner after netting 11 goals to go with five assists in 2016.
North Carolina is a weird team. On the one hand, the Courage are the league’s defending champions, having relocated from Western New York — where they were known as the Flash — in the off-season. However, the club continues to use language like “scored the first goal in franchise history” in its communications. Is it a new team? Is it a returning club? The truth is that it is both. The Western New York Flash were the league champions a year ago and now they simply have a new address, perhaps even more talent, and new kits.
As the Flash, the club split two extremely competitive matches against the Pride in 2016. On May 14 of last year, Alex Morgan scored a cracker of a goal to lead Orlando to a 1-0 win over the Flash. Here’s the goal:
The Flash got their revenge with a 1-0 win over their own in the rematch in New York on June 11. Makenzy Doniak’s first career goal just three minutes into the match was all that separated the two sides on that day. Kennedy may recall clearing a Jasmyne Spencer shot off the line in that match.
“[We’re expecting] a very tough game again. North Carolina won their first two games and the final last year [as Western New York]. They are a team that’s full of confidence and, obviously, a team that’s very difficult to beat,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “However, in saying that, I think that two of our best games last year were against them and I’m hopeful that we bring that form into this game.”
Orlando fans will see a familiar face on North Carolina’s team sheet. Sam Witteman, the first draft pick in Pride history, is now with the Courage after an off-season trade that brought Alanna Kennedy to Orlando. Kennedy may get some bling today, as North Carolina will hand out championship rings in a pregame ceremony.
North Carolina defender Rosana is listed as doubtful on the NWSL injury report with a knee sprain.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Kristen Edmonds, Monica, Camila.
Forwards: Jasmyne Spencer, Chioma Ubogagu, Marta.
Bench: Aubrey Bledsoe, Maddy Evans, Toni Pressley, Dani Weatherholt, Nickolette Driesse, Jamia Fields, Danica Evans.
North Carolina Courage (2-5-3)
Goalkeeper: Sabrina D’Angelo.
Defenders:Yuri Kawamura, Abby Dahlkemper.
Forwards: Lynn Williams, Debinha, Jessica McDonald.
Bench: Katelyn Rowland, Taylor Smith, Ashley Hatch, Courtney Niemiec, Kristen Hamilton, Meredith Speck, Sam Witteman.
Ref: Farhad Dadkhoar.
AR1: Amanda Ross.
AR2: Ryan Graves.
4th: Aaron Gallagher.
How to Watch
Match Time: 4 p.m. (ET).
Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.
Streaming: go90.com, go90 iOS and Android app (in the U.S.), NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.).
Twitter: For live updates, follow along at the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).
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