Welcome to your match thread for tonight’s match-up between the Orlando Pride (4-4-3, 15 points) and the Chicago Red Stars (6-3-2, 20 points). This is the first of three scheduled meetings between the two sides, with Orlando visiting Toyota Park on Saturday, July 22 at 3:30 p.m. and the Red Stars returning to Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Striker Alex Morgan will make her long-awaited season debut with the Pride in this match, which is the first half of a double-header with USL side Orlando City B. Morgan has recovered from the hamstring injury she sustained while playing with Olympique Lyonnais, where she helped the French giants win the treble this season.
“If you look, [Alex] probably hasn’t played a full game in about seven weeks now so it will just be great to get her back out onto the field,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “What you want to do is get to a stage where you have a very strong starting XI but you also have a strong bench. From an attacking perspective, with Alex coming back, we’ve certainly got that now.”
The Pride is coming off a 3-2 comeback win at Sky Blue FC on Wednesday night. Chioma Ubogagu opened the scoring, only to see Kelley O’Hara and Sam Kerr give the hosts a 2-1 lead with goals within a minute on either side of halftime. Marta and rookie Rachel Hill scored late to give the Pride their second straight road win and first ever victory against Sky Blue.
The Red Stars were in Seattle Wednesday night and are coming off a 2-1 loss — only their third all year. Megan Rapinoe scored both of the Reign’s goals on penalty kicks after Alyssa Mautz put Chicago on top early.
Orlando is 0-2-0 against the Red Stars, falling in both of the 2016 meetings by identical scores. Christen Press scored in the 65th minute to give Chicago a 1-0 home win on May 1 of last year. In the rematch in Orlando on July 16, Taylor Comeau’s header on a Sofia Huerta cross was the difference in the Red Stars’ second 1-0 win of the series.
Sitting second in the NWSL standings, the Red Stars have had a great season in 2017. They’re tied with league-leading North Carolina for the second-fewest goals conceded this season (11) and are adept at grinding out close games with U.S. internationals like goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defenders Casey Short and Julie Ertz leading the defense. Another USWNT star, forward Christen Press, leads the league in shot attempts (46), is second in shots on goal (21), is fifth in goals scored (4), and has added two assists and 18 chances created this year. Huerta has three assists this season and has created 13 chances for Chicago.
“It’s always hard at the end of a week with three games, but [Chicago is] very well organized and a very tough team. They are not a team that I would say plays a lot of build-up soccer; they’ve got a bit of pace up front with Christen Press, Jen Hoy and whoever else they play up [front],” Sermanni said. “They get it forward early, they pressure the ball well and physically they’re very strong. And the other thing I think Chicago has is that their team is virtually a carbon copy from last year. They’ve built up a great deal of continuity and consistency in the squad and that certainly is a big advantage.”
Ashlyn Harris (right quad) is out for Orlando. Chicago lists Danielle Colaprico (right ankle sprain) as probable on the latest NWSL injury report.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Aubrey Bledsoe.
Defenders: Steph Catley, Toni Pressley, Ali Krieger, Kristen Edmonds.
Midfielders: Alanna Kennedy, Monica, Maddy Evans.
Forwards: Jasmyne Spencer, Marta, Rachel Hill.
Bench: Caroline Stanley, Nickolette Driesse, Dani Weatherholt, Camila, Jamia Fields, Chioma Ubogagu, Alex Morgan.
Chicago Red Stars(4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher.
Defenders: Alyssa Mautz, Samantha Johnson, Kathleen Naughton, Sarah Gorden.
Midfielders: Danielle Colaprico, Julie Ertz, Sofia Huerta.
Forwards: Taylor Comeau, Vanessa DiBernardo, Christen Press.
Bench: Michele Dalton, Casey Short, Jennifer Hoy, Stephanie McCaffrey, Morgan Proffitt, Lauren Kaskie, Arin Gilliland.
Ref: Guido Gonzales Jr..
AR1: Brooke Mayo.
AR2: Natalie Simon.
4th: Francesco Terranova.
How to Watch
Match Time: 5 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
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) and The Mane Land’s Twitter (@TheManeLand).
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