There’s a lot on the line for the Orlando Pride Saturday afternoon. With a win, they clinch their first ever playoff berth; with a draw, Orlando can, at worst, force a tiebreaker situation if the Seattle Reign win out. Doing so would require completing a feat the Pride have yet to do in the last two seasons: get a result against the Portland Thorns.
The Pride have lost all three previous matchups with the Thorns, allowing two goals in each contest, including a 2-0 loss in this season’s opener. In fact, it’s the only team that Orlando has yet to pick up any points against and one of only two teams the Pride has yet to defeat (the Chicago Red Stars being the other). Portland has consistently managed to break through Orlando’s defense with ease. The difference now is that Orlando has a chance to keep up offensively.
A win is paramount for the Pride this weekend. A loss opens the door for Seattle to take fourth place outright and a draw sets off the potential for tiebreakers to determine Orlando’s postseason fate should the Pride lose again next week. This weekend is the best chance for the Pride to pick up points. Even though it’s a difficult task, it’s better than needing a win to guarantee safety on the road in North Carolina against the reigning champions.
The good news for the Pride is that they have the upper hand with just one point from their final two match-ups, thanks to NWSL’s tiebreaker rules. Orlando’s +13 goal differential gives them a seven-goal cushion over Seattle, but with the Reign’s remaining matches against FC Kansas City and the lowly Washington Spirit, Seattle has a good chance of making up ground on the Pride, who have to face off with top defenses from Portland and the North Carolina Courage.
More good news is that Orlando still controls its own destiny, even if it has to do something it’s never done before and pick up at least a point against the Thorns.
Portland is a formidable foe, averaging nearly two points per game, allowing only 0.86 goals every contest, and has already locked up one of the top two spots in the NWSL playoffs. The Thorns’ defense is second only to the Courage. But the Thorns haven’t had to defend against both Alex Morgan and Marta at the same time. Portland is only 4-4-3 on the road compared to its outstanding 9-1-1 home record, which only helps the Pride’s chances more.
A point this weekend would be Orlando’s biggest in its young history. Not only would it solidify the inside track that the Pride currently hold for a playoff appearance, it gets the monkey off their back against one of the best teams in the league ahead of a potential rematch in the semifinals.