Still looking for their first win, the Orlando Pride return home after two road games. The Pride (0-2-1, 1 point) sit in eighth place and are currently riding a two-game losing streak. This, of course, has been without Orlando’s Brazilians and Australians, who are away on international duty, but with the depth the Pride brought in this off-season this is still a poor start.
If there is any hope for Orlando, it is that the Pride return home and play another winless team in the Houston Dash (0-1-2, 2 points). On Wednesday, Houston went to Bridgeview, IL, and lost 3-0 to Chicago.
Houston and Orlando are no strangers, playing against each other six times in two years. The Pride lead the all-time series, 4-2-0, and won the first three matches by a combined score of 5-1. However, the last time the teams played, the Dash beat the Pride, 2-0 in Orlando. Poliana — now with the Pride — assisted on both goals, and Carli Lloyd and Rachel Daly each found the back of the net. Good news for the Pride is that Lloyd was involved in a landmark trade this off-season.
The last win for Orlando came a week before that loss and Marta stole the show. The Brazilian superstar scored twice and assisted on two more goals as she had a hand in each of Orlando’s goals en route to a 4-2 win.
While the Pride will miss another Brazilian this week in Poliana, the good news is that she cannot hurt Orlando. Poliana, who is currently away on international duty, has scored or assisted on three of the four goals Houston scored against Orlando last year and added another goal in 2016. As for Orlando, eight different players have found the back of the net against the Texas team on 11 total goals. Only Marta, Kristen Edmonds, and Morgan have scored multiple times.
Houston is coming off of its first loss of the season. Kristie Mewis scored an own goal in the seventh minute and then Lauren Kaskie scored four minutes later after poor goalkeeping and defending. The attack started with Jane Campbell’s clearance that went about 10 yards. Houston could not clear the ball and Chicago ended up with an easy cross in and two open shots on goal.
The Dash need to improve these defensive errors if they are going to beat Orlando. While Sydney Leroux has yet to find the back of the net for the Pride, she has been close a number of times, and an opportunity like this might spark her into a goal-scoring streak.
It has been a frustrating start for both team so far but both head coaches are looking for a win to gain some momentum. Vera Pauw knows that her team needs to keep battling to help forget the tough loss mid week. Tom Sermanni has similar thoughts on his team and knows that Orlando needs to show up.
“In this league there are no easy games. Every game is tough. If you look at the competition at the moment, there’s virtually nothing separating the teams,” said Sermanni. “We’re expecting the game to be just as tough but if we have everyone fit and healthy, I think we’ve got the tools to win the game. It’s about us, tactically, getting the right formation set up and being able to execute that.”
Orlando will still be without six players. While Camila is not returning any time soon, Alanna Kennedy, Marta, Emily van Egmond, Poliana, and Monica are all away on international duty. Each of these players has been sorely missed throughout the first few weeks of the season and their absence is a key reason why Orlando is winless. Still, the play has not been good enough and the depth of the team needs to step up.
Chioma Ubogagu scored the first goal from the run of play last week, but Christine Nairn and Shelina Zadorsky have been two of the best players for Orlando so far. Leroux has had opportunities and needs to find the back of the net.
Orlando Pride (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Carson Pickett, Christine Nairn, Dani Weatherholt, Kristen Edmonds.
Forwards: Chioma Ubogagu, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Lotta Okvist, Danica Evans, Abby Elinsky, Bridget Callahan, Nàdia Gomes, Rachel Hill.
Houston Dash (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Jane Campbell.
Defenders: Kristie Mewis, Janine Van Wyk, Amber Brooks, Rachel Daly.
Defensive Midfielders: Haley Hanson, Meleana Shim.
Attacking Midfielders: Kimberly Keever, Linda Maserame Motlhalo, Nichelle Prince.
Forward: Savannah Jordan.
Bench: Lindsay Elizabeth Agnew, Claire Falknor, Bianca Henninger, Veronica Latsko, Alli Murphy, Thembi Kgatlana, Kealia Ohai.
Ref: Jasmine Peralta.
AR1: Walter Heatherly.
AR2: Francisco Bermudez.
4th: Natalie Simon.
How to Watch
Match Time: 5 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, Florida
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.), go90.
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