Welcome to the match thread for the first NWSL match of Week 6 between the Orlando Pride (1-2-2, 5 points) and the Chicago Red Stars. Chicago (2-1-3, 9 points), led by reigning MVP Sam Kerr, sits in second place while the Pride are a mid-table sixth. Still, just four points separate the two sides in a match that will feature some of the NWSL’s biggest stars.
The Red Stars have dominated the Pride over the past two years. After losing the first four games against Chicago, Alex Morgan’s 24th -minute goal on Aug. 5 of 2017 looked to finally be the edge that Orlando needed to beat Chicago. However, Sofia Huerta scored shortly after halftime to salvage a draw and keep the Pride winless against the Red Stars. Chicago is 4-0-1 all time in the series.
While Orlando has never won, every game has been decided by no more than one goal. The first three games were 1-0 scorelines, followed by a 2-1 game where the Red Stars went up two goals before Alanna Kennedy scored in the 93rd minute.
If history speaks for anything, then Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni will be game planning to keep Huerta quiet. The 25-year-old has a goal and two assists against Orlando and only Christen Press’ four goals is a higher total. But Press is now playing in Europe. Just Kennedy and Morgan have found the back of the net for Orlando.
Morgan, Marta, Sydney Leroux, Ashlyn Harris, Sam Kerr, Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Huerta — there are so many big names on the field together tonight that one might mistake it for an all-star match. For the Pride, it is exactly the opposite. After the Pride’s first victory of the year, Harris spoke about the importance of not relying on international stars like Marta and Kennedy, but every one of the players performing their respective roles.
“Here’s the problem when you have really good international players: you tend to rely on them,” Harris said. “We have really good league players and I’m not scared to say this; at halftime I went up to Kristen Edmonds and I said, ‘You are one hell of a player. You are good on the ball. You are technical. You are good enough to be here. I need you to be better. I need you to be on the ball constantly. I need you running at that back line.’ We need players like her to feel like huge key players on this team because she is. I can’t make her believe that, she has to believe that. So for me, it’s that self belief.”
Orlando has started out the season slowly, gaining just five points in as many games. It has been difficult training with so many players missing time since preseason due to international duties, but many teams throughout the league are in similar situations.
For Chicago, 24-year-old phenom Sam Kerr only played in her first league game last week. While the Red Stars drew that game, they managed to go 2-1-2 without her. Alyssa Mautz and Huerta stepped up to lead the team to second place in the NWSL and Mautz’s three goals is second-best in the league while Huerta is tied for the lead in assists, with two.
One player that Huerta is tied with is Orlando’s Christine Nairn, who has been one of the most impressive Pride players so far. Starting and playing in all but 16 minutes this season, Nairn has shown why she was brought over from Seattle and has all of Orlando’s assists this season.
Both Orlando and Chicago are coming off 1-1 comeback draws. Orlando went down early against Seattle before a curling free kick from Marta tied the game. Chicago went a goal down in the fourth minute when a long ball found Mallory Pugh wide open down the flank. Pugh hit Francisca Ordega on the back post and Naeher had no chance at stopping it. It did not take long for Chicago to respond though, and Mautz scored her third goal of the season by smashing in a rebound.
Interesting to note is that both Harris and Morgan are listed as questionable. Harris has a hyperextended left elbow and Morgan has a hyperextended left knee. At this stage both should be expected to start, but it is worth keeping an eye on throughout the day. For Chicago, Vanessa DiBernardo, Casey Short, and Rosie White are all on the disabled list and Stephanie McCaffrey will also miss the game due to illness.
With all the attacking firepower between these two teams, it could be expected to be a high-scoring game, but Orlando has only ever scored one goal in Toyota Park and don’t expect that trend to change tonight. On top of that, while Chicago does have the second-most goals scored in the NWSL, Orlando has let in just three goals in as many weeks and the defense will be much improved with the internationals back and fully recuperated.
Kerr will get her first goal of the season tonight, assisted by Huerta, and the Pride will go down 1-0. Nairn will also score her first goal of the season to earn the Pride their second comeback draw within a week.
Final Score: 1-1
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Dani Weatherholt, Alanna Kennedy Emily van Egmond.
Forwards: Chioma Ubogagu, Marta, ydney Leroux.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Kristen Edmonds, Poliana, Toni Pressley, Rachel Hill, Christine Nairn, Alex Morgan.
Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher.
Defenders: Sarah Gorden, Samantha Johnson, Kathleen Naughton, Taylor Comeau.
Midfielders: Arin Gilliland, Nikki Stanton, Danielle Colaprico.
Forwards: Sofia Huerta, Sam Kerr, Alyssa Mautz.
Bench: Emily Boyd, Summer Green, Lauren Kaskie, Yuki Nagasato, Michele Vasconcelos.
REF: Greg Dopka
AR1: Maggie Short
AR2: Jeffrey Skinker
4TH: Landon Albert
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Toyota Park — Bridgeview, Illinois.
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.), go90.
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