Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride look to rebound against the North Carolina Courage after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Houston on Wednesday. The Courage (10-1-3, 33 points) have already all but won the league, with 11 points ahead of the second place Pride (6-4-4, 22 points). This is the fifth meeting between Orlando and North Carolina all-time, second of three this year, and the Courage have been in first place heading into every meeting.
The Pride have faced North Carolina four times with the two teams splitting the series. On April 29, 2017, Jessica McDonald scored first to put the Courage up early but Alanna Kennedy connected with Camila 20 minutes later to tie the game. However, North Carolina came back and ended up winning this first meeting 3-1. The teams played again just two weeks later, with the exact opposite result. Chioma Ubogagu and Camila scored within a minute of each other to propel the Pride to a 3-1 victory, and end Orlando’s 12-match winless streak.
The teams played again in 2017, this time in the regular season finale. With playoff seedings at stake, Kristen Edmonds and Marta each scored to put Orlando up 2-0. Then North Carolina’s Lynn Williams bagged a brace to level the game at two. It looked like the game was destined for a draw, but then Kennedy nailed a perfect free kick into the top corner to give Orlando the 3-2 win and secure third place in the NWSL.
The last time these two teams met was on May 23. The Pride were carrying a five-game unbeaten streak into the match but, as Head Coach Tom Sermanni said, “We saw the worst of Orlando Pride and then at times the best of Orlando Pride.” It was once again McDonald that found the back of the net, this time in the 32nd minute. The Courage took that 1-0 lead into halftime but it could have been a much worse deficit for Orlando. Ubogagu, who was a late addition to the starting XI after Sydney Leroux was scratched, tied the game up early in the second half. There were then three goals in eight minutes as North Carolina went up 3-2 and it looked like the Courage were going to win it. Rachel Hill leveled it off a perfect cross from Marta in the 83rd minute but McDonald finished the game off, as the visitors won 4-3.
Prior to the Courage moving to North Carolina, the club was known as the Western New York Flash, which split two matches with the Pride in 2015 — each team winning at home.
North Carolina will almost assuredly win the league this year. Similar to Manchester City’s amazing Premier League run last season, it is just a matter of when the Courage will win it, not if. They have scored the most goals (28), have taken the most shots (216) and shots on target (101), have the best crossing accuracy, and are undefeated away from home. They have, in fact, lost just once this season, which was a 1-0 home loss to Utah after statistically dominating the match. The lone goal in that match came off of a set piece in the 94th minute.
For the Pride, Seattle drawing on Wednesday after Orlando lost meant that the Pride remained in sole possession of second place. With three teams just one game behind Orlando, a loss could mean the Pride falling to fourth place.
“The key thing is to make sure that we match [North Carolina’s] tempo, how they play and that we’re able to cope with their direct, very fast style of play. I think it was a good lesson for us the last time [we played them],” Sermanni said. “They’re still obviously playing with a lot of confidence. They’ve had a couple of blips along the way, but they bounced back strongly last week, so they will be as formidable [today] as they were in the last game.”
The Pride know that they are capable of beating the league leaders, even though they are coming off a disappointing loss on Wednesday. They gave up two fluke goals — one on a mishit cross and another off a penalty Wednesday against the Dash. Orlando also gave up a couple strange goals the last time the Pride met the Courage.
The Courage are coming off of a 4-1 win in Seattle, which gave them the record for most four-goal away games in NWSL history. It was Crystal Dunn’s two goals that led the Courage to victory, and the USWNT star won yet another NWSL Player of the Week award. Dunn has received this award more times than any other player.
While tired legs may play a part for the Pride, who are playing in their third match in a week, there is a positive with just one player on the injury list. Ali Krieger has been taken off and is available to play today, but Monica is listed as questionable with a right hip contusion. North Carolina has a much more filled injury report. Liz Eddy (left quadriceps strain) and Julie King (left ankle repair) are both listed as out while Abby Dahlkemper (right knee pain), Jaelene Hinkle (left quad strain), and Samantha Mewis (right knee pain) are questionable.
Heather O’Reilly could return to NWSL action this week. The Courage traded for her rights and O’Reilly has come over from Arsenal.
Orlando Pride (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Poliana, Shelina Zadorsky, Monica, Ali Krieger.
Midfielders: Sydney Leroux, Alanna Kennedy, Emily van Egmond, Rachel Hill.
Forwards: Alex Morgan. Marta,
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Toni Pressley, Chioma Ubogagu, Christine Nairn, Kristen Edmonds, Carson Pickett, Dani Weatherholt.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Katelyn Rowland.
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Kaleigh Kurtz, Merritt Mathias.
Midfielders: Debinha, McCall Zerboni, Denise O’Sullivan, Crystal Dunn.
Forwards: Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald.
Bench: Sabrina D’angelo, Kristen Hamilton, Darian Jenkins, Yuri Kawamura, Sam Mewis, Cari Roccaro, Meredith Speck.
REF: Elvis Osmanovic.
AR1: Maggie Short.
AR2: Gjovalin Bori.
4TH: Erika Barahona.
How to Watch
Match Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.).
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