Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride face Utah Royals FC for the third and final time during the 2018 regular season. The Pride (7-6-4, 25 points) sit in third place in the NWSL standings, albeit tied in points with Chicago. Utah (5-5-6, 21 points) is right there in the playoff hunt, sitting in sixth place but just four points below the red line. The Royals also have a game in hand, meaning a win against the Pride tonight puts playoff hopes in their own hands. This game is essentially a must-win for Orlando.
This is just Utah’s first year in existence and so there are only two other times these teams have seen each other. The first meeting came in Week 1 of this year when the game ended in a 1-1 draw. Utah struck first when Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir found the back of the net three minutes in. It was a sloppy game but Orlando was able to get a point via a Marta penalty kick.
These teams saw each other again on May 9. It was an uneventful match that saw no shots on goal in the first half and just three in the second. Not surprisingly, it ended with out any goals.
The two draws make tonight’s game that much more meaningful. With the points so close, it is looking like a tiebreaker might be needed to settle playoff positions and/or seedings. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, followed by goal differential. The winner of tonight’s match wins the series.
Orlando and Utah are two teams that have been unable to separate anything from each other in both previous meetings. The Pride have never scored against the Royals from the run of play and Utah has just one goal through two games. But as neither team can afford to drop points at this point in the season expect to see balls in the back of the net.
“With the way the league table is situated, Saturday is going to be a very critical game for us,” said Tom Sermanni. “After Wednesday’s performance, it’s important for us to come out, make a statement and bounce back. With how close the standings are and tiebreaker scenarios, owning the season series over Utah could also prove to be a deciding factor at the end of the regular season so we need to go into the match ready to battle for all three points.”
Sermanni made some changes to his starting XI on Wednesday but expect to see a strong team fielded, even with a short rest. For the first time this season, Orlando does not have anybody on its injury report; however, Marta will miss this match after picking up a straight red in the dying minutes of Wednesday’s 3-1 loss. Sermanni will most likely swap Chioma Ubogagu in for the Brazilian. Rachel Hill is another, arguably better, option but Sermanni has continuously gone with Ubogagu over Hill this season.
Utah Royals FC defender Samantha Johnson will also miss the match due to yellow card accumulation, which is a big loss for Utah. Johnson has played, and started, in 13 of Utah’s 16 games. The Royals will also be without Alex Arlitt (left knee strain), Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion), Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain), Becky Sauerbrunn (left leg irritation), and Elise Thorsnes (left hamstring strain).
The key for the Pride is making the most of opportunities when they come. In the past two games, they have taken 57 shots (31 vs. Washington, 26 at Houston) but have only scored three times. If they are not converting chances then they will have no chance to win tonight. Sydney Leroux has done well on the stats sheets but she still is leaving open chances on the field — she should have scored at least two more goals on Wednesday. Alex Morgan has been more disappointing with just three goals on the year.
Christine Nairn will be the player to watch for Orlando. She leads the team, and is second in the league, in assists and continuously has among the most passes in the game when she starts. Katrina Gorry has the most shots for Utah but Katie Stengel leads the team in goals.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Dani Weatherholt, Alanna Kennedy, Kristen Edmonds.
Forwards: Chioma Ubogagu, Alex Morgan, Rachel Hill.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Poliana, Carson Pickett, Emily van Egmond, Camila, Christine Nairn, Sydney Leroux.
Utah Royals (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Abby Smith.
Defenders: Rebecca Moros, Rachel Corsie, Sydney Miramontez, Katie Bowen.
Defensive Midfielders: Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir, Desiree Scott.
Attacking Midfielders: Christen Press, Lo’Eau Labonta, Diana Matheson.
Forward: Amy Rodriguez.
Bench: Nicole Barnhart, Katrina Gorry, Taylor Lytle, Alexa Newfield, Brittany Ratcliffe, Erika Tymrak, Katie Stengel.
REF: Reyna Fonseca.
AR2: Alicia Messer.
4TH: Brad Jensen.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium — Sandy, UT.
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.), watchESPN.
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match! Go Pride!