Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (8-6-4, 28 points) host the Seattle Reign (8-4-5, 29 points) in the battle for second place in the NWSL. This is the final of three scheduled meetings on the year where the first two games both ended in draws.
The winner of today’s match, in addition to taking sole possession of second place, wins the series and the head-to-head tiebreaker — the league’s first deciding factor between teams that finish level on points. Orlando grabbed that same tie breaker over Utah with last Saturday’s road win over the Royals.
The all-time series between Orlando and Seattle is tied, as each team split the first two meetings and then proceeded into four consecutive draws, for a record of 1-1-4. Each of the games this season have been draws.
The first meeting of this season came back on April 28 when the game ended 1-1. Allie Long got the Reign on the board first after the Pride were unable to properly clear the ball — a common theme this season. Down a goal in the 61st minute, Marta and Alanna Kennedy stood over a free kick from about 25 yards out. Marta took the shot and put the ball in the top corner and the Pride came out with a point.
On June 3 the two teams met again. Haley Kopmeyer made her first start for Orlando — she will make her second start tonight — and was a key reason why the Pride were able to earn a point. Kopmeyer, who came to Orlando via a trade with Seattle this past off-season, ended the match with five saves, the NWSL Save of the Week, and a shutout as the game ended 0-0.
In 2016, the Pride’s Sarah Hagen and Lianne Sanderson each scored in a 2-0 Pride victory. Just two and a half months later Seattle dominated the Pride, 5-2. Last season, nothing could separate the two teams and they ended up a pair of draws, both by 1-1 scores. Marta and Alex Morgan scored Orlando’s goals in those contests, with Bev Yanez and Jess Fishlock scoring for Seattle.
The last time these two teams met, Orlando was without eight players because of injuries and international duty. While not as drastic this afternoon, United States Women’s National Team Head Coach Jill Ellis once again called her roster up prior to the NWSL game day and both teams will be without two key players because of it. Morgan and Ashlyn Harris for the Pride and Seattle’s Long and Megan Rapinoe are all part of the Yanks squad that will compete in the Tournament of Nations and miss tonight’s game.
The Pride should not experience a huge drop-off because of the call-ups, though. Kopmeyer is a capable goalkeeper who would be starting on a number of NWSL teams and proved her value in the last match-up with Seattle. Also, Morgan will most likely be replaced with Sydney Leroux up top, with Marta and Chioma Ubogagu filling in the attacking three. All of these players have played in at least 12 matches this season and combined have scored half of Orlando’s 26 goals.
Seattle will have a tougher time replacing Rapinoe. One of the best players in the league this season, she has played in 13 games and found the back of the seven times, provided four assists — both are tied for fourth in the NWSL — and her 11 combined goals and assists put her just one off the league leaders.
Both teams will need to step up as this is another crucial, almost must-win game. Separated by just a point with just six games remaining, a win from Seattle could mean that the Reign put enough room between themselves and Orlando to take second place. The Reign also have a game in hand over Orlando. If Orlando wins, it means that the Pride jump back into second place, and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. With the second- through seventh-place teams all within nine points of each other, winning these tiebreakers could be vital.
“It’s a game that we must go out there to win; it’s a game against a very good team. There’s not much in it between top and bottom in this league but there’s even less in it between the teams from second to six or seven,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “Seattle has a team that’s, again, very experienced, players that are used to success and high-quality international players. So this will be again another real test for us.”
In addition to international duty, both teams are also affected by injuries. Orlando only has Rachel Hill on the injury list. She is listed as questionable with a right groin strain but after playing 90 minutes in last week’s 2-1 comeback win it was unlikely that she would start, anyway. Seattle is without two players —Elizabeth Addo (right knee strain) and Yael Averbuch (illness) — and Rumi Utsugi is questionable with a left calf strain.
After playing three games in eight days the Pride were awarded a full week’s rest. Tonight also kicks off a three-game home stand and Orlando does not play again until Aug. 5 against Sky Blue, due to the international break. This gives Sermanni room to put close to his best XI on the field without having to worry about tired legs.
Orlando Pride (3-5-2)
Goalkeeper: Haley Kopmeyer.
Midfielders: Chioma Ubogagu, Dani Weatherholt, Toni Pressley, Alanna Kennedy, Kristen Edmonds.
Forwards: Marta, Sydney Leroux.
Bench: Libby Stout, Carson Pickett, Camila, Danica Evans, Christine Nairn, Poliana, Emily van Egmond,
Seattle Reign (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Lydia Williams.
Defenders: Steph Catley, Lauren Barnes, Megan Oyster, Theresa Nielsen.
Midfielders: Jessica Fishlock, Beverly Yanez, Rumi Utsugi.
Forwards: Jasmyne Spencer, Jodie Taylor, Nahomi Kawasumi.
Bench: Michelle Betos, Jaycie Johnson, Alyssa Kleiner, Adriana Leon, Christen Westphal, Kristen McNabb, Morgan Andrews.
REF: Carol-Anne Chenard.
AR1: Kathryn Nesbitt.
AR2: Chantal Boudreau.
4TH: Daniel Gutierrez.
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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Enjoy the match! Go Pride!