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Orlando Pride Still Hold Playoff Fate in Their Own Hands

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Despite having played more games than the opposition, fortunate scheduling allows the Pride to have a big say in their fate.

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

For the second straight season, the Orlando Pride sit in a playoff position down the stretch of the NWSL season. The team took a step back last weekend, drawing 2-2 at home with winless Sky Blue FC, but this final stretch of games provides the Pride with ample opportunity to clinch a playoff spot.

Looking at the league standings, it would appear that the Pride have a tough road to qualifying for the postseason, despite holding onto a playoff spot. They currently sit just one point ahead of the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars and two points ahead of the Utah Royals. They’ve played one more game than Portland and Chicago, with those two teams holding a greater goal difference than the Pride. However, the opportunity comes in fortunate scheduling.

Having played more games than those chasing the Pride, it would be assumed that they would have to win and hope that those around them falter, making qualification difficult. However, the Pride have the advantage of fortunate scheduling. Two of the next three games will be against Portland and Chicago at home, providing the Pride the opportunity to separate from those behind them.

The one game the Pride have that could cause trouble is in between these match-ups when they travel to Cary, NC, to face the first-place North Carolina Courage. The current NWSL Shield holders have been dominant in 2018, building a 16-point lead over the competition. The Pride have already lost twice to the Courage this season, both times at home. While neither Portland, Chicago, or Utah play North Carolina for the rest of the season, each will play the Seattle Reign, who currently occupy the second spot in the league standings.

Additional help for the Pride will come from the contending teams facing each other. The Red Stars face both the Thorns and Royals, ensuring that either one or both teams will drop points. The fourth and final game this season for the Pride will take place in New Jersey against Sky Blue FC. While Sky Blue has yet to win a game this season, the team has played the Pride well, falling 3-2 in the first match-up and drawing 2-2 last week, both games taking place in Orlando.

The Pride could’ve pretty much sealed a playoff spot over the past two games when they faced the Seattle Reign and Sky Blue FC at home. Coming away with a pair of draws leaves them in a difficult position with a trip to play the dominant North Carolina Courage still on the schedule. Luckily for the Pride, their fate is still in their own hands with both the Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars, two of the teams chasing them, visiting Orlando City Stadium in August. Winning those two games will go a long way to qualifying for the NWSL playoffs for the second consecutive season.