The Orlando Pride find themselves in a hole heading into the final three games of the season. Orlando sits in a tie for fourth place — the final playoff spot — with the Chicago Red Stars, who have a game in hand over the Pride. Orlando (8-7-6, 30 points) will most likely need to win each of its remaining games to make it into the postseason. While next week’s game against Chicago will be the biggest of the final month of the season, tonight’s game will be huge if Orlando can get three points against the 2018 NWSL champions — the North Carolina Courage (15-1-5, 50 points).
The Pride have faced North Carolina five times, and two times when the Courage were known as the Western New York Flash. In 2016, each team won its home game and the teams split the series. Alex Morgan got the lone goal in the Pride’s 1-0 win on Saturday, May 14, 2016 and Makenzy Doniak, assisted from Jessica McDonald, scored the only goal in the Flash’s 1-0 win one month later.
Last season, the teams met three times. On April 29, 2017, 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 with a 3-1- victory. Two weeks later the teams played again. Chioma Ubogagu and Camila scored within a minute of each other to lift the Pride to a 3-1 victory.
The final meeting in 2017 came 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.
This season, North Carolina has had the Pride’s number, just as it has dominated everyone else in the league. On May 23, McDonald found the back of the net again but it was the Courage’s three goals in eight minutes in the second half that helped them beat the Pride, 4-3. June 30 was the last time these teams met and it was all North Carolina. Debinha bagged a goal and an assist and McDonald continued to hurt Orlando as the Courage won, 3-0.
North Carolina has already won the league and only has its pride to play for at this point. However, it is unlikely that the Courage will rest their starters and even if they did, the Courage’s second team is not an easy win. The NWSL Shield winners will most likely attempt to win out in hopes of breaking more records. The Courage need two more wins to hold the record for most wins in a season, are just four points shy of the most in NWSL history, and need to score six more goals to claim a share of the most single season goals mark.
The problem for the Pride is there is no single player that they need to watch for. Apart from McDonald, who has a strong history of hurting Orlando, the Courage are led by Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams. These three players alone have combined for 23 goals and 15 assists. The Pride, as a team, have just 29 goals and 18 assists.
Orlando’s most productive player this season has been Sydney Leroux. Leroux has two assists and a team high six goals but has missed the past few weeks with an illness. It is great news for Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni that she is no longer on the injury report. The Pride do have one player on the report. Ubogagu is listed as questionable with a right hamstring strain. Chi has played in 18 games this season, tied for the most among forwards, and found the back of the net four times.
For North Carolina, Yuri Kawamura (ACL tear) and Julie King (ankle) are out and McCall Zerboni (ankle) is listed as questionable.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Emily van Egmond, Dani Weatherholt, Rachel Hill.
Forwards: Marta, Alex Morgan, Camila.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Toni Pressley, Monica, Chioma Ubogagu, Carson Pickett, Christine Nairn, Sydney Leroux.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Katelyn Rowland.
Defenders: Merritt Mathias, Abby Dahlkemper, Abby Erceg, Jaelene Hinkle.
Midfielders: Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Debinha.
Forwards: Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams.
Bench: Sabrina D’angelo, Kristen Hamilton, Kaleigh Kurtz, Darian Jenkins, Heather O’Reilly, Meredith Speck, Denise O’Sullivan,
REF: Kevin Broadley.
AR1: Cory Richardson.
AR2: Tom Felice.
4TH: Aaron Gallagher.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.).
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match! Go Pride!