It was not too long ago that the Orlando Pride found themselves in second place in the NWSL standings. However, after just two wins in their last nine matches, including a current four-match winless streak, the Pride have dropped into fifth place. Now, Orlando finds itself in a tough position with just two games remaining.
Although the Pride are just one point behind the fourth-place Chicago Red Stars, and three points behind third-place Portland Thorns FC, both Chicago and Portland have a game in hand over Orlando. The playoff race is going to come down to the final game as third through seventh places are separated by just four points.
So, what needs to happen for Orlando to make the postseason?
First, and most importantly, the Pride need to win out. The two remaining games are next week against Chicago and against winless Sky Blue FC in the regular season finale on Sept. 8. The Pride are undefeated against both teams this season, going 2-0-0 against the Red Stars and 1-0-1 against Sky Blue. That would give Orlando another six points, ending their campaign with 36 points at 10-8-6.
After that, Orlando will need help. Chicago has three games remaining on its schedule — Orlando, Sky Blue, and Utah Royals FC. Sky Blue is still trying to get into the win column, so mark that match as a win for the Red Stars. At this point, as long as Orlando wins out, any Utah result against Chicago will be enough to lift the Pride into the playoffs.
Utah, which sits one point behind Orlando, plays the Washington Spirit prior to Chicago. Utah won both of its previous matches this season against Washington and will most likely win the next one as well. But, since Orlando is already a point ahead of the Royals, Utah cannot jump over the Pride as long as Orlando wins out.
To sum it all up:
- Orlando needs to win out against Chicago and Sky Blue.
- Chicago needs to lose to Orlando and lose or draw one of its final two games.
- Utah cannot jump over the Pride if they win out.
That will be the easiest route to the final four for Orlando, but there are also other ways. Orlando can leap over Portland, if the Pride win out while Portland gets less than three points in its final three games against Sky Blue, Washington, and Seattle. That is the most unlikely of situations to occur.
If Orlando gets four points in its final two games, Chicago will have to gain no more than three points as the Pride hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Red Stars. Since Sky Blue is on their schedule, and this season has shown the New Jersey side to be the league’s worst team, Orlando and Utah would likely have to beat Chicago. In this same situation, Utah will have to beat Chicago and either lose or draw against Washington.
If Orlando only manages to get one win, then Chicago will have to gain, at most, two points to end its season while Utah can get no more than four points.
Although the Pride are still in danger of not making the playoffs, hope should not be lost yet. They have two very winnable games left on the schedule. However, the caveat here is that they have not been playing well at all. Orlando has been making too many poor decisions, giving away too many turnovers, making too many defensive errors, and the play in the final third is not clinical enough. Tom Sermanni needs to figure out his best starting XI by yesterday and the players need to produce.