Welcome to your match thread for the most important match of the Orlando Pride’s season. Currently sitting all the way down in sixth place, the Pride (8-8-6, 30 points) are one win away from fourth place. For the past month Tom Sermanni and the Pride players have been saying that every game is a must-win but this truly is a game that Orlando has to win. If the Chicago Red Stars (7-4-10, 31 points) grab three points then Orlando will kiss the playoffs goodbye. Luckily for the Pride, they have dominated Chicago this season.
The Pride are just 2-4-1 in the all-time series, but have won the last two. In the first five meetings, Orlando was held winless but every game was decided by no more than one goal. The first three games were 1-0 score lines, followed by a 2-1 game where the Red Stars went up two goals before Alanna Kennedy scored in the 93rd minute.
After losing the first four games against Chicago, Alex Morgan’s 24th-minute goal on Aug. 5 of 2017 looked to finally be the edge that Orlando needed to beat Chicago. However, Sofia Huerta scored shortly after halftime to salvage a draw and keep the Pride winless against the Red Stars at that point.
This season, Orlando earned its first victory against the Red Stars, and scored more than one goal against Chicago for the first time, back on May 2. Chioma Ubogagu scored early after a good run that started near midfield, with an assist from Sydney Leroux. Rachel Hill came in off the bench and brought a spark to the Pride which enabled them to finish off the Red Stars, 2-0.
A few weeks later, the Pride exploded offensively and downed Chicago, 5-2. Hill and Morgan scored early to give the Pride a 2-0 lead but Sam Kerr (who else?) brought Chicago back into it. Kerr scored a brace, of which both were assisted by Yuki Nagasato, but the Pride bounced right back. Kerr tied the game in the 60th minute and Leroux, who came on in the 52nd minute for Marta, opened her account in the 61st. Two minutes later, Leroux got her brace.
The Pride have just two wins in their last nine matches. The play has been poor during this losing streak and they do not look like a team that deserves to be in the playoffs. The good news for the team is that Chicago has just two wins in its last six and is on a current three-game winless streak.
As the two teams get ready to fight for a spot in the final four, this game is essentially already a playoff match. The Red Stars have more room to work with than the Pride if they lose because they have a game in hand. The final week of the season has them playing two games and ending with Utah Royals FC. Chicago has won both previous matches against Utah but they were not easy matches and going into Rio Tinto Stadium is no easy task.
As for the Pride, there is no wiggle room. A loss will mean the end of a disappointing season. There were high expectations this season, and the team was expecting to fight for the NWSL championship. If the Pride miss the playoffs, expect some big off-season moves.
“It’s simple; when you talk about a must-win game, this is a must-win game,” said Sermanni. “It’s gone down to the wire now, but we’re still within a chance of getting in the top four. It’s really tight, but anything other than a win won’t be good enough, simple as that. We’ve just got to focus on the task and on playing against a team that’s been in good form as of late.”
The Pride’s task is not made any easier with Leroux missing it due to a concussion. Leroux’s six goals are a team high and only Dani Weatherholt, Shelina Zadorsky, and Ashlyn Harris have played more games than her this season. The Pride need to find another offensive outlet tonight.
Morgan has been disappointing this season, compared to her typical standards. She has just four goals scored on the year in 17 matches compared to her eight goals in 13 matches last season.
If the Pride are going to win they will need to get Marta on the ball deeper in the midfield and let her be the play-maker. The rest of the team needs to maintain its shape. Too often players look lost on the field and this has led to countless turnovers — which has been the team’s undoing this year.
Also on the injury report is Christine Nairn (right foot contusion), who is listed as questionable. Chicago will be without Stephanie McCaffrey (illness) and Summer Green (USA U-23).
Orlando Pride (4-3-3-)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Carson Pickett, Shelina Zadorsky, Ali Krieger, Kristen Edmonds.
Midfielders: Camila. Dani Weatherholt, Alanna Kennedy.
Forwards: Chioma Ubogagu, Alex Morgan, Marta.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Danica Evans, Christine Nairn, Emily van Egmond, Toni Pressley, Monica, Rachel Hill.
Chicago Red Stars (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher.
Defenders: Arin Gilliland, Julie Ertz, Kathleen Naughton, Casey Short.
Midfielders: Danielle Colaprico, Morgan Brian, Vanessa Dibernardo.
Forwards: Alyssa Mautz, Sam Kerr, Yuki Nagasato.
Bench: Emily Boyd, Sarah Gorden, Nikki Stanton, Rosie White, Michele Vasconcelos, Brooke Elby, Erin Yenney.
REF: Guido Gonzales
AR1: Gjovalin Bori
AR2: Jordan Davis
4TH: Janessa Gunn
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: T Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, Florida
Streaming: NWSLSoccer.com or the NWSL app (outside the U.S.).
Twitter: For live updates, follow along at the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride) and on The Mane Land’s Twitter (@TheManeLand).
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match!