Welcome to your preview and match thread for the Orlando Pride’s first game of the 2019 NWSL season! After a long off-season, it is finally Pride game day as they take on the Portland Thorns in the first of three meetings this season. Orlando also hosts the second meeting on May 11, and then travels to Portland for the final meeting on July 14.
Entering its fourth season, Orlando has only made the playoffs once (2017). Entering the 2018 season, there were massive expectations for the Pride to make the postseason again. The Pride were in the hunt early on, but just two wins in the last 11 matches saw Orlando slide all the way to seventh place and led to the firing of Tom Sermanni.
Marc Skinner came over from Birmingham City and through the preseason seems to have the team back on track. Skinner saw his new side go 2-1-0 in three preseason games, outscoring the opposition, 11-4. However, the one loss was a 4-0 beating at the hands of the reigning NWSL champions, the North Carolina Courage.
Portland has dominated the all-time series with a 6-1-1 mark. The Thorns won both games in 2016 by scores of 2-1. Steph Catley and Jasmyne Spencer scored for Orlando in the first and second game, respectively, while Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Lindsey Horan both scored one goal in each game.
2017 was a little better for the Pride. Nadia Nadim and Christine Sinclair both scored in the season opening win for Portland, and it looked like Orlando’s struggles against the Thorns would continue. However, the Pride finally earned a point in a goalless draw at the end of the season.
The Pride were eventually able to get a win against Portland last season, but Horan and Sinclair continued to haunt the Pride. The first meeting was similar to previous match-ups — a 2-1 Pride loss. On May 12, 2018, Orlando was able to get three points, though. After a mid-week game, Sermanni was forced to make five changes to his side. Alex Morgan and Christine Nairn scored 10 minutes apart in the 11th and 21st minutes to put the Pride up 2-0. Nairn’s goal was one for the highlight reel. After a failed Portland clearance, Nairn chested the ball and shot off the half volley from about 30 yards out, and the ball ended up in the back of the net. It was no surprise that Sinclair found the net in this game, two minutes after Nairn’s goal, but the Pride were able to fend off the Thorns to take all three points.
Portland got revenge at the end of the season, though, by beating the Pride in Orlando City Stadium by a 2-0 final score.
If you missed the Pride’s demolition of the Puerto Rico Sol, then this game might just baffle you. The biggest takeaway with this new Pride team is that players move all over the field. It was not a rare sight to see left back Carson Pickett in the center of the field, center backs making runs to the forward line, and forwards dropping back into the back line. Skinner brought his team out in a 4-3-3 formation, and the shape stayed relatively compact and structured, but the pieces inside were continually changing.
That match was also played without the international players, as they were all playing for their respective countries. They are all back now, for a short time, and Skinner has a full selection available to him.
“I’m happy with the progress of the players,” Skinner said. “I keep saying this and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, it needs to have a little bit of time to do the things that we need them to do. But from where they’ve been to where they are now, I couldn’t ask for a more monumental growth in the players and just their attitudes and perspective of what they want to achieve.”
Apart from the coaching change, the Pride roster looks very similar to last season. Defenders Monica and Poliana and midfielder Nairn are the only departures from last season. The Pride traded for defender Morgan Reid last week. Apart from Reid, 2019 NWSL College Draft selections Erin Greening and Marisa Viggiano, as well as 2018 Pride national team replacement players Abby Elinsky and Bridget Callahan, are the only new players that Orlando has brought in. The Pride are likely to sign a few new faces once the European season ends.
Orlando is going up against arguably the second-best team in the league in Portland. The biggest threats are the three players that always seem to hurt Orlando — Horan, Sinclair, and Tobin Heath.
“I think we have to look at consistency. We know that the opposition are one of the two best teams in the country so we can’t take anything lightly. We have to prepare as effectively as we always do. I’m happy with the progress of the players. I keep saying this and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, it needs to have a little bit of time to do the things we need them to do. But, from where they’ve been to where they are now, I couldn’t have asked for a more monumental growth,” Skinner said. “It’s going to be an extremely tough challenge but it’s one that we relish. We don’t see it as a pressure situation. We’ve got to go out and perform against a really tough team and look to get the result that we want.”
There are a few players that are on the injury report for each team. Orlando will be without Toni Pressley (left hamstring strain), and Portland will be missing Emily Menges (right foot) and Bella Bixby (right hand). Camila (right knee pain) and Midge Purce (Right Hamstring) are both listed as questionable.
Orlando Pride (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Carson Pickett, Joanna Boyles, Shelina Zadorsky, Ali Krieger.
Midfielders: Chioma Ubogagu, Bridget Callahan, Dani Weatherholt, Rachel Hill.
Forwards: Alex Morgan, Marta.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Kristen Edmonds, Camila, Erin Greening, Morgan Reid, Abby Elinsky, Marisa Viggiano.
Portland Thorns (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Adrianna Franch.
Defenders: Meghan Klingenberg, Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett, Ellie Carpenter.
Midfielders: Celeste Boureille, Lindsey Horan, Christine Sinclair.
Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Ana Crnogorcevic, Tobin Heath.
Bench: Britt Eckerstrom, Elizabeth Ball, Gabby Seiler, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Mallory Weber, Kelli Hubly, Tyler Lussi.
Ref: Ekaterina Koroleva.
AR1: Adrienne McDonald.
AR2: Trent Robert Van Haitsma.
4th: Miguel Martes.
How to Watch
Match Time: 5 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
Streaming: Yahoo! Sports app (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (international).
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! Go Pride!