Welcome to your preview and match thread as the Orlando Pride travel to WakeMed Soccer Park to take on the reigning NWSL champions, the North Carolina Courage. This is the first of three meetings between the Pride and Courage. Orlando hosts North Carolina on June 1 and then returns to WakeMed Soccer Park again on Sept. 14.
This will be the seventh meeting between Orlando (0-1-0, 0 points) and North Carolina (0-0-1, 1 point). The Pride are just 2-4-0 in the all-time series against North Carolina, but three of those losses came last season. These teams also played this preseason, where the Courage dominated the Pride, 4-0. The Courage franchise was formerly known as the Western New York Flash prior to relocating after the 2016 season and the teams split their two matches when the Courage were still the Flash.
The Pride went 2-1-0 against the Courage during their first year in North Carolina in 2017. In the first meeting of the season Jessica McDonald, Samantha Mewis, and Lynn Williams all found the back of the net as North Carolina won, 3-1. The Pride got revenge a few weeks later as they won, 3-1, and got their first win of 2017.
The best game of the series came in the final match of the 2017 season. It was a back-and-forth affair, but the Pride found themselves up 2-0 with goals from Kristen Edmonds and Marta. Williams haunted the Pride again as she recorded a second-half brace and the game looked to be heading into a draw. However, Alanna Kennedy found the game-winner in stoppage time off a perfect free kick that put Orlando into third place in the final league standings — the club’s best finish to date.
Our faces are still frozen like pic.twitter.com/Osc3QLgSFf— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) October 1, 2017
Last season, North Carolina dominated the Pride, winning the three games by a combined scoreline of 10-3. The last meeting looked like the one that Orlando would finally win as the Pride were the better team. However, play was suspended in the 22nd minute and had to be resumed the next day. Upon the restart, it once again was all North Carolina, as the Courage came away with a 3-0 victory.
Three players have historically tormented the Pride from North Carolina — Williams, Debinha, and McDonald. The trio has combined for 12 goals and five assists in the eight games.
Both teams should be disappointed in their first games. North Carolina dominated the Chicago Red Stars in typical Courage fashion, but a turnover led to Yūki Nagasato playing a perfect through ball to Sam Kerr. The Australian did what she does best and put the Red Stars up, 1-0. North Carolina had its chances but could only find the back of the net once. Crystal Dunn received the ball from a throw in, turned, took one touch in the box, and shot with the inside of her foot into the side netting. That was all the scoring, and the Courage ended their first game of the season with a 1-1 draw.
The Pride’s opener was a different story, as Orlando could easily have lost 5-0. Portland dominated the game, especially the first half, and Orlando was lucky to have still been in it. The final score was 2-0 off goals from Caitlin Foord and Tobin Heath on either side of the half.
It is hard to pick out one biggest threat from North Carolina because the entire team is filled with stars. As mentioned above, Williams, Debinha, and McDonald have a history of creating goals against Orlando. Williams had the second-most goals in 2018, but Debinha and Dunn were also in the top 10, while McDonald led the league in assists.
The Courage had 105 more shots and 51 more shots on target in 2018 than the next-highest teams, and that trend looks to be continuing already after just one game. According to the box scores, North Carolina finished the game with 24 shots, which is the most in the league. Coincidentally, Orlando gave up the second-most shots on opening weekend. Ashlyn Harris came up with six saves — including the Save of the Week — and was a key reason why the score was not worse.
One of the reasons Chicago was able to get a point is the Red Stars prevented the Courage from getting in good scoring spots. Of North Carolina’s 24 shots, 13 were outside the box, and 10 were blocked. If Orlando can stay compact defensively and limit the scoring chances, the Pride may very well come away with something.
Both teams will be missing some players. Orlando’s Toni Pressley is still out with a left hamstring injury, while Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond are now listed as questions with an illness, although they did travel for the game and Marc Skinner said he expects them to be available. As for the Courage, Hailey Harbison (left knee) and Katelyn Rowland (right shoulder) are out, and Julie King (left ankle) is questionable.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Chioma Ubogagu, Emily van Egmond, Dani Weatherholt.
Forwards: Marta, Alex Morgan, Rachel Hill.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Erin Greening, Kristen Edmonds, Marisa Viggiano, Joanna Boyles, Bridget Callahan. Camila.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Stephanie Labbé.
Midfielders: Denise O’Sullivan, McCall Zerboni, Samantha Mewis, Crystal Dunn.
Forwards: Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams.
Bench: Kristen Hamilton, Kaleigh Kurtz, Elizabeth Eddy, Samantha Leshnak, Heather O’Reilly Leah Pruitt, Julia Spetsmark.
Ref: Danielle Chesky.
AR1: Amilcar Sicaju.
AR2: Jeremy L. B. Smith.
4th: Hicham El Bariqi.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.
Streaming: Yahoo! Sports app (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (international).
Match Thread Rules
This is your live thread for posting comments on the match. So use our comments section below to talk about the game in real time with other supporters. If you’re new, welcome to our happy home! While you’re here, please observe a few basic rules:
- Absolutely no links to illegal streams. They can get us in trouble, and no one wants that.
- Try not to be the person who spews nothing but venom and hate for the team. It’s OK to be critical, and, let’s face it, sometimes even the best teams can be frustrating to watch, but being overly negative relentlessly can sap the enjoyment for others.
- Keep it somewhat clean and fair when criticizing players / officials. You never know who might be reading.
- Do unto others in the match thread, the way you would have others do unto you. We are a fun community and want to keep it this way. We have a moderator, but we’d rather let him enjoy the game instead of having to play babysitter.
Enjoy the match! Go Pride!