Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride take on Utah Royals FC in Orlando City Stadium. The Pride (0-2-1, 1 point) are coming off their first draw of the season, while Utah (1-0-0, 3 points) won its sole game of the season last week. This is the first of three scheduled meetings between the teams this season, with the Pride visiting Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, May 25 and the Royals returning to Orlando on Aug. 17.
The Pride had a difficult start to the season where they played three games in eight days against three 2018 playoff teams. Orlando got just one point in that stretched, and only found the back of the net in one game. However, Alanna Kennedy won Goal of the Week last week with a bicycle kick, and Ashlyn Harris won Save of the Week in Week 1 and was nominated again the following week.
Utah Royals FC has only existed for one year now. Last season, the series was close but the Pride finished 2018 with a winning record (1-0-2). Utah and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw in the season opener. The Royals scored on their first chance of the game. They had an excellent spell of possession and, in the third minute, Diana Matheson put in a cross. Gunnhildur Jonsdottir made a run right down the middle of the box, through the Pride defense, and volleyed it past Harris. Orlando struck back in the 21st minute. Becky Sauerbrunn was called for a handball in the box, and Marta slotted the spot kick into the back of the next.
About a month and a half later, the teams met again, this time in Rio Tinto Stadium. It was a relatively dull night with no goals and the majority of the action in the middle of the field. Both teams struggled on the attacking end. There were no shots on target in the first half and just three in the second.
The third meeting finally saw a winner. This game, played on Jul 14, 2018, was the exact opposite of the previous match. It featured end-to-end action the entire night, chances for both teams, and a comeback victory for the Pride. Utah scored early again, this time from Amy Rodriguez in the eighth minute, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime.
The second half saw just as much action as the first and Kristen Edmonds scored the game-winner in the 52nd minute. A good through ball from Ali Krieger saw Edmonds one-on-one with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith,who was caught out of position. Edmonds chipped the ball past Smith and Orlando got its first-ever victory against the Royals.
The Orlando Pride have started off the season in poor form. The Pride put together their best performance in the first half against North Carolina, but then fell apart in the second 45 minutes, and lost by a handful. After two straight losses, the Pride bounced back in Tacoma with a 1-1 draw against the Reign. Kennedy’s goal was spectacular, but the rest of the performance was nothing special.
Utah has only played in one game so far this season. The Royals beat the Washington Spirit 1-0 in their season opener. Lo’eau LaBonta scored the lone goal in front of 18,015 fans in Rio Tinto Stadium. The goal started from Christen Press after the 30-year-old stole the ball in the final third, drew four defenders, and passed it off to LeBonta, who beat Aubrey Bledsoe on the near post.
The Royals have a good amount of international experience on the team, including Sauerbrunn, Rodriguez, Kelley O’Hara, and Press. O’Hara is coming off ankle surgery and came off the bench last week. The other three started. Katie Stengel was the Royals’ leading goal scorer last year. In 2018, she scored six goals in 23 matches, while only starting in 10.
The Pride have looked a little lost so far in the season. It has been expected that it will take Orlando a while to learn Marc Skinner’s new system and playing 2018’s three best teams in eight days was never going to be an easy task.
Harris has been the best Pride player so far this season. The USWNT goalkeeper leads the league in minutes (270) and saves (17). However, she also has the league high in goals allowed (eight), goals against average (2.67), and shots faced (25). Much of that has to do with the fact that Orlando has played an extra game than any other team, however.
Orlando has also not been helping Harris much. Of the eight goals that Harris let in, three were from turnovers and two corners. The majority of these goals allowed have been from sloppy play or poor concentration. So, while Orlando has been outplayed in each game this season, the majority of the goals allowed were from the Prides’ own mistakes.
Toni Pressley remains out for the Pride with a left hamstring strain. Utah is in a lot more injury trouble with six players out — Brittany Ratcliffe (left knee), Sydney Miramontez (right foot), Becca Moros (left knee), Diana Matheson (right foot), Maddie Nolf (left hip), and Taylor Lytle (left foot).
- Our Intelligence Report provides more info about the Utah Royals from editor Lucas Muller of SB Nation’s RSL blog, RSL Soapbox.
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, Camila, Kristen Edmonds, Marisa Viggiano, Joanna Boyles, Bridget Callahan, Morgan Reid.
Utah Royals (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Nicole Barnhart.
Defenders: Michelle Maemone, Rachel Corsie, Becky Sauerbrunn, Katie Bowen.
Midfielders: Desiree Scott, Verónica Boquete, Gunny Jónsdóttir, Lo’eau Labonta.
Forwards: Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez.
Bench: Abby Smith, Sam Johnson, Mandy Laddish, Katie Stengel, Erika Tymrak, Makenzy Doniak, Kelley O’Hara.
Ref: Jon Freemon.
AR1: Jennifer Garner.
AR2: Deleana Quan.
4th: Janessa Gunn.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
Streaming: Yahoo! Sports app (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (international).
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match! Go Pride!