Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (3-10-2, 11 points) take on Utah Royals FC (7-6-3, 24 points). This is the third and final meeting this season between the two teams. The Pride sit in last place, after Sky Blue FC beat the Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday. Sky Blue also has two games in hand on the Pride. Utah is in fifth place, but is just two points off a playoff spot.
Utah leads the all-time series, 2-1-2. The Pride were undefeated against the Royals last season (1-0-2) but the Royals have won both games this season.
Utah and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw in the 2018 season opener. The Royals scored on their first chance of the game. After an impressive spell of possession to start the game, Gunnhildur Jonsdottir volleyed home a Diana Matheson cross and Utah led in the third minute. Marta tied things up from the spot in the 21st minute and the game ended 1-1.
The teams played to a 0-0 draw about a month and a half later. It was a relatively dull night with no goals and the majority of the action in the middle of the field as both teams struggled on the attacking end. There were no shots on target in the first half and just three in the second.
While the first two games ended in draws, the past three had a winner. There was end-to-end action on July 14, 2018, and both teams saw chances in front of the net. Utah found an early goal, this time from Amy Rodriguez, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime. In the 52nd minute, a good through ball from Ali Krieger found Kristen Edmonds one-on-one with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith, who was caught out of position. Edmonds chipped the ball past Smith for the game-winner, and Orlando got its first-ever victory against the Royals.
This season, Utah beat the Pride 1-0 on April 27. Utah gained the ball after the Pride turned it over in the midfield and Christen Press somehow got a shot off near the top of the box. The ball deflected off of Shelina Zadorsky before bouncing into the back of the net for the game’s only goal.
The last time the teams met was on May 25. The Pride’s struggles in front of the net continued, no doubt influenced by missing eight internationals because of the World Cup. Rodriguez and Makenzy Doniak both found the back of the net as Utah went on to win it 2-0.
The big story in this match will be how the Pride manage with such a depleted roster. Orlando will be without five key players tonight: Sydney Leroux (maternity), Toni Pressley (45-day DL), Emily van Egmond (left ankle surgery), Marta (suspension), and Julie King (suspension). Alex Morgan is also listed as questionable with a knee injury and is unlikely to start, although she could make an appearance off the bench.
Marc Skinner will likely look to Rachel Hill and Chioma Ubogagu up top. Hill has just one goal this season in 1,134 minutes played, her worst goals-per-minute ratio as a professional. Ubogagu has been playing some of the best soccer as a member of the Pride this season, but was poor last week, having a 68% passing accuracy, no shots on goal, and just 22 passes in 88 minutes. The Pride will need to be much sharper to beat Utah.
“[Utah] brings Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez, they’re very good players in this league and have been for a while, and we have to do well to contain them. Christen scored last time we played at home, so we know the danger of them, and we know we have to stop that danger,” Skinner said. “They’re a very good team. There’s no surprise, they had a little bit of a rough patch, but there’s no surprise that they’re putting in performances where they’re getting those goals. We’ve got to do what we do, prepare for those and be ready to beat them anyway regardless of who they’ve got.”
Press and Rodriguez have been the attacking spark for Utah all season long and have combined for 12 of Utah’s 17 goals. While no easy task, Orlando’s focus will be on shutting those two down and limiting their chances in front of the net.
Utah is coming off a 3-1 win over Reign FC. Katie Stengel scored the opening goal, but the Reign’s Shea Groom fired back and leveled the game at one just before halftime. Lo’eau LaBonta and Rodriguez found the back of the net in the second half to earn all three points.
The Pride lost to the Houston Dash 1-0 last week. It was a dull game with not much action until King got a red card in the 61st minute. It was King’s first appearance for Orlando, and now she will serve a suspension tonight. Kristen Edmonds tripped up Kealia Ohai in the box in the 85th minute, and Marta got a red card for shoving Kristie Mewis as the Pride became the first team in NWSL history to get two red cards in a game. Sofia Huerta easily scored the spot kick, and Houston won 1-0.
Utah will be without five players for this match: Brittany Ratcliffe (left knee), Taylor Lytle (left foot), Becca Moros (right leg), Mandy Laddish (concussion), and Kelley O’Hara (left ankle).
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Erin Greening, Shelina Zadorsky, Kristen Edmonds, Ali Krieger.
Midfielders: Marisa Viggiano, Alanna Kennedy, Joanna Boyles.
Forwards: Chioma Ubogagu, Rachel Hill, Claire Emslie.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Alex Morgan, Bridget Callahan, Abby Elinsky, Dani Weatherholt, Carson Pickett, Morgan Reid.
Utah Royals (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Nicole Barnhart.
Defenders: Katie Bowen, Rachel Corsie, Becky Sauerbrunn, Mallory Weber.
Midfielders: Desiree Scott, Lo’Eau LaBonta, Katie Stengel, Veronica Boquete.
Forwards: Christen Press, Amy Rodriguez.
Bench: Abby Smith, Makenzy Doniak, Sydney Miramontez, Erika Tymrak, Gaby Vincent, Gunnhildur Jonsdottir, Michelle Maemone.
Ref: Malik Badawi.
AR1: Walter Heatherly.
AR2: Tiffini Turpin.
4th: Anya Voigt.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Exploria 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 with The Mane Land’s Twitter live tweeting the Orlando City game, you can follow along at my own account, @scottcarnevale.
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match! Go Pride!