Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (4-14-2, 14 points) take on the reigning NWSL champions, the North Carolina Courage (11-4-4, 37 points). This is the third and final meeting between the two teams this season.
This will be the ninth meeting between Orlando and North Carolina. The Courage lead the all-time series, 6-2-0 and have won the last five matches versus Orlando. These teams also played this preseason, when the Courage dominated the Pride, 4-0. The Courage franchise was formerly known as the Western New York Flash before 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 for their first win of 2017.
The final match of 2017 was probably the best match of the series, and possibly in Orlando Pride history. It was a back-and-forth affair, and 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 to 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.
Last season, North Carolina dominated the Pride, winning the three games by a combined scoreline of 10-3. The last meeting of 2018 looked like the one 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.
The first meeting this season was on April 17. In the first half, the Pride had one of their best 45-minute periods of the season. However, self-inflicted wounds cost Orlando and North Carolina ran away with it in the second half, winning 5-0.
The last match was a different story. The Pride’s attack stalled and errors gifted Kristen Hamilton a hat trick. Orlando fell 3-0 and failed to score in 260 consecutive minutes after the match.
The Pride enter this match after a disappointing loss during the week against the Chicago Red Stars. Orlando was outplayed for the entire match but, thanks to a world class performance from Ashlyn Harris, Orlando stayed in the game. Goalless through 90 minutes, the referee award five minutes of stoppage time. Poor defending led to Sam Kerr playing a perfect cross to Casey Short, who headed it in for the win at the death.
Meanwhile, North Carolina is coming off a 6-0 pounding of the Portland Thorns. Williams recorded a hat trick and Debinha scored a goal and added three assists. The win jumped the Courage into first place in the NWSL.
“I think North Carolina has a certain style of play that you know what they’re going to do, but you’ve got to be able to manage it in both the defensive quick transition because they’ve got quick players. They’re an athletic team and that’s how they’re able to score goals quickly,” Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “We’ve got to manage the transitions really well and when we have the ball we’ve got to be offensive. You can’t defend for 90 minutes, we have to be able to take the game to North Carolina and exploit their limited weakness.”
Both teams played a midweek match so expect some rotation. Marc Skinner was very happy with his back line so there likely will not be much change there. However, Carson Pickett could get the nod.
There is no single player to watch out for on North Carolina. Countless players have the ability to change the game and the Pride could come out more defensive. The Courage are, as Skinner noted, particularly strong on the counter and so the Pride will attempt to limit this as much as possible. In the first half on Wednesday, the Pride played with a back five at times, having a winger drop into the defense. This could happen tonight as well.
Williams and Hamilton are second and third in the NWSL Golden Boot race with 10 and nine goals, respectively. Meanwhile, four Courage players are in the top five in assists, and six are in the top 10. North Carolina has the most goals scored (40) and the most assists (33) in the NWSL. The Courage also have the second fewest goals allowed.
Sydney Leroux (maternity), Toni Pressley (45-day Disabled List), Emily van Egmond (left ankle surgery), Alex Morgan (right knee), and Marta (left hamstring) are all out for Orlando. While North Carolina will only be missing Hailey Harbison (left knee) and Leah Pruitt (right knee).
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Midfielders: Dani Weatherholt, Alanna Kennedy, Bridget Callahan.
Forwards: Kristen Edmonds, Rachel Hill, Claire Emslie.
Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Camila, Marisa Viggiano, Joanna Boyles, Abby Elinsky, Morgan Reid, Danica Evans.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Sephanie Labbe.
Midfielders: Crystal Dunn, Denise O’Sullivan, Sam Mewis, Debinha.
Forwards: Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton.
Bench: Katelyn Rowland, Heather O’Reilly, Jessica McDonald, McCall Zerboni, Meredith Speck, Cari Roccaro, Julia Spetsmark.
Ref: Natalie Simon.
AR1: Brooke Mayo.
AR2: Meghan Mullen.
4th: Laura Rodriguez.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park Stadium – Cary, NC.
Streaming: Yahoo! Sports app (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com, NWSL app (international).
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match! Go Pride!