For Orlando Pride fans, this has felt like the most extended off-season in the history of sports. It has been 343 days since the Pride last played. It has also been 394 days since Orlando’s last win. But the day has finally come, so welcome to the Orlando Pride’s first match thread of 2020. The Pride travel to Cary, NC to take on the North Carolina Courage to kick off their participation in the NWSL Fall Series.
The Courage have completely dominated the series. They hold a record of 7-2-0 against Orlando, and the Pride have been outscored 30-11 — the worst goal differential the Pride have against any opponent. North Carolina has won the last six meetings.
The last time these teams met, Orlando was embarrassed by a 6-1 score line in North Carolina. Lynn Williams scored in the sixth minute, and the Courage never looked back. Ashlyn Harris had a huge night — she even made a penalty kick save — but the opposition was too good. Then-Pride-forward Rachel Hill sent a rocket into the back of the net in the 82nd minute with her team down 4-0. The home side responded by scoring twice more.
Both of Orlando’s victories came in 2017. The Pride used a 3-1 win to snap a 12-match winless streak on May 14, 2017. Chioma Ubogagu, Camila, and Jasmyne Spencer all found the back of the net in the second half. None of those three players are currently on the team.
Orlando’s only other win was the final match of 2017. It was one of the best games in Orlando Pride history. In a back-and-forth affair, 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.
The Orlando Pride team that last played nearly a year ago looks almost entirely different. The Pride have 13 players out on loan, and more have left the team through transfers, retirement, or being waived. Only five players from Orlando’s last starting XI are available.
Head Coach Marc Skinner spoke about having his team try to find something to build on in these next four matches.
“Look, it has been an immense amount of time, and it will be 343 days since we last played [Reign FC], it has been a really, really long time. One of the things we discussed as a group before we came back and understood that we were going to do the Fall Series, was that we would like to focus on having a good end of the year for the players,” Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “In a tumultuous year, we’ve had a lot of challenges, as everybody has in the world not just in the world of soccer. So I’m really pleased to get the players back together, back on the field, and the one thing that our team will do is fight and fight and fight to get better everyday. We want to end the Series on a positive and give the players something that they deserve, which is four games against two very good opponents.”
North Carolina is coming off a 4-3, back-and-forth win over the Houston Dash. The match saw five lead changes and six different goal scorers. Debinha led the way with a brace, including the game-winner in the 86th minute.
The good news for the Pride is that there is no one on their injury report. North Carolina is not as fortunate. Merritt Mathias (knee), Ally Watt (knee), and McKenzie Meehan (foot) are all out, while Sinclaire Miramontez (quad) is doubtful.
When the Pride take the field, many fans might not recognize a handful of names. Orlando signed seven players to short-term contracts almost two weeks ago to fill in the roster void left by players going out on loan.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Carrie Lawrence, Courtney Petersen, Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley,
Midfielders: Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, Jordyn Listro.
Forwards: Marta, Abby Elinsky, Sydney Leroux.
Bench: Brittany Wilson, Ally Haran, Konya Plummer, Deneisha Blackwood, Zandy Soree, Savanah Uveges, Kate Howarth. Chelsee Washington.
North Carolina Courage (3-2-4-1)
Goalkeeper: Stephanie Labbé.
Defenders: Addisyn Merrick, Kaleigh Kurtz, Abby Dahlkemper.
Defensive Midfielders: Cari Roccaro, Peyton Perea.
Midfielders: Meredith Speck, Debinha, Lauren Milliet, Ryan Williams.
Forward: Lynn Williams.
Bench: Rylee Baisden, Samantha Murphy, Katelyn Rowland, Hailey Harbison, Danica Evans. Ari Romero, Kristina Maksuti.
Ref: Kevin Broadley.
AR1: Jeremy Smith.
AR2: Nick Seymour.
4th: Emma Richards.
How to Watch
Match Time: 1 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium – Cary, NC.
Streaming: CBS All Access, Twitch.
Twitter: For live updates, follow along at the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride) and on The Mane Land’s Twitter (@TheManeLand).
Enjoy the match! Go Pride!