The Orlando Pride are currently coasting through preseason after what felt like the most extended off-season on record. It is nearly time for meaningful games, with the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup now less than three weeks away.
The Pride kick off the Challenge Cup on April 10 against Racing Louisville FC at Lynn Family Stadium. Four days later, Orlando hosts Sky Blue and then the Washington Spirit on April 21. Orlando wraps up its Challenge Cup on May 1 at North Carolina. If the Pride win the group, they will play a fifth match against the West Division winner on May 8.
Here are a few bold predictions on how the Pride will do in anticipation of the Challenge Cup.
Every Healthy Rostered Player Will Play
Yes, including the goalkeepers. Ashlyn Harris is the clear number one goalkeeper, but the coaching staff will want to test their squad and see how they do in meaningful games. It will be challenging to get all three ‘keepers game time with only four games, but it will be worth doing. The rest of the team will be much easier to rotate and likely a necessity. The first two games are only four days apart and include travel. There probably will be a big rotation. The rest of the tournament games are pretty spread out, but using depth will be the key to success in this Challenge Cup.
The Pride will go 1-2-1
Orlando will undoubtedly go all out to try to win the cup. There are few easy games in the league anymore, and Orlando has been one of the weaker teams the past few years. The Pride’s only win will come against Racing Louisville FC. Orlando will then draw Sky Blue FC, fall to the Washington Spirit, and tie the North Carolina Courage. The Spirit have improved drastically the past few years and will win the group to play in the final.
There Will Not Be a COVID Outbreak
After the disappointment that happened last year, one would imagine that the coaching staff and players alike are extremely strict in Orlando on players following COVID-19 protocols. False positives forced the Pride out of the first installment of the Challenge Cup, and the team will not suffer this fate again. The entire league will crack down, and there will not be any positive cases among players during the Challenge Cup.
None of Sydney Leroux, Marta, or Alex Morgan Will Lead the Team in Goals
The trio will likely be the Pride’s starting three, and there are not many stronger front threes than this. However, none of them will lead the team in goals. Instead, it will be a midfielder who has the most goals. Marisa Viggiano’s two goals were enough to lead the team in the Pride’s four games in 2020. Look for three to be the magic number this year.
What do you think of these predictions? Are they too bold? Not bold enough? Add your bold predictions below in the comments section.