Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride take on the Washington Spirit in Exploria Stadium. With a loss or draw, Orlando (0-1-1, 1 point) will officially be eliminated from the final. Meanwhile, the Spirit (1-1-0, 3 points) are in third place after a 1-0 win over Racing Louisville FC.
The Spirit lead the all-time series between the two teams, 5-4-2 (W-L-D). Orlando held the slight advantage in 2019 before back-to-back wins from the Spirit. The Pride lost 3-0 in the last match, on Oct. 5, 2019. Current Orlando Pride forward Crystal Thomas was with Washington for that match, scoring a goal and recording an assist. Marc Skinner talked about “individual errors” costing the Pride the game after that match.
The Pride fell 2-1 thanks, in part, to an Ashlyn Harris howler on Aug. 24, 2019. Overall, Washington was the better team and deserved to win. The Spirit dominated with 59% possession and finished with more shots and shots on target.
In the first meeting of the 2019 season, the Pride had an offensive explosion and won, 4-3. In that match, Rachel Hill opened her 2019 scoring account, Marta netted a brace, and Chioma Ubogagu got her third goal in as many games. That was the last match Ubogagu played for the Pride before being waived so she could pursue an opportunity in Europe.
The Pride won two of the three meetings with the Spirit in 2018. The first match of that season was on Mar. 31. Ashley Hatch recorded a goal and an assist as the Spirit went on to win 2-0 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Three months later, the teams met again. This time, the Pride were on the winning end of things, 1-0, via an 11th-minute Alanna Kennedy goal. In the final meeting of 2018, Hatch once again found the back of the net. She soared above everyone on a corner, and the ball slowly trickled in at the back post. Sydney Leroux leveled the game in stoppage time of the first half after an incredible cutback move and beat former Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe at the near post. Marta scored the game-winner in the 86th minute, off an assist from Leroux as Orlando won 2-1.
Orlando went undefeated against the Spirit in 2017. In the first-ever Pride game at what is now known as Exploria Stadium, Orlando needed to fight back after falling behind to earn a point in the 1-1 game. Line Sigvardsen-Jensen scored in the 60th minute, but Danica Evans used some nifty footwork to get by the defense and find the equalizer late in front of 14,452 fans, the second-highest home attendance for the Pride in team history.
On July 8, the teams again played to a draw — this time 2-2. Mallory Pugh netted a brace for the Spirit, and Marta recorded a brace for the Pride. Exactly a month later, the teams met again. This time, it was all Orlando as the Pride won 3-0. Alex Morgan, Camila, and Marta all found the back of the net and Bledsoe earned a shutout for Orlando.
The Spirit won both games in 2016: 2-0 on June 18 and 2-1 on Aug. 26.
Tonight’s game is crucial for both teams if either is going to stay in contention to make the final. Gotham FC has six points from two games, so a draw won’t cut it for the Pride.
“It will be a difficult game,” said Skinner. “It’s a different challenge because Washington has a different style. They’re adapting and obviously looking at variances in their shape. They like to have the ball, they like to try and manipulate teams so they can find spaces. It’s important that we have an air of discipline to ourselves in order to maximize the potential of where we can hurt them and their buildup. I think we have to be balanced in our approach, but it will be a tough challenge. They’re a good team, have some very good players returning as well. We’ll be ready, try to eke out more performance values and build on the Louisville and Gotham games.”
The Pride dropped points in both games in this tournament. Orlando was up 2-1 in the 90th minute against Louisville before allowing a goal in stoppage time. A few days later, Gotham FC scored the game-winner in the 79th minute.
It has been a different story for the Spirit. Washington played the North Carolina Courage in its first match of the Challenge Cup. The Spirit dominated the game early on, and Kumi Yokoyama scored in the fourth minute. It did not take long for the Courage to wake up, and Kristen Hamilton scored in the 10th minute. It was all North Carolina after that and the Spirit fell 3-2. Rookie Trinity Rodman bagged her first career goal in the 60th minute to make things interesting, but Washington was unable to find the equalizer.
The Spirit beat Louisville 1-0 in their next match. Washington dominated the stat sheet and ended the game with more shots (18-8), shots on goal (6-4), crosses (17-9), passes (535-424), and possession (56%-44%) than Louisville. Regardless, Louisville held on tight and it looked like the game would end 0-0. Then, three minutes into stoppage time, Rodman put in a perfect cross to Ashley Sanchez, who hit it off the volley. Michelle Betos was able to get a hand to it, but could not keep it out and Washington came out victorious.
Skinner talked about rotating players after the Pride’s game against Louisville, but then deployed nearly the same lineup against Gotham. He then only went to the bench twice during that match. Expect a few changes tonight as Orlando welcomes back Alex Morgan and Gunny Jónsdóttir from international duty. The Pride played mostly in a 4-2-3-1 in the first two matches with Leroux up top. Morgan will likely slot into that forward spot, and Leroux and Jónsdóttir should both play in the midfield.
Washington plays excellent possession soccer. In the past, Skinner has talked about how he hopes to build a team with a similar style. The Spirit showcased this perfectly in their game-winning goal against Louisville. Nearly every Spirit player touched the ball in the lead-up to the goal. Orlando will need to be sharp on the defensive end to not allow holes to open up like this.
What a goal this is btw@NWSL @WashSpirit— Louis Hunt (@LouisHunt17) April 18, 2021
One of the players to keep an eye out for is Rodman. The 18-year-old already has a goal and an assist in two games for Washington. She came off the bench in the Spirit’s first game but then started in the following match. Rodman has been doing well on both ends of the field, and has the potential to be a game changer.
Orlando will have a handful more players available tonight. As previously stated, Morgan and Jónsdóttir, as well as Erin McLeod, are back from international duty. Meggie Dougherty Howard and Crystal Thomas also have both recovered from injuries and should be available, although both are listed as questionable. Midfielder Erika Tymrak is out with a right hamstring injury.
Like Morgan, former Pride defender Emily Sonnett is back from international duty for Washington, alongside fellow Americans Kelley O’Hara and Andi Sullivan. Washington also has a few injury issues. Averie Collins and Bayley Feist are both out with ACL injuries, while Paige Nielsen will miss the match because of a right thigh injury. Jordan DiBiasi (right hip) and Sam Staab (hip) are both listed as questionable.
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Ali Riley, Phoebe McClernon, Ali Krieger, Gunny Jónsdóttir.
Defensive Midfielders: Jade Moore, Marisa Viggiano.
Midfielders: Sydney Leroux, Taylor Kornieck, Marta.
Forward: Alex Morgan.
Bench: Erin McLeod, Courtney Petersen, Toni Pressley, Carrie Lawrence, Chelsee Washington, Ally Haran, Abi Kim, Konya Plummer, Meggie Dougherty Howard.
Washington Spirit (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Aubrey Bledsoe.
Defenders: Tori Huster, Emily Sonnett, Kelley O’Hara.
Midfielders: Saori Takarada, Dorian Bailey, Andi Sullivan, Tegan McGrady.
Forwards: Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch, Trinity Rodman.
Bench: Chinyelu Asher, Camryn Biegalski, Anna Heilferty, Devon Kerr, Mariana Speckmaier, Kumi Yokoyama, Natalie Jacobs, Julia Roddar.
Ref: Alex Billeter.
AR1: Kevin Lock.
AR2: Ashlee Varnson.
4th: Alyssa Nichols.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), Twitch (International).
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!