Welcome to the match stream for the Orlando Pride’s final group stage match in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride (1W-1L-1D, 4 points) take on the North Carolina Courage (2-1-0, 6 points) at 7:30 p.m. in Cary, NC. Both teams have a shot of winning the East Division and advancing to the final, but they’ll need help as both teams trail Gotham FC.
The Courage have dominated the all-time series. They hold a record of 7-2-2 (7-2-0 in NWSL play and 0-0-2 in the 2020 Fall Series) against Orlando, and the Pride have been outscored 33-14 — the worst goal differential the Pride have against any opponent. North Carolina has won five of the last seven meetings, with the two most recent matches ending in draws.
Both of those draws came in the 2020 NWSL Fall Series. The Pride had 12 players out on loan, but Orlando was still competitive in the first meeting of that year. With a very young and inexperienced lineup, the Pride were able to keep the Courage from scoring and the match finished 0-0.
The second meeting in 2020 was a high-scoring affair. The Pride were down 3-0 at the break but fought all the way back to tie it 3-3. Ally Haran scored her first Pride goal off a Marta free kick in the 92nd minute to seal the point. Marisa Viggiano and Kristen Edmonds scored too.
In 2019, Orlando was embarrassed by a 6-1 scoreline in North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2019. 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. 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. The Pride also lost 3-0 at home and 5-0 at North Carolina in 2019.
The Courage swept all three from Orlando in 2018, with a pair of 3-0 victories and a wild 4-3 win on May 23, 2018 which Jessica McDonald won in the 90th minute after Alanna Kennedy and Hill scored to erase a two-goal deficit in the second half.
Both of Orlando’s victories in the series came in 2017, when the Pride finished 2-1-0 against North Carolina. 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. Like Hill, none of those three players are currently with 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 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, 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.
After a slow start to the Challenge Cup, the Pride find themselves in striking distance of a first-place finish in the East. Orlando needs to win tonight, and then hope that Racing Louisville FC earns its first win in franchise history when Louisville takes on NJ/NY Gotham FC tomorrow.
The Pride will also have to make up goal differential — the first tiebreaker. The Pride will likely need to beat the Courage by two goals to overtake Gotham’s goal differential. Gotham currently is +2 while Orlando is at 0.
The Courage have an easier route. They can advance with a win if Gotham draws or loses. With a draw tonight, and a Gotham loss tomorrow, the Courage would likely advance on the second tiebreaker — most goals scored.
“It’ll be a really tough game,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “North Carolina is in a transition period with their players, but what they are expecting of themselves still remains the same. They’re a very strong team that has really high-level forwards that can cause you problems at any point to which we need to be very focused. We’re going to have a very clear, disciplined approach, but also then look to exploit the weaknesses we feel they can have at times and that we need to take advantage of. It’ll be a very tough game and a battle of transitions. It will be a really good test of where we are at at this moment.”
Orlando is coming off a 1-0 win against the Washington Spirit. The Pride dominated early on, but the Spirit took complete control of the second half. If not for a world-class performance from Harris, and another penalty save, the Pride would have lost.
North Carolina last played Louisville in a back-and-forth contest. Cece Kizer scored in the 24th minute, but the Courage tied it up nine minutes later off a Kristen Hamilton goal. Former Pride defender Carson Pickett assisted. Debinha made it 2-1 in favor of the Courage before Jorian Baucom tied the game at 2-2. Julia Ashley netted an own goal in the 84th minute to give the Courage the win.
This should be a high attacking match. Both teams will have to fight for a win. Orlando needs the win to have any chance of advancing.
Debinha leads the Courage in scoring with three goals in three games. Jessica McDonald is another player to watch. The forward has two goals and three assists.
The Pride will be without Ali Krieger (concussion protocol) and Erika Tymrak (right hamstring). North Carolina will be missing Meredith Speck (left knee), Havana Solaun (right knee), and Abby Erceg (lower back).
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Ali Riley, Phoebe McClernon, Toni Pressley, Gunny Jónsdóttir.
Defensive Midfielders: Marisa Viggiano, Jade Moore.
Midfielders: Sydney Leroux, Marta, Taylor Kornieck.
Forward: Alex Morgan.
Bench: Erin McLeod, Courtney Petersen, Konya Plummer, Carrie Lawrence, Chelsee Washington, Ally Haran, Abi Kim, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Crystal Thomas.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Carson Pickett, Kaleigh Kurtz, Schuyler Debree, Ryan Williams.
Midfielders: Debihna, Hailie Mace, Denise O’Sullivan, Kristen Hamilton.
Forward: Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams.
Bench: Lindsay Agnew, Rylee Baisden, Diane Caldwell, Katelyn Rowland, Peyton Perea, Cari Roccaro, Taylor Smith, Merritt Mathias, Meredith Speck.
Ref: Ekaterina Koroleva.
AR1: Justin Howard.
AR2: Jeremy Smith.
4th: Emma Richards.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.
TV: CBS SportsNet.
Streaming: Twitch (International).
Twitter: For live updates, follow along at the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride) and on my Twitter (@scottcarnevale). Typically we’d be on the TML Twitter but the Orlando City match takes place at the same time.
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!