Welcome to your match thread for a Saturday night match-up betwen the Orlando Pride and the North Carolina Courage at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, NC. The Pride (0-0-1, 1 point) and Courage (0-0-1, 1 point) both seek their first wins of the season after draws in their opening matches.
This is the first of three scheduled meetings between the teams this season and the first of two in North Carolina. The Courage will visit the Pride on the Fourth of July and Orlando will return to Sahlen’s Stadium on July 31.
The Courage have dominated the all-time series. They hold a record of 7-2-3 (7-2-0 in NWSL play, 0-0-2 in the 2020 Fall Series, and 0-0-1 in the NWSL Challenge Cup) against Orlando, and the Pride have been outscored 33-14. North Carolina has won five of the last eight meetings.
However, the previous three games — each in tournament play (Fall Series and Challenge Cup) — all were draws. The last meeting came just a few weeks ago in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. It was a great defensive effort from the Pride, who recorded their first back-to-back results in the Marc Skinner era with the result. The Pride continued to look for Alex Morgan over the top but could not find the decisive goal and the match ended 0-0.
Two more 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.
The Pride and Courage both enter tonight off of draws in their opening matches. Orlando played the Washington Spirit last week. Both teams had chances and it was an evenly matched affair. Ashley Hatch and Alex Morgan both scored late in the game, just minutes apart. The game finished 1-1.
North Carolina took on OL Reign. The stat sheet heavily favored the Courage, but the Reign were very impressive on the defensive end. The match ended 0-0.
If Orlando is to be successful, the Pride will need to have a similar approach. While North Carolina is not the same team as a few years ago, the Courage still hold one of the best attacks in the league.
Orlando’s center back play will be key. Phoebe McClernon has been impressive this year, and she has looked more and more comfortable and confident since the Challenge Cup. Krieger did well against Washington also, but Hatch had little trouble in beating her on the goal.
The Pride will also need to look to capitalize on transition moments. Orlando will likely adapt to a more defensive approach to counter the strong attack from the Courage. This worked for the Reign last week and for the Pride a few weeks ago. What both teams did not do well is hit quickly on the counter.
Skinner talked many times this year about the importance of transitions. He called the NWSL a “transition league” more than once. If the Pride could connect on these transition moments, Orlando could walk away with a win.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge,” Skinner said in his Thursday press conference. “Just really a difficult team. We’ve got to do more of what we did last time. However, we’ve got to add more of a threat going forward in the clinical kind of chances that we want to create. I think we know how to do that and it’s just us having that consistency of playing together will create more opportunities for us to score and win the game.”
Orlando’s injury report is relatively clear, with only Jade Moore (left knee) listed as out. Lindsay Agnew (right foot) and Hailey Harbison (left knee) are out for North Carolina.
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Courtney Petersen, Phoebe McClernon, Ali Krieger, Ali Riley,
Defensive Midfielders: Gunny Jónsdóttir. Meggie Dougherty Howard.
Midfielders: Sydney Leroux, Marta, Taylor Kornieck.
Forward: Alex Morgan.
Bench: Brittany Wilson, Ally Haran, Konya Plummer, Toni Pressley, Marisa Viggiano, Chelsee Washington, Abi Kim, Crystal Thomas.
North Carolina Courage (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Carson Pickett, Kaleigh Kurtz, Abby Erceg, Merritt Mathias.
Midfielders: Debihna, Denise O’Sullivan, Cari Roccaro.
Forwards: Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton.
Bench: Katelyn Rowland, Diane Caldwell, Schuyler Debree, Hailie Mace, Brittany Ratcliffe, Taylor Smith, Havana Solaun, Ryan Williams, Meredith Speck.
Ref: Alex Billeter.
AR1: Kali Smith.
AR2: Justin Howard.
4th: Emma Richards.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium — Cary, NC.
Streaming: Paramount+ (USA), Twitch (International).
Twitter: For live updates, follow along at the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride) and on David Rohe’s Twitter (@manelanddave). Typically we’d be on the TML Twitter but the Orlando City match takes place at the same time.
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!