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Orlando Pride at Washington Spirit: Three Keys to Victory

What do the Pride need to do to defeat the Spirit and remain unbeaten on the season?

Washington Spirit v Orlando Pride Photo by Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride are undefeated through the first four matches of the 2021 NWSL season, with three wins and one draw. That draw came against the Washington Spirit in the home opener, and this Sunday the Pride travel to Audi Field to play them again. As we saw in Orlando City’s last match, staying unbeaten isn’t easy. What do the Pride need to do to overcome being on the road, and to earn all three points against the Spirit?

Defensive Consistency

Perhaps the biggest change to the current iteration of the Orlando Pride has been on the defensive side of the ball. Ashlyn Harris has continued to be her usual excellent self, but more importantly, the players in front of her are limiting the opposition’s chances. In the first four matches, the Pride have allowed three goals on 59 shots, with only 15 shots on target. The Pride have done a good job of forcing teams wide, and clearing their lines. Even when the Pride have bunkered in, they’ve been able to withstand the onslaught as they did against the Portland Thorns. Against the Spirit, the Pride allowed 12 shots with only four on target. If they can manage those types of numbers again, it will increase the chances of winning.

Marta Doing Marta Things

Throughout the Challenge Cup and into the first couple of matches to start the season, Marta has not played like Marta. As discussed on The Mane Land PawedCast, we weren’t certain if this was age, dealing with a minor injury, or something else? All we knew was that one of the greatest players of all time wasn’t looking the part. It might be too early to say for sure, but she looked a bit better against the Thorns, and even better against Kansas City. If Marta is getting back into form, that can only be a good thing for a surging Orlando Pride. Some of what has been lacking is the play through the midfield. Orlando has been effective playing a more direct attack, but if Marta starts doing Marta things in the midfield again, that opens up the field and allows other players to move into the spaces she creates.

More Variety in the Attack

The Pride have scored in every match so far. Alex Morgan is literally scoring a goal per game to start the season, and that will need to continue. Morgan’s goal-scoring streak is a big reason for the Pride’s success, but the Pride need more. Yes, Sydney Leroux has two goals and she and Morgan seem to be clicking. What has been missing are contributions from the midfielders like Taylor Kornieck and Marta. If the Pride can do a better job in getting other players into the attack, while letting Morgan and Leroux do their thing, a result is almost certain. One last thing in regards to scoring goals: I am really excited that Morgan is scoring so much, but perhaps it’s time to let someone else take a penalty kick.

That’s what I’ll be looking for this Sunday. Let me know your thoughts below.