Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (4-4-4, 16 points) take on the North Carolina Courage (5-4-2, 17 points). This will be the first game under interim head coach Becky Burleigh as the Pride look to turn the season back around.
Tonight’s game will be the third time the two teams have met during the 2021 NWSL regular season and the second in North Carolina. It’s also the last time the two teams will see each other during the regular season.
In the 12 previous meetings between the Courage and Pride dating back to 2017, the Courage lead the all-time series 8-2-3 (8-2-0 in NWSL play, 0-0-2 in the 2020 Fall Series, and 0-0-1 in the NWSL Challenge Cup). The Pride have been outscored 35-14 in those games, while North Carolina has won six of the last 10 meetings.
The most recent meeting between the two teams came on July 4 at Exploria Stadium, which saw the Pride lose 2-0. The Courage got off to a fast start as Debinha scored just three minutes in. Havana Solaun doubled the lead in the 66th minute. The loss was the Pride’s first against the Courage in the last five meetings (1-1-3).
The first time the two teams played this season came on May 22 — the Pride’s second game of the season. Sydney Leroux gave the Pride the first-half lead in the 36th minute at Sahlen’s Stadium. Alex Morgan scored a second for the visitors in the 79th minute, effectively putting the game away. Jessica McDonald scored a consolation goal for the Courage in the 88th minute, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride came away with the 2-1 win.
Prior to that May 22 matchup, the previous three games took place during tournament play. The most recent of those three games came during the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride recorded their first and only back-to-back clean sheets under former coach Marc Skinner. Spending most of the game looking for Morgan over the top, the Pride were unable to connect and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
The two teams were also matched up during the 2020 Fall Series, facing each other twice. The Pride had 12 players out on loan, fielding a very inexperienced team. Despite the missing players, they held up well in Cary, NC, coming home with a 0-0 draw. The return game was a high-scoring affair at Exploria Stadium. The Pride went down 3-0 at the break, as the Courage scored twice in first half injury time. However, Marisa Viggiano and Kristen Edmonds pulled the Pride back into the game before a Marta free kick was put away by Ally Haran in injury time, allowing the Pride to claim a 3-3 draw.
The Courage dominated the Pride in three meetings in 2019. The Pride lost 5-0 in North Carolina on Apr. 17 and 3-0 at home on June 1. The only Pride goal against the Courage that season came on Sept. 14 in Cary, NC. Rachel Hill scored in the 81st minute, but the Courage were already up 3-0. The hosts responded with two more goals as they defeated the Pride 6-1.
The Courage took all three games from the Pride in 2018 as well. The first match-up was a wild 4-3 win for the Courage on May 23, 2018, in which McDonald scored the 90th-minute winner after Alanna Kennedy and Hill had erased a two-goal deficit. The next two meetings were 3-0 wins for North Carolina. The first occurred on June 30, 2018 in Orlando and the second on Aug. 19 in North Carolina.
The Pride’s best season against the Courage came in 2017, when the Pride finished with a 2-1-0 record against North Carolina. The first game came on Apr. 29, 2017 — a 3-1 win for the Courage. The Pride snapped a 12-game losing streak in the second meeting with a 3-1 win on May 14, 2017. Chioma Ubogagu, Camila, and Jasmyne Spencer all scored as all four goals came in the second half. The third game came on Sept. 30, the final game of the season. The Pride saw a two-goal lead slip away when Lynn Williams scored twice in five minutes in the second half. But Kennedy struck in second half injury time as the Pride won 3-2.
The Pride enter this game struggling and with adversity. Missing starters Morgan (United States), Marta (Brazil), and Ali Riley (New Zealand) to the Olympics, the Pride are winless in their last five (0-4-1), losing four of those games and only claiming one point over that period. That slump has dropped the team from first to seventh in the NWSL.
The Courage haven’t done much better since their 2-0 win over the Pride on July 4. That win was followed by a 2-0 loss to the Washington Spirit, a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dash, and a scoreless draw with Kansas City.
Similar to the Pride and almost every NWSL team, the Courage have been impacted by the Olympics. They remain without Debinha (Brazil), Sam Mewis (United States), and Lynn Williams (United States).
The Pride are also in the middle of a transitional period. Skinner resigned as head coach last week and the club hired Burleigh, former University of Florida head coach, to take over. She was announced last Sunday and tonight will be her first game in charge of the Pride.
“We’re going to rely a lot on (goalkeeper coach) Lloyd (Yaxley) and (assistant coach) Seb (Hines), who have been around this team the whole season,” Burleigh said about taking charge of her first game tonight. “They’re both very competent coaches. I’ve already leaned on them a good bit to tell us what a typical week looks like, game day looks like, tell us where you think the strengths and weaknesses are of this group. And I think the more (interim assistant coach) Alan (Kirkup) and I get integrated with this group, we’ll be able to offer our own opinions too. But with this short turnaround, that’s a challenge.”
In addition to the Olympians, the Pride will play without Carrie Lawrence (right ankle) and Jade Moore (left knee). Those are the only two players on the injured list this week.
The Courage are missing Lindsay Agnew (right foot), Hailey Harbison (left knee), and Peyton Perea (right foot).
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Phoebe McClernon, Amy Turner, Ali Krieger.
Midfielders: Courtney Petersen, Marisa Viggiano, Gunny Jonsdottir.
Forwards: Taylor Kornieck, Sydney Leroux, Jodie Taylor.
Bench: Brittany Wilson, Ally Haran, Konya Plummer, Toni Pressley, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Erika Tymrak, Chelsee Washington, Abi Kim, Crystal Thomas.
North Carolina Courage (4-2-2-2)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Carson Pickett, Kaleigh Kurtz, Abby Erceg, Merritt Mathias.
Defensive Midfielders: Denise O’Sullivan, Angarad James.
Midfielders: Havan Solaun, Cari Roccaro.
Forwards: Brittany Ratcliffe, Amy Rodriguez.
Bench: Sam Murphy, Lindsay Agnew, Diane Caldwell, Schuyler Debree, Kendall Fletcher, Taylor Smith, Caeley Lordemann, Meredith Speck, Rylee Baisden,
Ref: Karen Callado.
AR1: Laura Waliski.
AR2: Nicholas Seymour.
4th: Emma Richards.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Sahlen’s Stadium — Cary, NC.
Streaming: Paramount+ (USA), Twitch (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!