This is the second time these teams have met in the 2021 NWSL regular season but the first and only meeting scheduled at Exploria Stadium. Orlando will return to Sahlen’s Stadium on July 31.
The Courage and Pride have met 12 times since the Pride joined the NWSL in 2016. To date, the Courage lead the series 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), and the Pride have been outscored 33-14. North Carolina has won five of the last nine meetings between the two teams.
However, the Pride have had the upper hand in recent meetings, going unbeaten in the last four meetings (1-0-3) in all competitions.
The most recent NWSL meeting took place earlier in this regular season on May 22 — the Pride’s second game of the season. Taking place at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, NC, the Pride took the first-half lead through Sydney Leroux in the 36th minute. The Pride held onto that one-goal lead until the 79th minute when Alex Morgan sealed the win. Jessica McDonald pulled one back for the Courage in the 88th minute, but it was too little, too late as the Pride came away with the 2-1 win.
Prior to the first regular-season match-up this year, the previous three games — each in tournament play (Fall Series and Challenge Cup) — all were draws. The most recent of those tournament meetings came during 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 also scored.
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 McDonald won in the 90th minute after Alanna Kennedy and Hill scored to erase a two-goal deficit in the second half.
The first two 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 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 enter tonight’s game in first and third place in the league standings, respectively. However, while the Courage are coming off a 2-0 win over the Portland Thorns, the Pride lost 2-1 in Houston last weekend at the end of a three-game week.
A major factor in tonight’s game could be the players missing because of Olympic duty. Pride forward Alex Morgan and Courage midfielder Sam Mewis have already departed, playing for the USWNT in a pair of Olympic Send-off Series games. However, New Zealand and Brazil players are still with their NWSL teams, so the Pride will have Marta and Ali Riley and the Courage will have Debinha available for selection.
The Pride will have their entire defense intact for this game. That defense has been terrific throughout most of the season and could be key in this game.
There are questions regarding the attacking positions. Without Morgan available, there will undoubtedly be a shakeup. If the Pride lineup against Kansas City last week is any indication, you can expect Leroux to move up to the forward position.
Another concern is Taylor Kornieck. The midfielder has become a central figure in the Pride attack this year. However, she suffered a knee injury against Kansas City last week and was left out of the team for the following game in Houston.
Without Morgan and Mewis available, both teams will be short-handed in key positions. However, the inclusions of Brazilians Marta and Debinha will still provide attacking options.
“The Courage are a fantastic team,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said about tonight’s opponent. “It will be a tough, tough match, but we will be ready. We’ll see that hunger. We’ll see that energy that would be there if you had a normal week. So I think it will be a very, very difficult match for both teams, but I think this team (is) willing to drown out the noise of what the opponent gives now and focus on what we can control.”
The Pride enter this game with multiple injuries, leaving the team short-handed. Jade Moore remains sidelined as she recovers from a left knee injury and Marisa Viggiano is out with a right foot injury. Additionally, Kornieck is questionable with her left knee injury and Phoebe McClernon is questionable after injuring her right foot.
The Courage don’t have the key injuries the Pride are dealing with, but will be missing Abby Erceg and Lynn Williams, who were named alternates for the USWNT in the Olympics.
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Courtney Petersen, Toni Pressley, Ali Krieger, Ali Riley.
Defensive Midfielders: Gunny Jonsdottir, Meggie Dougherty Howard.
Attacking Midfielders: Crystal Thomas, Marta, Taylor Kornieck.
Forward: Sydney Leroux.
North Carolina Courage (4-2-2-2)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Carson Pickett, Abby Erceg, Kaleigh Kurtz, Merritt Mathias.
Defensive Midfielders: Denise O’Sullivan, Havana Solaun.
Attacking Midfielders: Debinha, Angharad James.
Forwards: Lynn Williams, Jessica McDonald.
REF: Karen Abt.
AR1: Juan Pablo Casas.
AR2: Rebecca Luther.
4TH: Sarieni Vasquez.
How to Watch
Match Time: 6 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium - Orlando.
Streaming: Paramount+ (USA), Twitch (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!