Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride welcome the Washington Spirit to Exploria Stadium (7 p.m., Paramount+). It’s the Pride’s first competitive game this year as they begin the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the team’s opening game.
The Pride are 4-6-4 (W-L-D) against the Spirit dating back to Orlando’s inaugural NWSL season in 2016. The Floridian club has been much more successful at home than on the road, going a combined 3-2-2 at Camping World Stadium and Exploria Stadium.
The two teams last met on Aug. 22, 2021 at Audi Field in Washington, DC. The Pride took the lead in the 68th minute when a turnover by the Spirit in their own third set up a chance. Quick play by Gunny Jonsdottir and Jodie Taylor set up Marta from distance. The Brazilian fired from well outside the box, knocking the shot off the inside of the post and in for the opening goal. Unfortunately, the Spirit responded right away, equalizing just two minutes through Pride killer Ashley Hatch. It looked as though the Pride were going to claim a draw away from home but in the 89th minute Trinity Rodman set up Ashley Sanchez for the 2-1 Spirit win.
That was the third regular-season game between the two during the 2021 season. Prior to that loss, the Pride opened their 2021 campaign against the Spirit at Exploria Stadium. It was Hatch again that opened the Washington scoring, giving the Spirit the lead with 15 minutes left. However, Alex Morgan equalized in the 84th minute, helping the Pride come away with a point.
The two teams met again on June 6 at Audi Field. Hatch scored in the 64th minute, giving the Spirit the lead. But the Pride were able to rebound again, this time through Taylor Kornieck three minutes later. The strike once again allowed the Pride to take something from their match-up with the Spirit.
The first game between the two in 2021 came in the NWSL Challenge Cup. The lone goal came from Sydney Leroux in the 11th minute in a 1-0 Pride win. It was the only win the Pride have had against the Spirit since the 2019 season.
Due to the pandemic, the Pride only took part in the Fall Series during 2020 and weren’t in the same group as the Spirit. As a result, the two teams’ last meeting prior to last season was in 2019. They had three games that season, with the Pride going 1-2-0. They first met on July 6, 2019 in a seven-goal thriller. Bayley Feist gave the Spirit the lead before Chioma Ubogagu equalized in the 21st minute. The Pride took the lead through Rachel Hill five minutes later but Cheyna Matthews equalized in the 30th minute. Then Marta took over, scoring in the 48th and 78th minutes. Jordan DiBiasi netted for the Spirit in injury time but it wasn’t enough as the Pride came away with an exciting 4-3 win.
The Pride and Spirit were scheduled for back-to-back games in late August but Hurricane Dorian derailed those plans. Instead, the two games were separated by a month and a half. The first came on Aug. 24, 2019 at Audi Field. While Crystal Thomas and Hatch netted for the hosts, Marta scored the Pride’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss. They played the return game at Exploria Stadium on Oct. 5, 2019, the most lopsided result of the all-time series. Tiffany McCarty joined Hatch and Thomas on the scoresheet as the Spirit ran away with a 3-0 win.
The Pride captured two of the three meetings in 2018, going 2-1-0. The Spirit took the first game in Maryland 2-0 with goals by Hatch and Mallory Pugh. However, Alanna Kennedy’s early goal on June 23, 2018 saw the Pride win 1-0. They followed that up with a 2-1 win on July 7, 2018 as Leroux and Marta bested Hatch’s lone Spirit goal.
The first time the two teams met at Exploria Stadium came on April 22, 2017. Line Sigvardsen-Jensen gave the Spirit the 60th-minute lead, but Danica Evans equalized in the 86th minute, claiming a point for the Pride. The two teams drew again on July 8, 2017, with Marta and Pugh each netting a brace in a 2-2- draw. The final meeting that year came on Aug. 8, 2017. Brazilians Marta and Camila gave the Pride a 2-0 lead and Morgan put it away in the 65th minute for a 3-0 win.
The first season the two teams played was during the Pride’s inaugural NWSL season in 2016. The first meeting came on June 18, 2016 in Maryland. Estefania Banini opened the scoring in the ninth minute and Francisca Ordega doubled the lead just before the half as the Spirit won 2-0. The teams played for the first time in Orlando on Aug. 26, 2016. Cheyna Williams and Christine Nairn gave the Spirit a 2-0 lead. Sarah Hagan scored one for the Pride but it wasn’t enough as the Spirit left with a 2-1 win.
The Pride have made some significant moves this off-season so the team will look different this year. Becky Burleigh, who finished the 2021 season as interim coach after Marc Skinner resigned as head coach, decided not to return. As a result, the Pride hired Amanda Cromwell, who will be leading the Pride for the first time in a competitive game.
Additionally, several key players from the past few years have departed. Regular starters Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Ali Riley, Jodie Taylor, and Alex Morgan are gone. The team has replaced them with several draft picks, including 2021 Hermann Trophy finalist Mikayla Cluff. Cromwell and Pride General Manager Ian Fleming have also added some NWSL veterans, including Angharad James, Darian Jenkins, Celia, and Megan Montefusco.
While there have been several changes, the Pride have brought back some key players, including Erin McLeod, Marta, and Gunny Jonsdottir. Cromwell will depend on these veterans to take over leadership roles left by the aforementioned departures.
This is the first weekend of the NWSL Challenge Cup, so it’s the first competitive look at both teams this season. However, the Spirit have more returning players and it might take some time for the Pride to form chemistry with the new pieces. Fortunately, the Challenge Cup gives the Pride six competitive games to play together before the more important regular season begins.
“We’re really excited,” Cromwell said about the first competitive game. “The glimpse of the [preseason] scrimmages and being at Exploria gave us that excitement in the prelude of what’s to come. Everyone’s in good spirits, working hard. Just hammering home some of the key points to how we’re going to defend and build on what we’re looking to do against Washington. They offer some challenges with their pace and their ability. Obviously, they won the championship for a reason. We’re very familiar with this team, but we’re excited.”
As previously mentioned, the defending NWSL champions have remained largely intact, including their fierce attack, which includes Rodman and Sanchez. However, the key will be shutting down U.S. international Hatch, who has terrorized the Pride over the past few years. The 26-year-old forward has seven goals and two assists against the Pride in nine games.
The Pride will be missing some young players heading into this game. Abi Kim (left thigh), Julie Doyle (right ankle), and Viviana Villacorta (right knee) are all out with injuries. Additionally, Caitlin Comse is on the 45-day disabled list.
Notable absences for the visitors are Tori Huster (lower left leg) and Bayley Feist (ACL). Additional injuries for Washington include Jordan Baggett (right hip), Averie Collins (ACL), and Alia Martin (hips).
Orlando Pride (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Courtney Petersen, Amy Turner, Mikayla Cluff, Carrie Lawrence.
Midfielders: Angharad James, Megan Montefusco, Gunny Jonsdottir.
Forward: Darian Jenkins, Marta, Sydney Leroux.
Bench: Anna Moorhouse, Kaylie Collins, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Kylie Strom, Leah Pruitt, Toni Pressley, Kerry Abello, Parker Roberts, Erika Tymrak.
Washington Spirit (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Aubrey Kingsbury.
Defenders: Julia Roddar, Sam Staab, Emily Sonnett, Kelley O’Hara.
Defensive Midfielders: Dorian Bailey, Andi Sullivan.
Midfielders: Tara McKeown, Ashley Sanchez, Trinity Rodman.
Forwards: Ashley Hatch.
Bench: Devon Kerr, Tinaya Alexander, Taylor Aylmer, Camryn Biegalski, Amber Brooks, Morgan Goff, Anna Heilferty, Rodriguez, Gaby Vincent.
REF: Laura Rodriguez.
AR1: Nicholas Seymour.
AR2: Miguel Martes.
4TH: Anya Voigt.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), Twitch (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!