Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride host NJ/NY Gotham FC in their first game of the 2022 NWSL regular season. The Pride are coming off a tough Challenge Cup that saw the team finish in last in the East Division. Now they look to start the first regular season game of a new era. This is the first of two scheduled meetings between the teams in 2022, with the Pride making the return trip to Red Bull Arena on Aug. 20.
Here’s what you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Gotham have been playing since 2016 — the Pride’s first season in existence. The only year the two teams didn’t meet was in 2020, when the global pandemic resulted in the cancelation of the NWSL season. In 17 meetings, the Pride have a 6-6-5 record against Gotham, which changed its name from Sky Blue FC last year.
The two teams have already met twice this year in the Challenge Cup. The first meeting was on March 30 at Exploria Stadium. The Pride had a strong defensive effort but Ellie Jean sent Midge Purce through, allowing the latter to score the game’s only goal in a 1-0 result. The teams met again last week at Red Bull Arena in the final game of the preseason tournament. Gunny Jonsdottir gave the Pride a 10th-minute lead, but Kristie Mewis converted a penalty just before the half. Neither team found the back of the net in the second 45 minutes and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Pride and Gotham also met in the Challenge Cup last year but they only played once. The April 14 meeting in Orlando saw Paige Monaghan score the game’s only goal in the 79th minute. It ended up as the Pride’s only loss in the 2021 Challenge Cup.
The two teams played three times in the regular season following that Challenge Cup match. On June 20, Caprice Dydasco scored a first-half goal to give Gotham the lead in Orlando. But Courtney Petersen equalized in the 90th minute, allowing the Pride to claim a point. The second meeting came on Aug. 29 at Red Bull Arena. The difference was a long-range strike by Erika Tymrak early in the second half as the Pride won 1-0. The final game last year came on Oct. 9 in Orlando. The visitors took a 3-0 lead inside 50 minutes before the Pride began their comeback. Tymrak scored the first in the 84th minute and Marta converted a penalty in the 85th. Unfortunately, it was too little too late as Gotham went away with a 3-2 win.
Since the teams didn’t play in 2020, the most recent match-up prior to the 2021 season was in 2019. The first game came on June 20 and Chioma Ubogagu gave the Pride an early lead. But Sarah Killion of Gotham — then known as Sky Blue FC and playing at Rutgers University — equalized in the 67th minute. It looked to be headed for a draw but Gina Lewandowski scored an own goal in the 81st minute and the Pride ended their 15-game winless streak with a 2-1 win. The teams met again on July 20 in Orlando. Marisa Viggiano’s first professional goal was enough to see the Pride win 1-0. The third and final meeting came on Sept. 29 in New Jersey. Shelina Zadorsky gave the Pride the lead, but Carli Lloyd struck late to pull out a 1-1 draw.
The Pride and Sky Blue played three times during the 2018 season. On June 16, Sydney Leroux’s brace kept the Pride in the game, allowing Rachel Hill to score a late goal in a 3-2 win. They met again on Aug. 5 in Orlando. Marta and Dani Weatherholt were the Pride goal scorers in that one as the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The final meeting in 2018 came on Sept. 8. The teams combined for nine goals in the two previous games, but Lloyd’s 74th-minute goal was the only scoring in the last meeting as Sky Blue won 1-0.
The two teams played three times in a season for the first time in 2017. On May 27 in New Jersey, Jasmyne Spencer gave the Pride an early lead in the 18th minute. However, Sam Kerr and Maya Hayes responded and Sky Blue won 2-1. After dropping the first meeting, the Pride took the final two. On June 28, they came back from a 2-1 deficit with goals by Marta and Hill, winning 3-2. They followed that up on Aug. 12 with a 5-0 win, lifted by braces from Alex Morgan and Marta.
The first two meetings between the teams came in 2016. Unusual scheduling saw the two games occurring within three days of each other. On Sept. 7 in New Jersey, Morgan and Kerr scored in a 1-1 draw. Then on Sept. 10, Kristen Edmonds gave the Pride a 1-0 lead in Orlando, but Kerr and Hayes scored shortly after, claiming a 2-1 Sky Blue win.
Tonight begins the 2022 NWSL regular season for the Pride. The team comes off a tough Challenge Cup performance that saw the team go 0-4-2 for two points, finishing last in the division — four points behind third-place Gotham FC.
Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell spoke frequently during the Challenge Cup about defending as a team and the Pride did that well early. In the first three games, the team only conceded three times. However, they were unable to score in any of those matches.
By the time the offense got its first goal, the defense was spent. Orlando gave up eight goals in the following two games, a 4-1 loss to the Washington Spirit and a 4-2 loss to the North Carolina Courage. The team showed its early defensive strength in the final game, ending the tournament with a 1-1 draw against Gotham in New Jersey.
While the team struggled in the Challenge Cup, much of it was Cromwell looking at different lineups. In the six games, the Pride had 21 different players start. All three goalkeepers started at least one game, and the back line was the same only once in back-to-back games.
The biggest problem for the Pride in this year’s Challenge Cup was a series of injuries. During the tournament, the Pride suffered injuries to Marta, Erin McLeod, Leroux, Carrie Lawrence, Tymrak, Amy Turner, and Meggie Dougherty Howard. While most of the injuries were relatively minor, the team lost its captain, Marta, for the season with a torn ACL.
Gotham didn’t do a whole lot better during the Challenge Cup, going 1-2-3 in its six games. The lone win for Gotham came in the team’s March 30 victory over the Pride in Orlando.
“A familiar opponent,” Cromwell said about Gotham FC. “Of course, just having seen them and already played them twice, so we’ve been working on how to be better from what we did last game. We have players back from injury, so that’s going to be exciting to get some players back on the field. We’re just really looking forward to getting the regular season kicked off.”
While the Pride still have multiple players out, the team’s injury report excludes McLeod, Leroux, and Tymrak, who are all eligible for selection. Those listed as out for this game include Caitlin Cosme (D45), Marta (SEI), Parker Roberts (right ankle), Meggie Dougherty Howard (right hip), and Anna Moorhouse (left shoulder). Those out for Gotham include Sabrina Flores (right knee), Hensley Hancuff (right knee), and Allie Long (maternity leave).
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Courtney Petersen, Toni Pressley, Megan Montefusco, Celia.
Defensive Midfielders: Angharad James, Mikayla Cluff.
Midfielders: Darian Jenkins, Gunny Jonsdottir, Kerry Abello.
Forwards: Leah Pruitt.
Bench: Kaylie Collins, Abi Kim, Julie Doyle, Viviana Villacorta, Carrie Lawrence, Erika Tymrak, Kylie Strom, Amy Turner, Sydney Leroux.
NJ/NY Gotham FC (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders: Ali Krieger, Estelle Johnson, Imani Dorsey, Caprice Dydasco.
Midfielders: Kristie Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Midge Purce.
Forwards: Paige Monaghan, Ifeoma Onumonu, Nahomi Kawasumi.
Bench: Michelle Betos, Cam Tucker, Jen Cudjoe, Gina Lewandowski, Kumi Yokoyama, Delanie Sheehan, Domi Richardson, Ellie Jean, Mandy Freeman.
REF: Natalie Simon.
AR1: Melissa Gonzalez.
AR2: Ben Pilgrim.
4TH: Jasmine Peralta.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), Twitch (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!