Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (1-1-1, 4 points) head back out on the road to face the North Carolina Courage (0-1-0, 0 points). It’s the third time the two teams face off this year and the first time in the 2022 NWSL regular season. The final meeting will take place on Sept. 21 in Orlando.
Here’s all you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Courage have faced off 17 times since 2017, when the Western New York Flash relocated to Cary, NC. The Pride have a 3-10-4 record (3-8-1 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-2-1 in the NWSL Challenge Cup). The Courage have won seven of the last 13 meetings and outscored the Pride 41-17.
The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for this year’s Challenge Cup, resulting in the teams playing twice before the regular season. The first meeting was on Mar. 26 in North Carolina. A Gunny Jonsdottir handball allowed Merritt Mathias to convert a penalty in the 61st minute for the lone goal in a 1-0 Courage win. The return game was on Apr. 16 in Orlando. The visitors got off to a fast start, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins goals in the 15th and 56th minutes pulled the Pride back to within one, but Debinha sealed the game late in a 4-2 result.
The two teams faced off three times last year. On May 22 in North Carolina, Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead with goals in the 36th and 79th minutes. Jessica McDonald scored one late for the hosts but the Pride came away with a 2-1 win.
They met again on July 4 in Orlando. Debinha gave the Courage a lead in the third minute and Havana Solaun doubled the lead in the 66th minute, leading the way to a 2-0 Courage win. The third game was on July 31 in North Carolina and the Pride took a 50th-minute lead through Leroux. However, Brittany Ratcliffe equalized in the 52nd minute and the teams settled for a 1-1 draw.
In addition to the three regular season meetings, the teams were matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. Unlike this year, they only played once in the tournament and came away with a scoreless draw.
The only meetings in 2020 were in the Fall Series as the regular season was canceled and a COVID outbreak forced the Pride to withdraw from the Challenge Cup. The first game resulted in a scoreless draw in Cary. In the second game, the Pride erased a 3-0 halftime deficit to draw 3-3.
The Pride and Courage played three times in 2019 and that year it was all North Carolina. It started on Apr. 17 with a 5-0 win for the Courage. The return game in Orlando on June 1 saw the visitors leave with a 3-0 victory. The Pride scored in the final match-up, but still fell 6-1.
The Pride also lost all three meetings in 2018, but the results were much closer. On May 23, 2018, Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill pulled the Pride back from a 3-1 deficit, but McDonald scored a winner for the Courage in the 90th minute in a wild 4-3 game. The Pride were unable to come back from deficits in the final two games, losing 3-0 in both contests.
The first time the teams played was in 2017. The Courage took the inaugural meeting 3-1 on Apr. 29, 2017. The Pride responded well in the second match-up, winning 3-1. The final game of the season was the rubber match that year. Goals by Kristen Edmonds, Marta, and Kennedy bested a Lynn Williams brace for a 3-2 Pride win.
The Pride head into this game with a 1-1-1 record in their first three regular season games. After losing decisively to NJ/NY Gotham FC in the opener, they beat newcomers Angel City FC 1-0 in California and are 1-0-0 on the road early this season. The Pride looked to build a winning streak at home against the Kansas City Current on Saturday night and took a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute. But the Current equalized in the 78th minute and scored an apparent winner in second-half injury time. Fortunately, Kylie Strom was fouled in the box and Toni Pressley converted the penalty, allowing the Pride to claim a 2-2 draw.
The Pride’s trend of playing well in the first 15 minutes of a half and then trailing off has continued into the regular season. Two of the three goals scored this season have come within six minutes of the kickoff of a half. The other was a penalty.
The key to success tonight will be better play in the final third. Against Kansas City, the Pride were able to get into the opposing box but shots were either well off target or low crosses were behind the intended target — usually Jonsdottir.
While playing on the road is usually tough, the club’s lone win this year was away from home. Additionally, the team they beat opened its inaugural season by surprising everyone and defeating this Courage team.
The Courage are usually near the top of the league but this team is a little different. While North Carolina still has Debinha, the Courage lost Williams and McDonald this past off-season. As a result, the team is less of an offensive threat compared to recent years.
Despite the 4-2 game in the Challenge Cup, the Courage are more likely to win with a defensive effort. The back line has had experience together and have been strong this year.
While the Pride have played three regular season games, the Courage’s loss to Angel City is the only one they’ve played so far. Following the loss to Angel City, the Courage beat the Washington Spirit 2-1 on May 7 to claim the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. They were supposed to face Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Courage’s tier one personnel.
“It’s another three-game week for us so, physically and mentally, we need to make sure we’re up for a battle on the road against the Challenge Cup champions,” Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell said about tonight’s game. “The Courage haven’t played in a while, especially with last weekend’s match being postponed, so we have to prepare to play against fresh legs. We’ve played them twice already and know they have a very strong team with a number of dangerous attacking pieces. We’ll look to contain them but also get out to a quick start by being dangerous in possession and set pieces.”
The Pride availability list contains the same players as the past two weeks but several players have been upgraded to questionable. Caitlin Cosme (D45) and Marta (knee) remain out, with the latter out for the remainder of the season. Parker Roberts (right ankle), Meggie Dougherty Howard (right hip), Amy Turner (right ankle), Angharad James (right ankle), and Viviana Villacorta (right quad) are all listed as questionable.
While the Pride are closer to getting players back, the Courage have a significant number of players out due to COVID protocols and injuries. Those out due to COVID protocol include Tess Boade, Katie Bowen, Abby Erceg, and Katelyn Rowland. Additionally, the Courage will be missing Kerolin (left lower leg), Emily Gray (left knee), Merritt Mathias (illness), and KiKi Pickett (right knee).
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Viviana Villacorta, Carrie Lawrence, Celia.
Defensive Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff, Megan Montefusco.
Midfielders: Sydney Leroux, Abi Kim, Jordyn Listro.
Forwards: Julie Doyle.
Bench: Anna Moorhouse, Leah Pruitt, Kerry Abello, Gunny Jonsdottir, Darian Jenkins, Erika Tymrak, Courtney Petersen, Toni Pressley, Angharad James.
North Carolina Courage (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Jaelene Daniels, Taylor Smith, Kaleigh Kurtz, Ryan Williams.
Midfielders: Malia Berkely, Debinha, Meredith Speck.
Forwards: Rylee Baisden, Jorian Baucom, Diana Ordonez.
Bench: Marisa Bova, Denise O’Sullivan, Carson Pickett, Brianna Pinto, Brittany Ratcliffe, Havana Solaun, Haleigh Stackpole, Frankie Tagliaferri.
Ref: Mark Allatin.
AR1: Jeffrey Skinker.
AR2: Andrew Charron.
4TH: Shawn Tehini.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), Twitch (International).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!