Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (5-8-6, 21 points) welcome the North Carolina Courage (7-8-4, 25 points) to Exploria Stadium tonight at 7 p.m. This is the fourth and final time that the two teams will play during 2022 — the second in league play.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Courage have played 18 times since the Western New York Flash moved to Cary, NC and became the Courage. The Pride are 4-10-4 in those games (4-8-1 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-2-1 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).
The most recent meeting between the two teams came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring in the fourth minute. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead in the 44th minute, scoring her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back to within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win.
The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty in the 61st minute after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start in this one, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.
The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored in the 80th minute to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha gave the Courage a third-minute lead. Havana Solaun doubled the advantage in the 66th minute and the Courage took home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring in the 50th minute but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized two minutes later and the teams drew 1-1.
The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game as the teams went away with a scoreless draw.
Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, resulting in the teams meeting twice. The first game was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.
The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on Apr. 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but netted four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by North Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.
The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.
The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on Apr. 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando and this time the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2 in the 67th minute. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted the winner in the 90th minute, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.
The Pride looked headed for last place in the NWSL a few months ago before going on a seven-game unbeaten run. That ended on Aug. 26 with a 2-1 loss to OL Reign and a 2-0 loss to the Portland Thorns on Sept. 9. The team had a chance to climb back into the playoff race when it faced Racing Louisville FC over the weekend, but the Pride lost 2-0 again, ending any hope of making the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Tonight, the Pride will welcome the Courage to Exploria Stadium for the penultimate home game of the 2022 NWSL season. While the Courage are only one spot ahead of the Pride in the standings, they’re five points out of the sixth and final playoff spot with three games remaining.
The Courage have been one of the best attacking teams this year. They have scored 40 goals during the 2022 regular season — the most in the league, alongside the Thorns. They’re led in the attack by Diana Ordonez, who has 11 goals. Trailing her are Debinha with seven and Kerolin with six goals on the year.
The attack has been carrying the Courage this season as they’ve been one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Their 33 goals conceded is third most this year, only trailing the Pride’s 37 and NJ/NY Gotham FC’s 39.
The primary difference between Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy and Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod is the number of shots they’ve faced. Despite giving up a high number of goals, McLeod is fourth in the league in saves with 61. Meanwhile, Murphy is ninth with 48.
The Pride will have to find inspiration to finish out the year strong despite not having anything to play for. Especially since all three teams remaining on the schedule are fighting for playoff spots.
“There’s still moments for us to build, we want to finish the season on a high. We’ve put so much work in. There’s still a lot to play for. We want to finish as high (in the standings) as possible and we can start that with North Carolina at home in front of our fans,” Interim Head Coach Seb Hines said. “(North Carolina has) dangerous players that we have to be aware of but we also have to play our game, our style of play, and still grow and build on what we’ve achieved so far. It’s another opportunity for us to do that.”
The Pride have five players out for this game, including Marta (knee), Viviana Villacorta (ankle), Caitlin Cosme (knee), Chelsee Washington (ankle), and Kaylie Collins (wrist). Starting goalkeeper McLeod (concussion protocol) is off the injured list for the first time in three games, but Cluff (ankle) is listed as questionable.
The Courage only have two players out for tonight’s game in Kerolin (thigh) and Abby Erceg (thigh). While only two players are listed on the Courage’s injury report, both are key starters.
Orlando Pride (5-3-2)
Goalkeeper: Erin McLeod.
Defenders: Haley Hanson, Kylie Storm, Carrie Lawrence, Megan Montefucso, Celia
Midfielders: Jordyn Listro, Gunny Jonsdottir, Leah Pruitt.
Forwards: Kerry Abello, Ally Watt.
Bench: Anna Moorhouse, Haley Bugeja, Darian Jenkins, Courtney Petersen, Julie Doyle, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Toni Pressley, Erika Tymrak, Thais Reiss.
North Carolina Courage (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy.
Defenders: Jaelene Daniels, Katie Bowen, Kaleigh Kurtz, Merritt Mathias.
Midfielders: Meredith Speck, Denise O’Sullivan, Tess Boade, Fuka Nagano.
Forwards: Debinha, Rikke Madsen.
Bench: Rylee Baisden, Malia Berkely, Carson Pickett, Kiki Pickett, Diana Ordonez, Brianna Pinto, Brittany Ratcliffe, Katelyn Rowland, Ryan Williams.
REF: Adorae Monroy.
AR1: Melissa Beck.
AR2: Zach McWhorter.
4TH: Richonne Clark.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), Twitch (International).
Twitter: For live updates and rapid reaction, following @TheManeLand and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!