The 2018 NWSL season is here. It’s so close that we can now scout the Utah Royals’ first opponent: Orlando Pride.
Head coach: Tom Sermanni, 3rd year
Home stadium: Orlando City Stadium
2017 season in review
2017 was the Pride’s second NWSL season. Orlando made the playoffs for the first time in their short history after an impressive 11-7-6 record, finishing third in the standings. In August and September, the Pride went unbeaten, winning six games and drawing three.
Orlando reached the post-season but lost 4-1 to eventual champions Portland Thorns FC. That loss will still be very fresh in their minds as they embark on this new season.
Players to watch
The Brazilian international superstar returns to the NWSL for a second season. In her first season, Marta scored 13 goals and recorded six assists, second in the league in both categories.
Marta’s impact in a game is something to be impressed by, regardless whether one is a Pride fan or not. She can create chances like no other and dribbles past defenders like no other, amazing fans in the process with her skills. In 2017, the Pride went 10-0-3 in games in which Marta scored or provided an assist. Simply, defenders are on alert when Marta comes near.
U.S. National Team member Alex Morgan, when given the right opportunity, can score goals. In 2017, Morgan scored nine goals and recorded four assists in just 13 games she played for Orlando. In August alone, Morgan scored seven goals in five matches, tying in NWSL record. Like Marta, Morgan’s impact for the team when she scores a goal or an assist changes the game in the Pride’s favor. Orlando went 7-0-2 when Morgan contributed significantly.
This partnership is dangerous for defenses, especially because they work so well together in the final third. Marta’s ability to create chances and Morgan’s specialty in finishing is something that the Royals will need to stop from happening.
Defense is good, too
Though the offense is led by Marta and Morgan, the defense is solid as well. Six defenders compose the Pride’s defense, four of them with plenty of international experience, including Poliana (INTL-BRA), Monica (INTL-BRA), Ali Krieger, and Shelina Zadorsky (FED-CAN).
Krieger is a former U.S. National Team member who helped anchor the U.S. defense in the 2015 Women’s World Cup en route to victory. She played every minute last season and led the team in clearances (103) and blocks (12).
Oh, hey, Sydney Leroux!
You may remember that when Utah received FC Kansas City’s players’ rights, those included Sydney Leroux’s. However, Leroux was traded to Orlando in February. The reason may simply be a personal one since her husband Dom Dwyer plays for Orlando City. Still, Leroux will now face a Utah team of former teammates from Kansas City, and that will be a fun match up.
Orlando Pride Overall
Orlando is a good team, and they have already been predicted by various women’s soccer outlets to be contenders for the NWSL Championship. Though they saw key departures of players like defender Steph Catley and forward Jasmyne Spencer, they have also added players like Leroux, midfielder Christine Nairn, defenders Carson Picket, Poliana, and Zadorsky, players that have only strengthened their style of play.