Utah Royals FC have been very, very good in their last two games. The Orlando Pride have also improved of late. The Pride are now in last place after a surprise Sky Blue win over Reign FC. The Royals need to pick up every point they can get in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. We reached out to Scott Carnevale of the Mane Land to get some insight into the Pride ahead of this match.
Orlando Pride are in 8th place in the NWSL table, but picked up two wins in their last four games. What’s changed to see that kind of improvement?
The Pride have slowly improved throughout the season. The players bought into Marc Skinner’s plan since day one, and the team’s play has continually gotten better. The results are still not there, but the performances are better and better almost every week. The team has looked more comfortable in possession and has committed fewer turnovers that led to goals.
At the beginning of the season, the Pride often were the second-best team in matches. However, the goals that they gave up were self-inflicted – turnovers, not tracking back, lazy defending, etc. This has not happened as much in the past few matches.
The team also seems to have a stronger mentality than it did early on this season. At the beginning of the season, Orlando would go a goal down and then fall apart. Now, when the Pride allow a goal, they pick up their play and look determined to get a goal back.
With King and Marta both picking up red cards in their last game and with Alex Morgan injured, who picks up the slack? Is there any chance we Morgan make her return?
It is doubtful that Morgan will return this week. Rachel Hill will likely start in place of Marta, and Morgan Reid should slot in at center back for Julie King. Look for Chioma Ubogagu and Claire Emslie to be the difference makers. Ubogagu has moments in the game that are excellent and then commits some poor turnovers. Most of the time, it is entering the final third when Ubogagu takes an extra touch and loses it. However, overall, she has been impressive in the last few matches. She had arguably her best game as a member of the Pride a few weeks ago in Orlando’s 1-0 win over Sky Blue, and it felt like almost every chance came from her.
That is until Emslie came into the match. The new signing has played just two games has already proven to be one of the biggest attacking weapons on the team. She is a quick winger that can play either side of the field. She can put in excellent crosses or cut inside and create a chance for herself.
The Pride have allowed the most goals in the league at 32, what do they need to do to keep a clean sheet in this game?
Orlando’s defense has actually not been as bad as the stats show. The majority of goals allowed this season are because of self-inflicted plays that led to goals. Turnovers have been the Pride’s Achilles Heel. Players turn the ball over in dangerous areas, and the opposition has taken advantage of it. If Orlando can improve on the ball, and commit fewer turnovers, then the Pride will significantly cut down the number of goals allowed.
You can read our responses to Scott’s questions at the Mane Lane.