Tonight the Orlando Pride will play their first home match against Carli Lloyd (am I the only one who thinks, "Great Scott, Marty!" whenever I hear her name?) and the Houston Dash. This will be the first chance for most fans to see the full team in action in person, and it also is a chance to make NWSL history in terms of setting a new attendance record. A few years ago the Citrus Bowl set an attendance record for a USL match (a record that has since been eclipsed, showing the strength and growth of that league), and hopefully today we can be the site of another attendance record for a second league in which Orlando City SC participates.
There will be a ton of stars from the US Women's National Team on the pitch tonight, as well as some international stars. Orlando Pride features Sarah Hagen, Ashlyn Harris, and Alex Morgan from USWNT, as well as Dani Weatherholt from the U23 USWNT, Laura Alleway and Stephanie Catley from the Austrailian National Team, Josee Belanger and Kaylyn Kyle from the Canadian National Team, Monica (Hickmann Alves) from the Brazilian National Team, and Lianne Sanderson from the English National Team.
On the other side of the pitch, Houston Dash features Morgan Brian and Carli Lloyd from the USWNT, as well as Polonia (Barbosa Medeiros) and Andressa (Cavalari Machry) from the Brazilian National Team, Janine Beckie and Allysha Chapman from the Canadian National Team, Rachel Daly from the English National Team, and Denise O'Sullivan from the Republic of Ireland National Team.
Based on the NWSL Power Rankings, tonight's match features a matchup of the #2 (Houston) and #9 (Orlando) teams in the league. It's hard to judge from one week of competition, but in an appearance on the QueensCast podcast, Luis Hernandez of The ManeLand pointed out that Houston could very easily be considered the top team in the league because they are the only team that won their Week 1 match by more than a single goal. I'm not sure I agree that Orlando deserves to be next-to-last in the rankings, but I would agree that Houston deserves to be the favorite club coming into the match. As we saw with the MLS side last season, the first year for any team includes a lot of time for players to develop team chemistry. It will be a while before we see how good The Pride can be this year, but I expect them to steal a few victories along the way before they hit their stride.
As I write this I'm in my full purple regalia, so I'm definitely feeling the homer fan vibe today. All the same, I think Houston presents a very tough challenge for the team, so I'm going to predict a 2 - 2 draw. I think Orlando will score late to draw level in the match, and the fans can all go home feeling like the day was a win.
A Note on Movie Night
Last night I went downtown for the movie night and the meet-and-greet event with the Pride players. There were two of our players there last night, but just as it took me a while to learn everone's name on the MLS side last season, it's going to take me a while to match names with faces this year. I also am pretty sure that neither of the women who were representing the team have been added to the online roster on the team's official web site yet. In any case, I got the two autographs, and had some great food from the Aji Peruvian Food Truck. But the rain started spitting before the movie started, and I didn't want to risk my autographs getting soaked so I decided to leave the event early to go home and catch the OCB match streaming online.
It was a great event, and I absolutely loved seeing all the kids who came out to get autographs. One of the things I think we have done horribly in our culture in the last 30 years or so is give young girls really poor role models in general, from the fashion runways to the Hollywood studios. And that's why I'm so glad to see the growth of women's sports, which gives girls role models for achievement and success based on their own perseverance, effort, and dedication to a craft and not based on the genetics of their cheekbones and leg length, or the wonders of cosmetic surgery.
I had intended to strike some jealously into the hearts of my friends by getting some pictures with the players, but there were so many kids who were so eager for time to pose with the players that I couldn't bring myself to interrupt those magical moments for the young fans, and simply settled for some photos of the players and autographs on my Orlando Pride banner that came with my Season Tickets.
What about you? What do you think will happen in the match tonight? Do you think it's too conservative or too optimistic to predict a draw? Did you attend the event last night or any of the kickoff week events for the Orlando Pride? What was your favorite part of this week leading up to the home opener? Let me know in the comments below!