Pride at Thorns: Three Points to Victory
Sunday night will mark the home opener for the Portland Thorns. For the third season in a row, the Thorns have opened their home season against the Orlando Pride, and the Pride is 0 - 2 as the visitor in the previous two matchups. Both sides will be feeling the pinch of International competitions as Australian and Brazilian members of both teams are participating in important competitions for their country. But if Orlando wants to break the streak of losing at Portland in April, here are three things they will need to do.
- Draw First Blood - Success for the Orlando Pride comes when they get the first goal of the game. In fact, in franchise history, the club has only won a single match (back in 2016) when the opponent scores first. The team has a 1 - 16 - 3 record in all NWSL competitions when the opponent puts the first goal in the net.
Pride record when the other team scores first (by season):
2016: 1 - 9 - 0
2017: 0 - 6 - 2
2018: 0 - 1 - 1
- Stay Sharp in Defense - The Orlando Pride defense has had a shaky start to the season. In both matches so far, most of the back line has lost focus on attacking players at least once, and the opponent has made them pay for the mistake. The Thorns are defending league champions and they will find ways to score if the Pride allow them to go unmarked in the attacking third of the pitch.
- Win the Deep Stats - Most of the time there are three stats "below the headlines" that give you a sense of which team is controlling the match. And many times the team that wins those stats wins the game. The Pride are 0 - 1 - 1 on the young season, and they have not held a significant edge in the battle of these deep stats in either match: 71 vs 69 hosting Royals; 75 vs 93 at Spirit
- Duels Won - tells you which team is better at controlling the 50-50 balls and getting momentum going their way.
- Tackles Won - tells you which team is better at stopping the opposing offense by stripping the ball away and creating potential opportunities for themselves.
- Clearances - tells you which team is more effective at getting the ball out of the danger zone so the other team cannot get follow-up tries when their first shot is blocked, deflected, or saved.
Pride at Thorns: Players to (not) Watch
This particular International Cycle is really causing havoc to NWSL teams due to the number of teams in qualifying tournaments for the 2019 Women's World Cup. Many NWSL sides have signed International Replacement players to fill out roster spots until their International players return. In this post, I mention the players that both teams are missing for Sunday's match, and for the Pride, I'll talk about a few of the players that have been signed as International Replacements.
Portland Thorns: Missing Internationals
Portland and Orlando both have players involved in World Cup Qualifying tournaments in April for Brazil and Australia. The Thorns will be without three players--two Aussies and one Brazilian:
- Australia - (AFC Women's Asian Cup - Qualifier for the 2019 WWC) Ellie Carpenter (D), Hayley Raso (F)
- Brazil - (Copa America Feminina - Qualifier for the 2019 WWC) Andressinha (M)
The Thorns will also be without their head coach, Mark Parsons, who received a fine and a two-match suspension for an incident following the March 24 match at North Carolina Courage.
Orlando Pride: Missing Internationals
The Pride has a larger number of players out for International Duty: two Aussies and three Brazilians.
- Australia - Alanna Kennedy (D), Emily van Egmond (D)
- Brazil - Marta (F), Monica (D), Poliana (D)
Additionally, Rachel Hill is battling a groin injury that has been bothering her a bit since the preseason, and she has not been participating in full training with the club this week.
The absence of these players should give opportunities to some of the players that the Pride has signed under the National Team Replacement rule. In the list below, I've provided a few stats on each of these players.
- Bridget Callahan - 2017 Stats (UCF) -- 3 Goals, 1 Assist, 17 Appearances
- Abby Elinsky - 2017 Stats (UNC) -- 2 Goals, 4 Assists, 19 Appearances
- Christine Creighton - 2017 Stats (UCF) -- 2 Goals, 5 Assists, 16 Appearances
- Nadia Gomes - 2017 Stats (BYU) -- 5 Goals, 4 Assists, 19 Appearances
Of the National Team Replacement players on the roster, only Bridget Callahan has seen any minutes. She was subbed in at the 90th minute against the Washington Spirit in the second match of the season.
Which players for the Pride need to step up this weekend if the visitors are going to beat Portland in their home opener? Which of the National Team Replacement players do you expect to get in the match on Sunday? Let me know in the comments below!