It's matchday! For fans of the Orlando Pride it's been a while since we could say that with the International break that saw Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris (USWNT), Steph Catley and Laura Alleway (Australia), Josee Belanger (Canada), and Monica (Brazil) all away for camps and/or matches with their respective international teams.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Coach Tom Sermanni said that all of the players who were off for International duty have returned and the team roster is fully healthy except for Cami Levin, who is still on the 45-day disabled list following her appendectomy earlier in the season. After the last two seasons in MLS when injuries and international duty have had such a harsh impact on the lads, it's great to see that the ladies are not having to endure the same kind of hardships.
Players to Watch
The Pride have faced the Flash once already this season, getting a hard-fought 1 - 0 victory at Camping World Stadium in May. Alex Morgan scored a gorgeous one-touch strike from range that arced over the keeper and under the crossbar in that game to secure the victory. Since that game, however, the Flash have been looking very dangerous. They have outscored opponents 9 - 2 in their last two matches, and they are coming off a 4 - 0 drubbing of last place Boston Breakers in their most recent match.
For the Flash, the leading scorers on the season are Lynn Williams (3) and Jessica McDonald and Samantha Mewis (2 each). Four other players on the roster have one goal each on the year: Abby Dahlkemper, Michaela Hahn, Jaelene Hinkle, and Taylor Smith. The Flash play a high-pressure, up-tempo style, and they are leading the NWSL both in total goals (12) and shots (93). The Flash have lost their season-starting keeper Sabrina D'Angelo to a broken wrist, but it was backup keeper Britt Eckerstrom who got the clean sheet in the last match against Boston. The Flash have also signed keeper Katelyn Rowland from FC Kansas City, so it's uncertain who will get the start against the Pride tonight.
Of course Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris will be back for our team. Personally, I am also hoping to see more of our college draft picks, Christina Burkenroad and Dani Weatherholt. And I can never get enough of watching the energy and grit that Jasmyne Spencer displays, as well as the dynamic style of play that Lianne Sanderson brings to the pitch. On the season, our leading scorers are Alex Morgan and Lianne Sanderson with two goals each, while Kristen Edmonds, Steph Catley, and Apple (Sarah Hagen) each have one goal.
Both teams enter tonight's match tied on points, and I think the outcome will depend on which team is better able to focus after the International break. Playing at home has been a great boon to the Flash as of late, and the Pride have only one road win on the season so far, but our team seems to be gelling more each week and as a fan I'm starting to feel like they have a chance to win every game.
I'm hard pressed to completely go against the recent form the Flash have at home, but I can't bring myself to pick against my team. So I'm going to predict a 2 - 2 draw. Of course, the stakes are pretty high for both teams: a win by either side could potentially vault the Pride or the Flash into first place on the table depending on how the other league games play out this weekend.
What about you? Who do you think will win the match tonight? What players do you hope Coach Sermanni will put in the Starting XI today? Let me know in the comments below!