This weekend the Orlando Pride will play their second home match of the season, and they are still looking for their first outright win on the year. But coming back home to the friendly confines of Orlando City Stadium doesn't mean it's going to be easy, as the Pride will be facing league-leading North Carolina Courage, who enter the match a perfect 4 - 0 - 0 on the season.
Orlando City has struggled on defense so far this season, giving up seven goals through four matches, which is tied for the league high. At the sharp end of the formation, Orlando are creating a number of chances for themselves, but they are struggling to finish the attack and score goals, so they have scored only three on the season (which also is tied for the league low).
The Pride and the Courage have met once before, two weeks ago in North Carolina. In that match, the Courage were victorious 3 - 1, and the lone goal by Orlando in that match is still the only goal that North Carolina has surrendered on the season, which makes them the best defensive team on the season. And unlike the Pride, the Courage don't seem to have any trouble finding the back of the net, scoring six goals in their four games so far, which makes them second in goals scored behind the Seattle Reign (8).
Players to Watch
I will be looking at the front and the back of the Orlando Pride formation most closely. At the back, I will be looking to see if the back line is able to defend well against the Courage. The lineup of Steph Catley, Toni Pressley, Alanna Kennedy, and Ali Krieger played well against FC Kansas City, with the only frustrating moment being when they could not help clear the ball after Ashlyn Harris did not have a clean smother on a save and it allowed the home side to score an equalizer late in last week's match. I am curious to see if that is a factor of Coach Sermanni finally finding some alchemy in the locker room that can build a stronger defense, or if it more reflective of the struggles that Kansas City has had on the season.
On the sharp end of the formation, I will be watching to see if several weeks of training with the team has helped create stronger partnerships between Marta and the other players. The long game continues to do well as the team is able to create opportunities pushing the ball up into the box. However, they continue to struggle on the last touch, either just missing passes to the striker inside the six-yard box or striking the ball off target or right at the keeper.
I want to predict a win, but I need to see more consistency from the team before I feel confident with them defeating the league-leading team, even at home. I do expect the defense to play better than they did two weeks ago, and I continue to be optimistic that the Pride can score more than one goal per match. So my prediction is a 2 - 2 draw for Sunday's match against the Courage.
What is your prediction for the match? Do you think the Pride can give all the fans a Mother's Day gift of a big win? Let me know in the comments below!