Orlando Pride: Midseason Evaluation

Orlando City's MLS and NWSL sides have had very different starts to the season. Both appear to be playing strong football now, and as a fan I am optimistic that both will be able to make the playoffs at the end of this season. In this post I'll start by looking at the Orlando Pride, who have to climb the table several spots to reach playoff contention. In the next post I'll look at Orlando City, who started the season in the playoff race and has remained solidly in contention for the entire season so far.

Orlando Pride Season Review

The first eight matches of the Orlando Pride season can be neatly divided into two groups of four matches, so we'll look at each of those individually.

First Four Matches

In the first four matches, the Pride showed the results of making so many offseason roster moves. The team looked a bit in disarray, struggling to score goals and defend consistently, and the lineup changed nearly every match as Tom Sermanni and his staff tried to find the right combination of players to make an impact. 

Game Opponent GF GA Result/Points
1Portland02Loss / 0
2Washington11Draw / 1
3N Carolina13Loss / 0
4Kansas City11Draw / 1

GF = Goals for Pride; GA = Goals against Pride; links go to boxscore on NWSL web site

Marta joined the club after the season started, and made her first appearance in the home game against Washington, and made her first start against North Carolina the following match. As the team became more accustomed to Marta's presence, they showed signs of improvement. The Pride started dominating possession and creating numerous attacking chances, but they struggled to defend and they struggled even more to finish the chances they were creating. At the end of the first four matches they had managed only two draws and two points on the season, and had fallen to last place in the NWSL table.

Second Four Matches

In the fifth through eighth matches of the season, the Pride began to show signs that they were turning a corner on the season. The team earned results in three of four matches and went 2 - 1 - 1 to earn 7 out of a possible 12 points during that portion of the season. 

Game Opponent GF GA Result/Points
5N Carolina31Win / 3
6Seattle11Draw / 1
7Sky Blue12Loss / 0
8Boston20Win / 3

GF = Goals for Pride; GA = Goals against Pride; links go to boxscore on NWSL web site

Starting with the fifth match of the season, the Pride began putting everything together. Possession and passing became even better, and the team was creating even more attacking chances, even as their defense became stronger and more consistent. There was a scary moment in the Seattle match when goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris went down after a non-contact goal kick with what was identified later as a quad injury that will keep her out for eight weeks. But Caroline Stanley came in to finish the game and preserve the win. Then in the seventh and eighth matches, Aubrey Bledsoe has earned the start. The team stumbled at Sky Blue, giving up a late goal to the home side to lose the match. But the improved team defense and backup keeper earned a clean sheet in the most recent match of the season. 

Current Standings and Projection

The Pride have now climbed to 7th on the table, but they are three spots out of playoff contention and will need to improve to fourth place by the end of the season. The team has only played 8 of 24 league matches, so there is plenty of time, and the team seems to be gaining more confidence on offense and more consistency on defense match after match.

I think the team are in a strong spot now, and I look for them to have a reversal of the performance from last season. At the beginning of 2016 the Pride raced out to a strong start, but when International tournaments and the Summer Olympics disrupted the team chemistry, they fell apart and never recovered in terms of being able to have a consistent performance. This season I think will be the opposite. The team started slow and struggled to begin the season, but now their on-pitch chemistry seems stronger, and as they look to add Alex Morgan to the squad when she recovers from the hamstring injury received at the end of the European season, that will add even more scoring power to the squad. At this time I am confident the team will make the playoffs, but I will need to wait until at least the halfway point if not the 16-match point to say if I think they can contend for the Supporters Shield. Right now I think they will probably slot into the lower bracket of the playoffs, either in the 3rd or 4th position by the end of the season. To do that, they will need to continue earning results in at least three out of every four matches, and they will need to continue to have those results be wins more than draws.

What are your thoughts on the season? Does the team look like one that could contend for a playoff spot, or do you still want to see more matches before you make a prediction? Let me know in the comments below!