The Orlando Pride go on the road to face the Washington Spirit in this weekend's Lifetime Game of the Week. Both teams are coming off losses last weekend, and Orlando fans hope they will get to see the first match with both Alex Morgan and Marta in the starting lineup. The Pride had a rain-delayed match at home last week and just could not seem to get anything going on offense, even when Tom Sermanni had his team pull a hockey move late in the second half when Aubrey Bledsoe ran up to join the rest of her teammates for a corner kick and nearly headed the ball in for a goal.
The Pride will be looking for some revenge this week against Washington, as they have never beaten the Spirit in three previous meetings. The Spirit swept the 2016 series, and the teams drew earlier this year at Orlando City Stadium. So getting a win on the road at Washington will be a sweet victory indeed for the Pride.
And unfortunately the Pride waived Laura Alleway earlier this week. Alleway had seen limited playing time on the year, and according to the release from the team on Monday, she was looking for opportunities to play more. This release opens up another roster spot on the team, and it will be interesting to see what the front office decides to do in terms of filling that spot. With a frighteningly small roster allowed by the league, I hope they will be able to find someone they are confident can grow and thrive on the team to add to the squad.
Players to Watch
The Spirit have several threats to score and one primary playmaker on the squad. Francisca Ordega leads the team in both goals (4) and assists (2). Havana Solaun has added 3 goals, and Kristie Mewis has added 2, while five players (including Mewis and Solaun) have added one assist each. Mewis and Ordega are also the most active players on offense, as Mewis leads the team with 15 shots (9 on target) and Ordega has 14 shots (8 on target). And in goal, Stephanie Labbe is 3rd in NWSL with 49 saves on the season.
For the Pride, the team have a large number of players who have come up big after a slow team start on the season. Marta leads the team with six goals (good for 2nd in NWSL), while both Camila and Jasmyne Spencer have added 3 goals, and Chioma Ubogagu has 2 on the season. Marta and Camila are also the leading playmakers on the team, with each of them having 3 assists, which is tied for 4th in NWSL. And it should be no surprise that the Brazilian duo of Marta and Camila are team leaders in offense, as Marta has 22 shots (14 on target), while Camila has 17 shots (7 on target). And in six matches in relief of the injured Ashlyn Harris, Aubrey Bledsoe has registered 23 saves. Bledsoe saved 5 shots against Chicago last week, with Christen Press's awarded PK being the only goal in the weather-delayed match. And even though she has only played a few minutes off the bench, all Orlando fans will be watching to see how Alex Morgan is able to fit into the mix with her club teammates after helping Olympic Lyon win both a league title and the UEFA championship last spring.
On paper the Pride appear to be the more complete team at this point in the season. The team have been scoring more lately, and last week's match seemed a bit of an aberration, perhaps with some nervous excitement due to the return of Alex Morgan to the club. Aubrey Bledsoe has the only clean sheet for the Pride this season, and that came on the road in Boston several weeks ago. I think the team has the opportunity to repeat the result that they enjoyed that day, so I'm going to call for a 2 - 0 victory for Orlando in today's match.
What are your thoughts--do you believe the Pride have the firepower to win the match in Washington today? Or do you think the scoreless drought last week is a sign of something more troubling and that the team will struggle again today? Let me know in the comments below!