The Orlando Pride enter their midweek match against the league-leading North Carolina Courage hoping to extend a five-match unbeaten streak. The weather, which has been rainy, dreary, and miserable (to match the mood of many MLS fans in Orlando) for over a week is expected to be clear and sunny for the Pride match.
The Pride has been able to win away from home and without all of their playmakers always being able to contribute to the matches. Marta was absent from the last starting lineup, Camila has yet to play her first minutes of the season, and Alex Morgan has been in and out of the lineup dealing with little knicks and knocks of her own. For tonight's match, Ashlyn Harris and Monica are both listed as questionable with knee soreness, but it's hard to imagine either of them missing the match unless there's a more severe issue that is being reported.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina Courage are unbeaten in 2018. They have an impressive 7-0-2 record this season, and that is with a roster that has a rash of injuries on the league's report. According to the NWSL, Sabrina D’Angelo (left ankle sprain), Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear – SEI), Yuri Kawamura (right knee ACL repair – D45), Julie King (left ankle repair), and Lynn Williams (right hamstring strain) are all unavailable for tonight's match, and Kristen Hamilton (right calf strain) is listed as questionable.
But that doesn't mean the Courage is any less potent a team coming into the match. Crystal Dunn (4 goals, 1 assist), McCall Zerboni (3 goals), and Jessica McDonald (2 goals, 3 assists) account for nine of the team's 15 goals on the season, and backup goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland already has one clean sheet to go along with four by the injured D'Angelo.
OK, I'm going to admit that I'm completely going on hope now with my lineup projection. The likelihood is that Tom Sermanni is going to keep things very similar to how he's had them the last few times out unless there's a more severe injury or international call-ups. But I really want to see what Lotta Okvist can do at left back and I'm going to keep putting her in my Starting XI until either Tom relents and plays her or until they trade her off the team.
At the same time, I have to admit that what I first saw as a potential weakness in Carson Pickett's game (ranging high into the attacking part of the formation on a regular basis) is becoming something of a strength for the squad. She may not be a threat to score on her own, but by getting way up high and outside the 18-yard box, she sends a lot of crossing passes in and pulls defenders out wide to open space in front of the goal. If Tom keeps ignoring my pleas and the team keeps winning, I'll still be happy.
This game is a tough one to call, because it could extend streaks for both teams or end a streak for one of them. Both teams are also outscoring their opponents by a healthy margin over the last five matches. In the end, however, I'm going to lean in favor of the home side and give the edge to the Orlando Pride. I don't think they will win a huge game, but I think they will edge out the Courage by the count of 2 - 1.
What are your thoughts on the match? Do you think the Pride will hand the Courage their first loss of the season, or will the Courage keep their streak rolling? Let me know in the comments below!