Pride vs. Breakers: Previews and Predictions

The Orlando Pride host the Boston Breakers tonight at Orlando City Stadium, looking for their fifth consecutive win as they hope to keep their playoff run unbroken. Alex Morgan has just been named the August player of the month. She has scored in five straight matches and has eight goals in eight matches started so far this season. If she continues on this pace, she will easily score more goals this season than Cyle Larin by the time it's all said and done, and she will do so in fewer than half the games of the Orlando City MLS player. Morgan's game-winning goal in the 87th minute over FC Kansas City was named Goal of the Week in NWSL, and it made history: with that goal, Morgan became the first player in league history to score the game-winning goal in three consecutive matches.

Meanwhile, the Boston Breakers come into the match 9th on the table after suffering three consecutive losses. They have been eliminated from the playoffs after their most recent loss, but it's not uncommon for teams out of the playoff race to take the goal of playing spoiler for the hopes of others. The Pride and Breakers have faced each other twice already this year, with the Pride winning both of those matches. Defeating the same team three times in any season is always a difficult task, which is another reason the home side should be wary going into the match.

Players to Watch

Boston has had some hard luck this season, but that doesn't mean they don't have talented players on their side.

Player NameGoalsAssists
Adriana Leon54
Natasha Dowie42
Rosie White31

Meanwhile, as a team, the Orlando Pride are 2nd in the league in scoring (37 goals) and they lead the league in assists with 25. It's no surprise the names that lead in those categories for the club.

Player NameGoalsAssists
Marta116
Alex Morgan82
Camila44
Jasmyne Spencer34

Prediction

I know I just said that the Orlando Pride cannot take this game for granted, and I am confident that they have reached that combination of team chemistry and focus that will allow them to add yet another win to their season total. They are above the line for the playoffs, but they do not have the luxury of dropping points at this time of the season and let them feel confident they will still reach their goal. With that in mind, I predict the Pride will win this match 3 - 0 and give Ashlyn Harris yet another clean sheet victory.

What about you? Do you think the Pride will be able to win this match, or do you think beating Boston three times in the same season will be too much to ask? Let me know in the comments below.

Pride vs. Breakers: The Good, The Bad, and The Historic

The Good

  • Brazilian Connection - Marta and Camila involved in both scores. Marta scored her first PK as a member of the Orlando Pride in the 9th minute. Then in the 13th minute Camila fed Jasmyne Spencer with a lovely crossing pass from the left side for the second goal of the night. 
  • Clean Sheet - Aubrey Bledsoe earned her first clean sheet of the season filling in for the injured Ashlyn Harris. In post-match comments Bledsoe was quick to credit the entire team defense for a great performance. She did not have to make many saves on the night (3) but was sure handed in wet and sloppy conditions when she had to make a stop. As the misfortune of DC United keeper Bill Hamid showed earlier in the week, wet conditions can turn even routine saves into treacherous affairs.
  • Quick Start - Scoring two goals in the first 15 minutes is the quickest start the Pride have had all season, and it put Boston on the defensive early, forcing them to worry about not giving up more goals more than trying to claw their way back into the match.
  • Three Points - The win was only the second for the Pride in their first 8 matches and was a much needed confidence boost for the team and their fans. They've been playing well box to box but have had trouble finishing.
  • Rachel Hill - She's the second rookie out of the UConn soccer program to join the Orlando City organization, and she's continuing the good fortune that the club has had in selecting talent from the basketball school. Hill was active and contributed on many plays in the game, and seems to already have a chemistry with her teammates as she was on both ends of some good passing up and down the pitch. In 2015 all Cyle Larin did was win MLS Rookie of the Year honors after coming to Orlando City. Is it possible that Rachel Hill can equal the feat of her fellow alumnus? 
  • Solid Stats - The Pride had solid control of most of the major stats of the match. It's interesting that they did not win the battle of Duels or Tackles, but the teams were close in this area and the Pride had a significant advantage in other stats to overcome this deficit. 
Orlando Stat Boston
17 SHOTS 8
6 SHOTS ON GOAL 3
6 SHOTS BLOCKED 3
14 CORNERS 1
23 CROSSES 13
2 OFFSIDES 3
12 FOULS 10
2 YELLOW CARDS 4
0 RED CARDS 0
327 TOTAL PASSES 276
72.2% PASSING ACCURACY 70.3%
55% POSSESSION 45%
45 DUELS WON 52
14 TACKLES WON 20
3 SAVES 4
9 CLEARANCES 31

The Bad

  • Crowd Size - Yes it was rainy, but this is Florida in the summer, not Minnesota in November. Anyone worried about melting should get some wet weather camping gear from REI or Gander Mountain. And for your small electronics a ziploc bag is sufficient to keep them dry and yet still allow you to use touchscreen interfaces. The crowd of under 5,200 was the smallest to see the Pride play yet this season, and they missed a really good game.

The Historic

  • TIFO Rigging - The Crown supporters group unveiled a TIFO to honor the lives of the 49 victims of last summer's senseless violence at the Pulse nightclub. It was also the first TIFO to make use of the rigging system in the Supporters End of the new Orlando City Stadium. 
  • First PK - In the 28th match of the team's existence they were finally awarded their first PK in the 8th minute after Breakers keeper Abby Smith mugged Marta in the box. The five time World Player of the Year coolly stepped up and buried the PK in the goal for the first score of the night and the first PK conversion in Orlando Pride history. 

All in all it was a very good night for the team. The defense played very well and the offense gave the team an early lead. In post match comments, however, both Tom Sermanni and Jasmyne Spencer indicated there is still room for improvement. "We need to put games away better," Coach Sermanni said. He referenced several chances the team had later in the first half and in the second half to finish off attacks but that they failed to convert to more goals on the night.

Spencer echoed that in her post-match comments. "The beauty is that we can still play better," she said, indicating the team was not going to rest on its laurels just because they have one their second match of the season. 

What were your thoughts on the match? Do you think that the Pride played a complete game, or are there glaring errors you hope the coaches and players will address before the next match to help ensure continued success? Let me know in the comments below!

Pride vs. Breakers: Previews and Predictions

Tonight the Boston Breakers come to town to visit the Orlando Pride at Orlando City Stadium. The match pits two teams that are next to each other on the table going into the day, with Boston in seventh place and Orlando just below in eighth. The Pride enter the match looking for their second win on the season in what is likely to be the second match where Aubrey Bledsoe starts in goal with the injury to Ashlyn Harris. The Pride will also be without second year sensastion Dani Weatherholt in midfield, as the California native was named to the U-23 roster for the Nordic Open Tournament. The 22-player squad left on June 1 to prepare for a pair of matches against Norway on June 6 and England on June 9.

Players to Watch

Boston brings several potent players to Orlando for this match. Natasha Dowie is among the league leaders in goals on the season (3), and Adriana Leon has the second highest assist tally (3) in NWSL. Defensively, goalkeeper Abby Smith has 25 saves on the season, which is good for fourth. 

For the hosts, the Pride continue to struggle to put all the pieces together. Weatherholt's absence will leave a hole in defensive midfield that will be difficult to replace with the same quality. Weatherholt has proven this year to be a very tenacious and energetic player, who is able to use her speed and strength to disrupt opponents, tackle the ball away, and win possession for the team. It will be interesting to see how Coach Sermanni decides to shuffle the lineup for this match and how that impacts team chemistry. Perhaps Kristen Edmonds, who proved adept at many positions on the pitch last season, can move back and take that role, or we might see one of the newer players step up and take that position.

Prediction

It's hard to read how the Pride's offense will play week to week. They have proven exciting to watch and will create many chances every match. Marta is always exciting when she gets the ball at her feet, whether she is creating opportunities for teammates with a well-placed pass or if she is setting up to take a shot herself. And as a team Orlando is outscoring Boston on the season (8 goals to 7), but the hosts are also giving up more goals so far (11 to 8). I generally believe that the Pride are playing incrementally better football week to week, and I'm looking for them to have a breakout game any time now. For the sake of hope as much as anything else, I'd like to see that match come today, but I'm going to pick the ladies to have a modest win 2 - 1. 

What are your thoughts on the match--do you think the home side will win, or do you think that Boston will prove too tough to tame? Let me know in the comments below!

Pride vs. Breakers: The Good, The Bad, and The Historic

Sunday night marked another win at home for the Orlando Pride and they did it in dramatic fashion, waiting until stoppage time to score the winner and collect all three points available. I am going to go on a crusade to start everyone using the hashtag #GhostOfInchy every time one of the club teams scores a goal in the 90th minute or later to secure a result or a win. In the early part of the season those dying moment goals seemed to be a signature of the Orlando City MLS team, and it's a nice way to honor the coach that built the club that made the Pride a reality in The City Beautiful

While the goals to win the match were works of art, they came at a steep price as we will see. There was plenty to celebrate from the match, so let's dive into the recap.

The Good

  • Back to Their Winning Ways - After dropping their first home match of the season to the Portland Thorns last game out, it was important for the Pride to get back to winning. This was no easy task with 6 starters out for the Olympics. The match against Boston saw Kaylyn Kyle playing in defense and a newly signed goalkeeper in net for the team.
  • Kristen Edmonds' Brace - Kristen Edmonds, one of the hardest-working players on the squad, was rewarded for her efforts with not one but two goals on the night. Her first goal came at 90 minutes to bring the match level, and then at 93+ she scored the winner, just seconds before referee Jon Freemon blew the whistle to end the game.
  • Savage Rally in Goal - Kaitlyn Savage, the Pride's newly-signed goalkeeper, had a shaky start to her first outing, giving up a goal in the 5th minute. But she rallied and went on to record three saves in the match to keep it within reach for the Pride.
  • Opportunity Knocks - The Pride had lots of chances, getting off a season-high 16 shots against Boston. The persistence paid off in the end, with those lovely three points!
  • Cami Levin's Return - Early in the season fans were shocked to learn that Cami Levin needed an emergency appendectomy that put her on the disabled list for 45 days. She has been back practicing for a while, and she returned to the pitch on Sunday in a starting role on defense.

The Bad

  • Jami Kranich - I'm not saying the Boston goalkeeper played poorly. Far from it--she faced 10 shots on goal and didn't let any of them in until the 90th minute free kick taken by Edmonds. But on Edmonds' second goal, Kranich showed her frustration by delivering a vicious and reckless foul against Edmonds that sent the goal scorer to the turf. Someone needs to remind Kranich that she plays for the Boston Breakers, and not the Boston Bruins! Maybe if the girl can skate she's got a future on the ice!
  • Fan Support - I know you're going to tell me the Euro 2016 final was on at almost the same time; I know you're going to tell me that there were thunderstorms that delayed the start of the match. And I can guess that some of you are going to tell me you have a sour taste in your mouth over the club firing Adrian Heath. But guess what--the Pride are a darn good team and those ladies play their hearts out. If you're mad at the leadership on the MLS side of the front office, then come out and support the Pride! They play an exciting and energetic style, and right now without their super-star Olympians they really need to know that the fans are here for them. So come out this weekend and watch them play!

The Historic

  • Leah Fortune's First Minutes - Leah Fortune, who has been with the club since the start of the season, got her first minutes on Sunday, and she recorded an assist on the game-winning goal. It was great to see Leah get a chance to be on the pitch, and she rewarded her teammates with a great play to help get all three points on the night.
  • Kaitlyn Savage's First Start - Kaitlyn Savage got her first start, and she's done something that no other keeper in club history has accomplished: she won her first time out! In the club's first match, the Pride lost to Portland in Portland with Ashlyn Harris in goal, and a few weeks later when Aubrey Bledsoe got her first start in goal the team also lost. But Kaitlyn managed to win her first time out. I think the way the whole team never quit working and kept grinding all match long made the difference, and their efforts were very helpful for a new keeper to come in and get the win. Great job, Kaitlyn! Great job team!

What did you think of the match? Who stood out as having a great performance for you? How could the Orlando City front office do a better job to attract more fans to the Pride matches? Let me know in the comments below!

Pride vs. Breakers: Previews and Predictions

Today will be a day to learn a lot of new faces. The Pride (like most NWSL teams) have a number of regular starters who are away for International Duty in Olympic Camps, meaning that they will be gone for the rest of July. In their stead, the Pride have signed a number of reserve players, as well as two new goalkeepers due to the injury to Aubrey Bledsoe.

Who's Gone to Rio?

The following players have been called up to national sides for the 2016 Olympic Games:

  • USA: Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris
  • Australia: Steph Catley, Laura Alleway
  • Brazil: Monica
  • Canada: Josee Belanger

In addition to these players, Kaylyn Kyle has been named as an alternate for Canada, so it's possible she could be called away any time between now and the final match that Canada plays in the Olympics.

Who's Been Activated and Signed?

According to a release from the Orlando Pride offices, the following players are now activated and available for play while the Olympians are away:

NameJerseyPositionHometownAgeCollege
Kaitlyn Savage*25GoalkeeperGig Harbor, WA25FIU
Megan Dorsey**22GoalkeeperMelbourne, FL24UNF
Allie Wisner15ForwardBozeman, MT25Utah
Kim Reynolds20MidfielderOrlando, FL28UCF
Siera Lelii24ForwardSeminole, FL23Nova SE

* Kaitlyn Savage was signed for the rest of the 2016 season due to the season-ending injury of Aubrey Bledsoe.
**Megan Dorsey was previously announced as a signee when Aubrey Bledsoe first suffered her injury.

About Boston Breakers

The Boston Breakers have struggled this season, sitting at the bottom of the NWSL table with a record of 1 - 9 - 1. As Orlando Pride fans we are spoiled with a very communicative front office and information-rich web sites; not so for the Boston team. It's unclear how their lineup will be impacted by the Rio Olympics, but the team only have three goals on the season collectively, with those being scored by defender Whitney Engen, midfielder Louise Schillgard, and defender Christen Westphal.

All the same, with so many changes to the Pride lineup today, it's really hard to predict how the match will unfold. I am going to be bold and say that the Pride will be able take a victory, and I'll predict a relatively high scoring match: 3 - 1. 

What about you? What do you think about the changes for the Pride? Are you excited to see these new players and what they can do, or will you be pining for our Olympians who are away prepping for Rio? Let me know in the comments below!