Following the NWSL Challenge Cup two weeks ago, the Orlando Pride begin the 2021 NWSL regular season as they host the Washington Spirit at Exploria Stadium on Sunday night at 6 p.m. (Broadcast: Paramount+).
“It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve played them recently and took the victory, but they’re a very good team. It’ll be a difficult game,” Head Coach Marc Skinner said on Friday. “We need to do what we did last time, but also add quality moments to our game to score more goals. Just looking for that consistency and continuing that energy and start the season off well is what we want to do.”
This will be the Pride’s first NWSL regular season match since October 12, 2019 when they played Reign FC. After the 2020 regular season was cancelled, Orlando was only able to play in four matches in 2020 due to missing out on the Challenge Cup last year. This means that the Pride have only played eight matches in 581 days.
Following their four Challenge Cup matches, where the Pride finished third in their group, Marc Skinner was able to pinpoint some of the key weaknesses in his team’s play and has worked to improve it.
“We have to be better with the ball,” Skinner said. “Because we can counter attack with such ferocity, we have to ensure that we have a balance when we’re looking at transition or when the opportunity to counter stops. You’ve got to be able to build and reposition the opponent by you playing well. So I think that’s been a focus point of us.”
For Washington, their front four of Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch and Kumi Yokoyama are going to be a test for the Pride defense, who will be without fullback Ali Riley due to an injured knee.
Outside of Riley, Jade Moore will be a game-time decision with an injured knee. Ali Krieger, who missed the Pride’s final Challenge Cup match due to a concussion, is cleared to play.
Both these teams faced off in the Challenge Cup on April 21st, with the Pride taking home a 1-0 win, thanks to a goal from Sydney Leroux and an assist from Alex Morgan.
Orlando’s next match following Sunday will be in North Carolina as they travel to face the Courage on Saturday May 22 at 7 p.m.
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