Pride Sight: A look back at Orlando Pride’s season-opener loss, and look ahead to Sunday’s home opener


Courtesy of Orlando Pride

Hey everybody! Welcome to the first installment of Pride Sight. This is going to be our weekly Orlando Pride column where we look back at the last match and find three takeaways from the match then we will look ahead to the next match for the team where we will highlight three points relevant to the team’s opponent. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the opening match of the 2023 season, a 4-0 loss to the reigning NWSL champions, the Portland Thorns, on the road at Providence Park.

First Takeaway: It was always going to end badly for Orlando.

It doesn’t matter how you slice it, the Pride were a massive underdog going into Portland. The Thorns were raising the championship banner and the starting lineup for the team was almost the same as starting XI Portland used in last year’s championship match against the Kansas City Current.

On the flip side, four Orlando players were making their first NWSL start, Marta was returning from a year-long absence from the league due to injury, the back line was completely revamped, and tactically Portland is not a favorable match up. I was expecting this sort result since Orlando lost 6-0 the last time they visited Providence Park.

Actually, if you compare the stats between those two matches, the 2023 version did better than last year with only two Pride players (Julie Doyle and Kerry Abello) starting from last June.

This young team should not forget the match against the Thorns like some pundits have suggested. The team should take all the lumps from Sunday and use it to improve and feed the hunger the Orlando Pride should be having the rest of the season.

Second Takeaway: Portland Pressure + Orlando Turnovers = Goals

There is no way to sugarcoat the fact that Portland pressed Orlando, and the Pride were not able to handle that pressure. Players such as Emily Madril and Mikayla Cluff committed errors not seen during the preseason. They were not the only Orlando players forced into turnovers. Even down 2-0 at the half, the match felt manageable until another turnover lead to the Hina Sugita third goal in the 49′ which basically put the match to bed. There’s not much else to say when a picture is worth a thousand words.

If Orlando simply takes care of the ball better for the home opener against Angel City FC, it would be an improvement which should yield better results.

Third Takeaway: Orlando have to put more shots on frame

This isn’t rocket science. You win by scoring goals. I’m not trying to be Captain Obvious, but the Pride managed nine shots with only one going on frame. Cluff, Doyle, Messiah Bright, and Adriana each had two shots while Marta contributed one shot, which was blocked by the Thorns defense in the box. Only Adriana was able to put a shot on goal forcing the Portland keeper into a save. The accuracy of those shots need to be better. I credit the Thorns defenders into forcing Orlando to take poor quality shots, but the Pride attack needs to show it can break down a good defensive team or put pressure on the opposing back line if they want to improve their record from last season.

A big question hanging over the team should be who is going to scores the goals. As a side note, I’m slightly concerned Ally Watt or Erika Tymrak didn’t see the pitch in Portland. Obviously, it’s only the first game, but neither player was on the injury report.

First Look Ahead: Familiar faces coming back for a visit

Since Angel City is a newer team to the league, the Pride record isn’t horrible against them. Orlando will welcome back Ali Riley, Claire Emslie, Dani Weatherholt, Brittany Isenhour (née Wilson), Jasmyne Spencer, and Sydney Leroux. Don’t expect Syd to play as she recently stopped using a walking boot, so she’ll likely need to work herself back into fitness.

There is going to be a certain level of familiarity with these players in Exploria and honestly some nostalgia. They are also going to want to prove something to their former team as Angel City is looking to bounce back from their week one defeat to Gotham FC. A match that could have gone differently had VAR not disallowed a Jun Endo goal.

There is no doubt Angel City will be looking to get a win against the Pride after feeling hard done.

Second Look Ahead: Watch out for the eighteen-year-old

Angel City made history during the NWSL draft back in January when the team selected eighteen-year-old Alyssa Thompson with the number one pick. She’s still attending high school, but Thompson is the real deal as she scored a banger from a Weatherholt assist. There are obviously many attacking threats on Angel City with the previously mentioned Endo and Emslie; however, Orlando needs to stop highlights like this goal.

The Pride are bottom of the table due to worst goal differential. In the season preview, I mentioned being lower in the standings due to a tiebreaker like this. Teams may take a page from how Portland played Orlando until the team proves it can overcome that. Seb Hines should be playing the Thompson goal to the team and work to calm the Pride defense.

Third Look Ahead: Let’s get ready to rumble

The expectation should be that this will be a physical match. Both Orlando and Angel City committed double-digit fouls in week one and between the two sides accumulated seven yellow cards. Savannah McCaskill is a physical player and I feel that Orlando will be emboldened to mix it up if they need to while in front of the home fans. Each team is going to feel like they have something to prove, so we’ll see what gives first.

The match official assigned to this game by PRO referee is going to be important as they will determine the tempo of the match, as Pride fans witnessed at Portland. Players will be suspended for one match when they get their fifth yellow card during the season, and there’s no “good behavior” incentive during the season to allow a player to clear one booking off their mark by going X number of games without a booking.

For more Orlando soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer


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