Match Preview: Prowling the Pride

Opponent: Orlando Pride (0-2-2)

When: Sunday, May 14th @ 5:00 pm

Where: Orlando City Stadium, Orlando FL

How to Watch: (In USA) go90 app or go90 website, (Internationally) NWSL website

 

Introduction

The North Carolina Courage (4-0-0, 1st place) travel to Orlando on Sunday to face off against the Orlando Pride (0-2-2, 10th place) in a rematch of a game two weeks ago in Cary, NC. The Courage look to extend their winning streak to 5 games and get one step closer to matching the 7 game winning streak that Seattle had in 2014.The Pride are looking to avoid making history of their own after 12 winless games dating back to July 16th, 2016. If the Pride fail to win at home this Sunday they will tie the 2013 Washington Spirit  with a record 13 straight games without earning 3 points. The challenge will be difficult against the top team in the league this weekend.

The Courage have dominated their opponents in the first 4 games of the season, allowing just one goal against and scoring six goals of their own. The midfield and defense have remained composed under pressure, and the forwards have applied relentless pressure to opposing back lines, forcing turnovers in the offensive third repeatedly. This tactic allowed the Courage to beat the Pride 3-1 in the meeting  earlier this season. Keeper Sabrina D’Angelo made a number of impressive saves to hold back the Pride rally, and the Courage offense broke down the Pride -defense seemingly at will.

 

Analyzing the Matchup

Orlando Defense vs Courage Front Line

The Courage have been nearly unstoppable on offense this season, leading the league in shots on goal, and three of their shots found the back of the net against the Pride two weeks ago. The Orlando defense has been utterly inept this season, repeatedly losing contain and allowing offensive players to sneak past them. Dating back to last season, the Pride defense manages to find a way to fall apart in the closing minutes even when they maintain a lead for most of the game, contributing significantly to the ongoing 12-game losing streak. The best defenses in the league have been unable to contain the Courage offense, so this matchup appears especially juicy for the Courage attackers.

Significant Advantage Courage

Orlando Midfield vs Courage Midfield

The Courage boast one of the most talented and, more importantly, cohesive midfield units in the NWSL. They have already faced two sides with considerable midfield talent in the Thorns and Breakers and came away the better of the two teams in each of those games. The Pride have had some success playing the ball out of the midfield to their forwards, but the team doesn’t seem to play together as seamlessly as the Courage do. The addition of Marta has significantly strengthened the midfield play once the ball crosses into the attacking half, but on their own end the Pride tend to fall apart. The Courage, with their exceptional size, strength and ball control, should be able to win the middle third of the pitch.

Advantage Courage

Orlando Front Line vs Courage Defense

As mentioned before, the Courage have allowed just one goal this season. That goal came against the Pride, and the truth of the matter is that they probably could have gotten another. The Pride generate excellent chances on offense, but the finishing just hasn’t been there this season, especially for Jasmyne Spencer. Marta scored her first goal last week in Kansas City and nearly had one the previous week against the Courage. She is obviously a dangerous player when the ball findes her feet near the box. The Courage switched to a 4-back system against the Breakers due to an injury to Jaelene Hinkle. If she is still unable to play this weekend they will likely stay in that formation, a much weaker one than their traditional 3-back. While Abbys Erceg and Dahlkemper have done an excellent job anchoring the middle of the field, they were definitely pressed by the Pride in their last meeting. I think it’s a wash as to whether the Pride find the back of the net this game, but forced to make a bet I would say they score once.

Slight Advantage Pride

 

Final Thoughts

While playing on the road is certainly difficult, I think it’s hard to go against the Courage in this game. Unless the Orlando defense suddenly gels in a way they have never before we should be looking at ample opportunities for the ladies from North Carolina to score. On the other end, the Pride will definitely generate some chances, but it won’t be enough to outpace the Courage. I could potentially see a 2-2 draw, but I’m leaning towards a 4-1 Courage victory. A loss in this game would be nothing less than a shock and disappointment. The Pride will eventually win a game this season, but it is unlikely to be against the greatest team in the league thus far.

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