The Washington Spirit face the Orlando Pride tomorrow in the Pride’s first game at the club’s brand new stadium. The Spirit fell to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 last Saturday, while the Pride lost 2-0 on the road against the Portland Thorns. To get the scoop on how things are going for the Pride, we chatted with The Mane Land’s Michael Citro.
1. Orlando recently signed 5-time FIFA POTY Marta. What does this signing mean for the Pride and how does it alter your previous predictions for the Pride's success this season?
It means quite a bit for the Pride, which has been an offensively challenged team whenever Alex Morgan has been out of the lineup, which was quite a bit during the Olympic year in 2016. Having someone like Marta, who can not only create her offense, but also help set up others, will be a boost for Tom Sermanni’s offense. It will open space for players like Jasmyne Spencer and Kristen Edmonds, who each emerged last season as dependable secondary scorers.
It altered my predictions for the Pride’s success quite a bit. Without Marta I’d say the Pride probably wouldn’t be in the top five but with her, I’d expect the club to be able to challenge for, and potentially reach, one of the last playoff spots.
2. The Pride finished in ninth place last year in a disappointing inaugural campaign. How will this season be different?
Sermanni and GM Niki Budalic bolstered the club’s offense and defense from a team that scored too few goals and leaked too many. Alanna Kennedy and Ali Krieger should help shield Ashlyn Harris’ goal better than last year’s back line. Meanwhile, adding Marta and Chioma Ubogagu should improve the offense. Orlando generated shots and chances against Portland on opening day but couldn’t find a breakthrough. The defense wasn’t quite where it needed to be, but Portland – a talented team playing at home – still needed to mainly try to hit on the counter rather than building up its attack.
3. Fill in the blank. The Orlando Pride will beat the Spirit if...
…they can cash in on their chances. It’s a step in the right direction to start generating more shots and scoring chances. However, it does little good if those chances are squandered like they were a week ago. Ubogagu showed the ability to get into good spots but shot right at the keeper. Spencer’s speed and work rate gave her opportunities but a heavy touch or a whiff on the shot ruined those chances. Orlando must be more clinical and ruthless in the attacking third and put more pressure on the other team. It would help to get the game’s first goal.
Orlando Injuries: McKenzie Berryhill (season-ending, failed concussion protocol)
TML projected starting XI: (4-3-3, left to right) Ashlyn Harris; Steph Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Ali Krieger, Camila Pereira; Dani Weatherholt, Monica, Kristen Edmonds; Jasmyne Spencer, Chioma Ubogagu, Marta.
TML predicted score: 2-1, Pride win
Our thanks to Michael for his answers. To see our answers to his questions, head over to The Mane Land.