Match preview: Orlando Pride Look to Jump Into Playoff Position Saturday vs. Sky Blue FC
Orlando Pride (6-6-5, 23 points) closes out a three-game homestand on Saturday evening, hosting Sky Blue FC (7-8-2, 23 points) at 7:30 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium.
With 23 points and seven games remaining, the Pride sit just one point out of the fourth and final playoff position, and are tied with the team they host this weekend.
With a win on Saturday night, combined with a loss or draw from Seattle Reign FC against North Carolina, the Pride would catapult into fourth place in the league table. The Pride have picked up four points in their first two games of the homestand – having played both games over the last week – with a draw against Chicago last Saturday and win over Washington on Tuesday.
Saturday’s match will be available to watch on a number of online platforms including go90.com, NWSLsoccer.com and the go90 app. The game will also be streamed on the Huffington Post Women’s Facebook page.
“[Sam Kerr] has been absolutely on fire this year and almost unplayable at times. She’s the key [for Sky Blue]. If we can keep her quiet then I think the quality that we have in this squad is one that will score goals and create chances,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “If I look over the last few games, I think we’re starting to get a much better level of consistency and continuity so hopefully we’re getting things together at the right time.”
After missing 11 matches due to a quadriceps injury, goalkeeper and team captain Ashlyn Harris is expected to make her return between the pipes on Saturday. The 2016 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year played her last match over two months ago, sustaining the injury in the 26th minute of a 1-1 draw at Seattle on May 21.
Saturday will also mark the final professional game for midfielder Maddy Evans, who announced her retirement on Friday. Evans, 26, has appeared in 27 matches for Orlando since its inaugural season, making 16 starts.
The Pride head into the weekend on the heels of their second shutout of the season, defeating the Washington Spirit 3-0 Tuesday night. After a scoreless first half, the Pride offense exploded with goals from Marta, Camila and Alex Morgan to decisively claim three important points. The defense earned the clean sheet, not allowing a single shot on goal to the visiting Spirit.
Sky Blue also faced Washington in its last game, seeing a 4-1 defeat on Aug. 5. Maya Hayes scored the lone goal for Sky Blue just two minutes into the game, but the Spirit rallied for four straight goals for the win.
The Pride earned its first win over the New Jersey team in the last meeting between the two sides, after rookie Rachel Hill headed home the game-winner in the 86th minute. Down a goal late in the match, Marta leveled the score at 2-2 in the 77th minute before Hill came on as a second-half substitute and gave the Pride a 3-2 win with her first career goal. Hill is expected to miss Saturday’s match with an ankle sprain.
The match will be a battle of two of the league’s top offensive powers, with Marta facing off against Kerr. The pair are ranked third and second, respectively, in the NWSL’s goal-scoring ranks – Marta with eight goals and Kerr with 11. Morgan, who played her first match for the Pride on July 1, has scored a goal in each of the Pride’s last three home matches.
Tickets for Saturday’s match can be purchased at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.
Following Saturday’s match the Pride head to the Northeast next, traveling to face the Boston Breakers at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 19.
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