Portland Thorns host Orlando Pride in historic season opener
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

History will be made Sunday night when the Portland Thorns play host to NWSL expansion club Orlando Pride at 10pm ET at Providence Park. Sunday’s match also holds an even bigger storyline as Alex Morgan returns to Portland but this time wearing the royal purple of Orlando.

Orlando Pride makes debut

Orlando enters their first season in NWSL and boasts a roster of talented players that can take the top off an opposing team’s defense any day. Former U.S. Women’s National Team coach Tom Sermanni takes the reigns of the Pride in hopes of establishing a dominant presence in the NWSL. Sermanni also coaches the Australian Women’s National Team, thus giving his experience an even larger checkmark on his resume.

Sermanni knows this weekend’s opening match will be a true test of what his club is capable of doing. “Overall, we’re really looking forward to the game,” Coach Sermanni said. “This is a real test on Sunday. And you never quite know where you’re at until you go in there.”

A true test indeed. What better way as a coach to gauge how your club is shaping up by taking on one of the top teams in the league.

The Pride’s roster is headlined by Morgan of the USWNT, along with International stars like goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, and English striker Lianne Sanderson. Orlando’s roster also holds players from Australia and Brazil. At a first glance, the roster is incredibly attack heavy with the defense being anchored by Steph Catley and Laura Alleway.

Mark Parson takes over Portland

Portland kicks off their second straight season hosting the opening game of the year. Historically, the Thorns are unbeaten in season-opening matches (2-0-1) and (3-0-0) in home openers. Two figures that certainly excite Thorns’ fans heading into Sunday night.

The Thorns made several off-season moves that added to their already impressive roster, including the addition of new head coach Mark Parsons. After coaching the Washington Spirit the past two and a half seasons, Parsons lead the Spirit to two playoff appearances. Now, Parsons is excited to bring his talent’s to the Rose City and work with what he calls a “special” group of players.

Speaking of special players, Portland welcomed many fantastic and dynamic additions to their squad. Two USWNT stars in Lindsey Horan and Meghan Klingenberg join, along with the first overall selection in the 2016 NWSL Draft Emily Sonnett. Coach Parsons added seven other players to this roster from both Europe and the NWSL.

On paper, Portland is the clear favorite to take three points opening day. While Orlando does hold multiple attacking options, the overall talent and depth of Portland will offer the most problems than the Pride can handle. Add on the fact of Portland playing in front of their home crowd and this match could get out of hand quickly. Overall, do not count Orlando out of this match, especially with this being their first crack at NWSL action.

Score Prediction: Portland Thorns 3, Orlando Pride 1

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