Orlando Pride vs Portland Thorns Preview: Pride looks to stay undefeated at home
Orlando Pride hosts Portland Thorns for last match with international players. (Portland Thorns FC Photography)

The top of the table Portland Thorns travel across the country this weekend to face off against Orlando Pride. The Pride are currently undefeated at home, and plan to keep it that way hoping to steal three points away from the NWSL’s current number one team.

Pride back on the rise

In their thrilling 1-0 win against the Houston Dash just the other night, it’s expected that Orlando will come out with a newfound confidence which seemed to be lost in their three game winless goal drought. Not only did they come away with a goal in stoppage time, but they dominated major parts of the game - something we haven’t seen from the expansion team in awhile. The midfield pairings of Becky Edwards, Kristen Edmonds and Maddy Evans worked wonders on Thursday night, making it hard for the Dash to close them down.

Not only that, but forwards Jasmyne Spencer and Jamia Fields were making the biggest impacts up top, an important necessity with national team star forward Alex Morgan leaving for the Olympics soon. Overall, the NWSL’s newest team has climbed out of the hole they found themselves in for the past month and are ready to jump right back into the playoff race with everyone else.

Thorns in great form

Coming off of their 2-0 win against the Chicago Red Stars, Portland extended their undefeated streak to 10 games. This is not only the longest undefeated streak in NWSL history, but it also means the team has yet to lose a game at all this season. Everything seems to be going the Thorns’ way, and it only seems to be getting better with their newest addition, French midfielder Amandine Henry. Henry played 70 minutes in her home debut, and even assisted the game’s second goal. Portland is as stacked as a team can get, and it’s paying off for Coach Mark Parsons as his team sits at number one

Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris will be crucial in keeping the score low on Sunday. | Trask Smith

Keys for three points

Orlando’s main goal is to stay consistent. If they perform anything like they did Thursday against the Dash, then they have a very good chance of ruining Portland’s undefeated streak. With everyone’s attention most likely on Alex Morgan, it’s crucial for the rest of the quality forwards of the Pride to create chances and find open spaces in the backline.

Rookie Samantha Witteman has looked more threatening in the last two games as she grows comfortable with her role on the team, and if Morgan can draw defenders, Witteman very well might find herself a chance on goal. The Pride’s backline needs to be very vigilant and be in sync or else the Thorns’ deadly attack will make them pay the price. Players such as Toni Pressley will need to pay attention to where the rest of her defenders are, as well as be able to prevent fast players such as Nadia Nadim from slipping through the spaces.

Portland will need to keep control of the midfield. They must disrupt any rhythm Orlando’s midfield creates, and be able to play out to their outside players quickly. As long as they’re able to maintain possession and create chances, whether it be a ball played over the defense, or slipping a ball through for a player running on, they should be able to find the back of the net. Giving the ball to players such as Allie Long and Lindsey Horan will help create more attacking chances. Their backline will also need to be aware of the rookies and quieter players for the Orlando front line. If the only player they’ll watch is Morgan, than they’re in for an upset.

For both teams, they’ll need to utilize all of their allocations and national team players the best they can. After Sunday, all Olympic players will train with their respective teams for all of July. Both teams will be losing many key players after this match, and this three points now may save them from falling in standings later on in the season.

The Orlando Pride host the Portland Thorns at Camping World Stadium on Sunday, June 26. Kick off is at 5:00 PM ET.