Orlando Pride will begin its second National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season in familiar territory on Saturday afternoon, traveling to face Portland Thorns FC for a 3 p.m. ET contest. It is the second straight season the Pride open at Portland, after having their first-ever NWSL match in the Rose City to start the 2016 season.
Saturday’s game will be different, however, as it will be the first time the Pride will feature on national television with the contest tabbed as the Week 1 NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime. The match, aired by the league’s newest broadcast partner, will be called by Jenn Hildreth, Aly Wagner and Dalen Cuff and can be watched live on Lifetime or at nwslsoccer.com.
“We’re very excited by the new season. Going into season two, I think we’re far more settled and in a far more better position than we were at this time last year,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “Everybody’s fit, everybody’s healthy and everybody’s raring to go for the weekend.”
The Pride enter the match with a revamped lineup after making a number of high-profile acquisitions during the team’s first full offseason. Most notably, the Pride will look to veteran U.S. Women’s National Team defender Ali Krieger to help shore up the back line after being acquired via trade with the Washington Spirit in November 2016.
Krieger will be supported by several returning Pride defenders, including Steph Catley, Monica and Laura Alleway, while Alanna Kennedy – the third Australian on the team – comes to Orlando for her first season after leading the Western New York Flash to the 2016 NWSL Championship. 2016 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Ashlyn Harris will lead the back line in her second season between the posts of her hometown team.
Orlando’s 2016 Golden Boot winner, Kristen Edmonds, is expected to again roam the midfield, with Brazilian international Camila returning to the NWSL after spending the 2016 season in Brazil. Sophomore Dani Weatherholt is coming off her first call-up with the U.S. U23 Women’s National Team after a strong rookie campaign with the Pride.
With forward Alex Morgan spending the first portion of the 2017 season in France, Sermanni has added new attacking power to the lineup in forward Chioma Ubogagu and five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta, who is widely regarded as the best women’s soccer player ever.
“I think, if you look at our team this season, right through the squad we’ve got more depth than last year,” Sermanni added. “I think we’re a much more mobile team and a much more dynamic team. And I think, just generally, we’re an overall better footballing side than last year.”
The Pride and Thorns met twice during Orlando’s inaugural season, with the Club’s first-ever NWSL match at Providence Park on April 17. Catley scored the first goal in Pride history 12 minutes into that match, but goals from Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Lindsey Horan gave Portland the 2-1 victory. Later in the year, the series saw a similar finish, with Portland responding with two late goals to overcome a 1-0 deficit and take the win at Camping World Stadium.
After Saturday’s match, the Pride will turn its attention to the team’s first match at the state-of-the-art Orlando City Stadium when it hosts the Washington Spirit on April 22. The Pride will look to #FillTheBowl for the landmark match, which will also be aired on Lifetime.
Tickets are available at orlando-pride.com or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.