Coming off a thrilling come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night, Orlando Pride wraps up a three-game week when it hosts second-seeded Chicago Red Stars at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday evening. Forward Alex Morgan, who has been medically cleared following a hamstring injury, will be available for the match and is expected to see her first minutes with the Pride this season.
“It’s always hard at the end of a week with three games, but [Chicago is] very well organized and a very tough team. They are not a team that I would say plays a lot of build-up soccer; they’ve got a bit of pace up front with Christen Press, Jen Hoy and whoever else they play up [front],” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “They get it forward early, they pressure the ball well and physically they’re very strong. And the other thing I think Chicago has is that their team is virtually a carbon copy from last year. They’ve built up a great deal of continuity and consistency in the squad and that certainly is a big advantage.”
Orlando traveled to face Sky Blue FC for its first midweek match of the season. The Pride jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the foot of Chioma Ubogagu, but the home side struck just before the halftime whistle and one minute into the second half to take a 2-1 lead. However, the Pride fought for the equalizer, eventually finding it on Marta’s sixth goal of the season. Rookie Rachel Hill then provided late-game heroics, coming off the bench and scoring a decisive header in the 86th minute to give the Pride a 3-2 win. It was the second of three games in a week for the Pride. Orlando previously hosted the Houston Dash exactly a week ago, falling 2-0 on June 24.
Chicago faced a similar week’s slate, first hosting Sky Blue FC on June 24 before traveling to the Pacific Northwest to face Seattle Reign FC in its midweek match. Alyssa Mautz scored in the 41st minute to give the Red Stars a lead on the road, but Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe capitalized on two penalty kicks as Seattle rallied for the 2-1 win.
Led by U.S. Women’s National Team forward Press up top and defender Julie Ertz [formerly Johnston] and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the Red Stars have picked up points in seven of their last eight matches.
In addition to Marta, Camila and the Pride’s five additional goalscorers, Morgan will have the opportunity to make her mark on the 2017 edition of the Pride. After leading Olympique Lyonnais to the UEFA Women’s Champions League title in June, the forward will be in the Orlando 18-player lineup for the first time this season. Morgan finished the 2016 season with four goals and two assists. She previously partnered with Marta during her rookie campaign in 2011 as a member of the former Western New York Flash - which would go on to win the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) championship. Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who remains sidelined with a quadriceps injury, was also a member of that team.
“If you look, [Alex] probably hasn’t played a full game in about seven weeks now so it will just be great to get her back out onto the field,” Sermanni added. “What you want to do is get to a stage where you have a very strong starting XI but you also have a strong bench. From an attacking perspective, with Alex coming back, we’ve certainly got that now.”
Saturday’s match will mark the third-ever meeting between the two sides after Chicago took both 2016 matches by 1-0 scorelines.
Tickets are available at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY. Fans who purchase a ticket to the Pride match will also receive free entry to the OCB game that same night.