After scoring seven goals in its last two road matches, Orlando Pride looks to continue its strong play away from home on Saturday afternoon, traveling to face the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) runner-up Washington Spirit at 3:30 p.m. ET. The match will mark defender Ali Krieger’s first game back at the Maryland SoccerPlex after being acquired from the Spirit in November 2016.
Saturday’s early afternoon kickoff will be broadcast on NWSLsoccer.com and aired on Lifetime, the Pride’s fourth match on the network this season. Kate Markgraf, Dalen Cuff and Cat Whitehill will be on the call.
“[Washington] are at the bottom of the standings now, but if you look from bottom to top anyone can beat anyone on any given day. They’ve obviously brought in Mallory Pugh, which has given them a big burst and an injection of skill up front,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “They’re a very well organized team. They’ve had a particularly stable back line so they are defensively disciplined. So the key for us is to be able to break down that defensive block that they put in there.”
Krieger, 32, started her NWSL career with the Spirit and played the first four seasons in the league with her hometown team, captaining Washington to three playoff appearances and the 2016 NWSL Championship match. The veteran defender, who is currently wearing the captain’s armband for the Pride, was acquired by Orlando early in the offseason in exchange for the Pride’s second-place spot in the NWSL Distribution Ranking Order. Washington eventually flipped the two spot for the top of the list, which was eventually used to bring in up-and-coming U.S. Women’s National Team forward Pugh.
Pugh, paired up top with Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega, gives the Spirit attacking speed similar to the Pride’s front line, while Canada National Team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe ranks third in the league with 49 saves. Orlando, however, will look to give forward Alex Morgan even more time after she completed her first full week of training with the Pride this week.
The Pride dropped its second home game of the season last week, closing out a three-game week that saw the Pride go 1-2-0 over the span. Despite controlling the match, Orlando fell 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars after Christen Press was awarded a penalty kick in the 68th minute. The match saw the 2017 NWSL debut of Morgan, who played 25 minutes after seeing her return from France delayed due to a hamstring injury.
Washington returns home after falling 1-0 to the Boston Breakers on the road. The Spirit led the way with 14 shots and the majority of possession, but Midge Purce’s 72nd minute goal proved to be the difference.
The Pride and Spirit met once already this season, with rookie Danica Evans scoring an 86th minute goal to earn a 1-1 draw for the Pride in their first match at Orlando City Stadium on April 22.
Though the Pride and Spirit sit at sixth and 10th in the standings, respectively, both teams are still in the hunt for a spot in the top four as the second half of the season begins. With 15 points, a win could jump the Pride into a tie for fourth place pending the results of Portland’s match at Houston Saturday night.
“I know it might sound cliche, but every game is really important in this league because the league is so tight,” Sermanni added. “We need to make sure that, in those games that we know are going to be tight like this game this weekend, we need concentrate defensively, we need to be aggressive in how we go about doing our job and we need to finish off chances we get on the attacking end.”
After Saturday, the Pride return to Orlando City Stadium for their next match, hosting Sydney Leroux and FC Kansas City at 7:30 p.m. ET on May 15. Tickets are available at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.