SANFORD, Fla. -- As the Orlando Pride look to make it four league matches unbeaten this Saturday against the Chicago Red Stars, two players will look to make the match extra special.
Both Megan Montefusco and Kerry Abello were born and raised in Illinois, just west of Chicago. Abello was born and raised in Elmhurst, while Montefusco hails from Naperville. Both players also played for different iterations of the Red Stars in the past, with Abello playing with their reserves team in 2018, while Montefusco played with the WPSL-era Red Stars team before heading to UCLA for college in 2011.
"I always love going home, playing in front of my friends and family," Montefusco said. "I love playing at this field [SeatGeek Stadium]. I grew up actually going to Chicago Fire games at the stadium. So for me, it's just humbling to be there and to be in Chicago in front of friends and family. So I'm excited to bring that energy to the team and to get another win."
The Pride's latest momentum has been trending upward at a rapid rate over the last few weeks, with big results against Louisville and Washington. For Montefusco's standpoint as a centerback, the team's defense has been key in getting those results.
From a larger standpoint, the defensive ideals has been the mark of a shift in the team's mentality as the season has progressed. It's a buy-in that every player on the roster has accepted and worked in.
"It's what we've been building and what we've been talking about every single day in training," Montefusco said. "Now, we don't think about it. People are just doing it. In the past, we just weren't doing that as much so now it's not even a reaction. It's ingrained in us, it's a part of the cloth of this team."
Orlando Pride Today | Windy City mentality
As the team now prepares to take on a Red Stars team that sits on the bottom of the NWSL table, head coach Seb Hines knows how competitive the league has grown and even teams in poor form only need one game to get things turned around. Last year, he had firsthand experience with that as the Pride turned their season around in the summer and rattled off seven unbeaten through July and August.
"It's a compliment to the league and how competitive it is," Hines said. "I don't think there's any other league like we are in right now. All depends on who turns up on the day. We've been there, we've been at the bottom and searching for that win. There's fine margins between winning and losing so we're in a good place right now, we have to continue it.
"We can't take this game lightly. Ultimately, it'll come down to who performs on the day, and the players are very switched on to what their objective is going into this game."
In Chicago's last three matches, they have only been able to score a single goal, losing all three. In the Pride's last three matches, they've only conceded one goal and are undefeated in all three.
While the stats certainly play into Orlando's favor, Hines wants to make sure that his team aren't taking this game lightly, especially on the road.
"You never want to be comfortable," he said. "Away from home, because of the nature of the league, and the distances you have to travel, West Coast, time zones, the heat, the cold ... it gives you exposure to different environments.
"So going into Chicago, it's a different environment, and for the young players who haven't played in those environments, there'll be good exposure for them. But our objective is to go and win a game of football, whether it's away or home."
Megan Montefusco | We're doing all those little things
Odds and ends
- Rookie Amanda Allen is currently on international duty with the Canada under-20's women's team for the Concacaf Women's U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. The 18-year-old started and played 81 minutes in their first match, a 4-0 win over Jamaica.
Orlando Pride (3-4-1, 10 points) at Chicago Red Stars (1-6-1, 4 points)
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, Ill.
TV: Paramount+ (subscription required)