Orlando Pride

Department of defense: How a 'whole team' defending mindset has been Orlando Pride's catalyst in resurgent month


The month of May has been a resurgent month for the Orlando Pride.

Since their 3-1 win against the San Diego Wave back at the end of April, the team has yet to lose a game in league play. A win against Racing Louisville, a draw against the now top-seeded Gotham FC and, most recently, a 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit.

While the offense has come up with timely goals in the latest matches, it's been the defense that has been the team's calling card as of late.

An in-form Anna Moorhouse in goal has been a key player for the team, while the backline of veterans Megan Montefusco, Haley McCutcheon and Kylie Strom, as well as rookie Emily Madril, have held opponents to just one goal this month.

That backline can't take all the credit for the work defensively, however. It's been a full team effort this month to help keep opponents off the scoresheet. Midfielders and forwards track back to help break up dangerous opportunities, all while they continue to do work offensively, has helped make this Pride team a hard team to break down.

For Strom, that effort by the forwards holds much more meaning in the grand scheme of things.

"It's everything," she said.

"It's a mentality and nobody's just taking a break," she added. "I think from front to back, offensively, defensively, we're all in it together. We're all helping each other. We're always switched on.

"When you see Marta, Adriana, Messiah [Bright] -- whoever put in a tackle, you feed off of that. It makes our backline's job so much easier when they're so organized and putting on the pressure. It makes it really predictable and easier for us to read those balls over the top. So, credit to them, it's a really good feeling."

One of those players that has been leading the effort defensively from the forward role has been the most veteran player on the roster, Marta.

Despite being 37, she still plays the game as she did a decade ago, putting just as much work in on the defensive side of the ball as she does on the offensive side.

Whenever she is there to break up a counter-attack or make a simple tackle to win the ball back, the rest of her Pride teammates feed off that. As the captain of the team, Marta takes the responsibility to heart, wanting to not just tell her teammates what to do, but show them on the pitch.

"I think the best example to show them is by doing," Marta said. "Be active and show them that I still can do things like that. You are so young, you can do it too. It's important for the team when we play against teams like [Washington], it's difficult.

"We don't get to score so many goals, and then we need to be able to keep the ball a little bit more, love to have the ball, enjoy the ball a little bit more. I think we still don't feel so comfortable yet, but I think we can work on it and then I hope that we can learn day by day, training and in games, to be that team that we want to be."

The full-team defending mentality of late has been a slow build from early in the year, with head coach Seb Hines laying the foundations during preseason. The team's identity and work ethic have been progressively showing itself over the last few matches and will continue to grow as the team does.

It's been that buy-in from the young Pride team to be able to grind out results that have helped turn the fortunes of this team in a positive direction, despite still learning and growing as individuals and as a group.

"Their attitude and their desire and their commitment to doing not just the hard work, but the ugly work as well," Hines said. "You may not get all the plaudits for it because it's not exciting football, but the players got what they deserved.

"It takes everyone. It takes 11 players to do their job to get three points. In this league, no one's gonna give you anything, and you have to work extremely hard to get three points. Whether it's a Marta or Emily Madril at the back, it doesn't matter. Everyone has to do their job."

Orlando's job is just beginning as they now head into a tough stretch of away matches, starting this weekend with the Pride heading to Chicago to take on the Red Stars this Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.

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)