ORLANDO, Fla. (April 16, 2016) – Orlando Pride will begin its inaugural season on Sunday night, when it opens the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League season at Providence Park against Portland Thorns FC. The historical match will kick off at 10 p.m. ET and will be streamed live at OrlandoCitySC.com/live.
After being announced as the 10th NWSL club in October 2015, the Pride used the short offseason to compile its inaugural roster through an expansion draft, trades and the 2016 NWSL College Draft. With a 19-player roster now intact, featuring a blend of veteran leadership and young talent, the Pride will look to carry its preseason success into Sunday’s match.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Tom Sermanni, the Pride went undefeated during preseason play, winning all four matches and outscoring opponents 17-1.
“We’ve played some college teams in the preseason, but this will be our first real test as a new group,” Sermanni said of the matchup. “It’s a little bit of an unknown, but chemistry-wise and cohesion-wise, the players have been fantastic this preseason.”
Led by captain Alex Morgan, the Pride head to Portland anticipating a competitive matchup on the field from the Thorns.
“We’ve only had a brief look at Portland because they haven’t played that many games in the preseason, but we know where their strengths are; they’ve got some really key players. But we’ve got a couple ideas of how to negate those key players as well as a couple ideas of how we can exploit them,” Sermanni added.
The trip to Portland will return multiple Pride players to a pitch that they are familiar with, as Morgan, Lianne Sanderson, Kaylyn Kyle, Becky Edwards and Steph Catley have all spent time on the Thorns roster during their NWSL career.
The Pride defense has shined through the preseason, with only one blemish in its four friendlies. U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris will lead the Club between the pipes, backing up a lineup of defenders that offer versatility and talent across the pitch.
On the offensive end, the Pride will be looking to Morgan as well as Sarah Hagen and Jasmyne Spencer to breakdown the Thorns backline that allowed 29 goals during the 2015 season – third most in the league last year.
Fans can expect to see a competitive midfield as well, with veterans such as Kyle, Sanderson and Edwards as options along with rookie Sam Witteman and third-year player Kristen Edmonds.
Though a founding club of the NWSL, the Thorns begin the season with a revamped roster from previous seasons, as well as a new head coach in former Washington Spirit manager Mark Parsons. The team returns U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Tobin Heath and Canadian forward Christine Sinclair, but has also added USWNT’s Meghan Klingenberg and Lindsey Horan as well as highly-touted Icelandic midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir.
The Pride returns to Orlando for its second match of the season, when it opens the home campaign on April 23 at the Orlando Citrus Bowl against Carli Lloyd and the Houston Dash. Earlier this month, the Club launched #FilledWithPride, an initiative to break the NWSL attendance record of 21,144 at the match. That mark was set by the Thorns last year.