On Friday, the Orlando Pride returned to Camping World Stadium for the first time since July. The Pride players returned from an Olympic break, in which six Orlando Pride players traveled to Rio to represent their countries in the Olympic tournament. Amongst those who returned to the starting lineup tonight were goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and forward Alex Morgan.
“It was really nice to play in front of our fans again,” Morgan said after the match against the Washington Spirit. “For myself, it’s been almost two months since I’ve played here at Camping World Stadium.”
Monica Hickmann Alves, who represented Brazil at the Olympics, returned to Orlando this week and came in as a substitute in the 64th minute. Laura Alleway and Steph Catley, who both played for Australia, are in Orlando but did not play due to injuries. Josée Bélanger, who won bronze with the Canadian team, will return to Orlando sometime early next week.
The Pride faced off on Friday against the Washington Spirit, and suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss. The Spirit, who have five Olympians on their roster, are still missing out on their three Canadian players, including starting goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. But in the end, the Spirit were able to create more stability in the midfield and overcome the depth issues that the Pride have suffered from this season.
Morgan thinks that hopefully they’ll finish strong, with all their Olympic players back in Orlando and back to full health. “I think every player that we can get that’s played at the international level will help us,” Morgan said. “Every player that’s had more experience will help us and, with Monica only being able to play 30 or so minutes… I think getting her in 90 minutes, getting Josee back, that will definitely be a positive for us.”
“We do need more depth,” Morgan said. “We do need players who are a little more experienced and can manage game a little bit better and know when to sit in, know when to condense, know when to attack and so, it’ll be good to have everyone back.”
The Pride are hoping to have most of their Olympic players back to Orlando and well-rested before their next match against the Houston Dash. The Pride will return to Camping World Stadium on September 10th to take on Sky Blue.