ORLANDO, Fla. (September 23, 2016) - On Saturday evening, Orlando Pride will close out a record-breaking inaugural season when it hosts reigning Champion FC Kansas City at 5 p.m. ET in the final match of the 2016 campaign.
After Saturday’s final Pride match at Camping World Stadium, fans will next watch the Club from its state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium set to open for the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) seasons.
“[Kansas City is] a very fluid team that has played together consistently for the last four years and this is the first year they haven’t made the final,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “They’ve got a mix of some very high quality experienced players, like Heather O’Reilly and Becky Sauerbrunn, and they’ve got that intermingled with younger, professional players who are mobile and talented.”
The two clubs met earlier in the season, playing a 2-0 final on May 28 after Kansas City’s Yael Averbuch and Erika Tymrak scored goals in the second half. The match marked the first career start for Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, earning the nod in place of Ashlyn Harris who was on national team duty with fellow countrywoman Alex Morgan.
Saturday’s match will be the last for midfielder and Florida State University product Becky Edwards, who announced her retirement from professional soccer on Thursday. Edwards, 28, finishes her career after seven years across multiple professional leagues, with three club championships to her name.
Despite being eliminated from postseason contention, Sermanni continued to emphasize the importance of finishing the expansion season on a high note.
“A perfect end [to the season] would be a win. A perfect end would be a good performance. A perfect end would be to finish the season on a high note. Those are the priorities: a good performance and a win,” Sermanni added.
Joining the NWSL as the league’s second expansion team, Orlando made its mark in 2016. In addition to setting the NWSL single-game attendance record at its home opener with 23,403 fans, Pride matches are as the highest viewed on YouTube and, entering its final home match, Orlando sits second in overall attendance for the season.
Harris, who earned her ninth international cap with the U.S. Women’s National Team last week, has earned Save of the Week honors nine times in the award’s first year - the most of any goalkeeper - having won each time she has been nominated.
In addition, after scoring the first goal in Club history, defender Steph Catley won the NWSL’s first-ever Goal of the Week award after her set piece tally in the season opener at Portland. Over the following weeks of the season, Morgan won the award twice (Week 5 and Week 17) while Jasmyne Spencer and Kristen Edmonds won in Week 10 and Week 12, respectively.