For the third time in four seasons, the Pride will open their season against Portland Thorns FC. In preparation for Sunday’s 5 p.m. kickoff at Orlando City Stadium, here’s a look at the upcoming opposition:
One thing that may be a strength for the Thorns is their lack of transactions. The team announced its 2019 roster on Friday and is returning 21 players who were a part of last year’s team that reached the 2018 Championship. One addition to keep an eye on is the return of Florida State product Dagny Brynjarsdottir, who re-joined the Thorns after missing last season due to pregnancy.
The Thorns are expected to head into the 2019 season looking for some redemption, after falling 3-0, on their home field, in the 2018 Championship to North Carolina. Portland ended last season No. 2 overall and went 1-1-1 in its annual preseason tournament, defeating Chicago, drawing Seattle and losing to the U.S. U23s.
Forward Christine Sinclair heads into Sunday’s match riding strong performances both at the club and international level. Last season the 35-year-old Canadian was the only Thorns player to, not only appear in all 26 matches, but play all 90 minutes of each. On the international level, the striker continues to creep closer to Abby Wambach’s all-time international goal record (184). On April 5, Sinclair scored her 180th international goal, needing just five more to become the world’s all-time leading goal scorer, male or female.
Historically, the Thorns have had the better of Orlando, with the Pride 1-6-1 all-time including a 2017 playoff defeat. Orlando earned its first win against Portland last season, seeing out a 2-1 win on May 12 in the Rose City. Regular season contests between the two sides are typically close, with four of eight matches finishing with a 2-1 scoreline.
One thing that can be expected is a physical battle. Over the previous eight matches, the Pride have been fouled 91 total times - an average of over 11 per game - and the most fouls by any NWSL opponent.
Orlando Pride forward Rachel Hill was selected No. 14 overall in the 2017 NWSL College Draft by Portland however, she never played a match for the Thorns. After joining the league in May 2017 in order to complete her degree at UCONN, Hill was traded to the Pride in exchange for Orlando’s natural first- and fourth- round picks in the 2018 Draft.