This Sunday at 2:00 p.m. PT, Seattle Reign FC head to the land of Disney for their first-ever match against the Orlando Pride, the latest NWSL expansion team.
The Reign (2-1-0) currently sit in third in the NWSL, while the Pride (1-2-0), coached by Tom Sermanni, are in seventh. Despite the fact that expansion teams rarely fare well in their opening season, it is rather difficult to write off Sermanni, former coach of both the Australian and U.S. women's national teams.
Sermanni has built a team that relies heavily on players who will likely be swept away for the Olympics. That includes U.S. stars Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris; Australian defenders Steph Catley and Laura Alleway; and Canadian defender Josee Belanger.
But those players are all with the team this weekend, and Orlando's only win came in their home opener, which broke the NWSL attendance record. That means it's going to be a loud atmosphere and a tough match on the road for Seattle. Can they get their third win?
Luis Hernandez with The Mane Land answers Three Questions to help you prepare for Sunday's match.
SaH: We have to talk about attendance. Getting 23,403 for your home opener, for an expansion team, is awesome. What's been behind Orlando supporters embracing the new club?
tML: There's been a lot written as to what's been behind the soccer craze in Orlando. The key has been the organic growth between the club and the city. From that relationship developed a level of trust between both, and that goodwill has carried over to the Pride. The organization has worked hard to provide resources to the women's team, and that has included marketing, merchandising, and PR. The players have been out in the community making appearances engaging with the fan base.
Talking to many Pride supporters, I discovered they fall into two basic categories: soccer fans of the men's team who decide to support the women based on the organization, and those who love WoSo and are there for the Pride only. The feeling of family around the team has also brought the support of the city. I'm curious to see what the attendance will be for the rest of the season.
SaH: Orlando hasn't quite found the offensive spark they'll need to be a playoff contender, but we're only four weeks into the season. How do you feel about the Pride attack? Should we expect a lot of goals from the team this year?
tML: The Pride need to find a second scoring threat (after Alex Morgan) to have a chance at being a winning team. Orlando have only scored four times in the three matches played. That's been one time shutout, one own goal, two from free kicks and just one from the run of play. That's just not good enough. There's been several chances created by the team, but the final touch hasn't been clean or the shots haven't been on goal.
In a way, losing Alex Morgan for the summer will be a good thing because it will force other players to step up and prove themselves. There are many offensive-minded players on the roster, but for the Pride to score goals this season the team will have to execute better with Tom Sermanni's scheme.
SaH: Fans have definitely heard of the Pride's Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris, but there are other key players on this Orlando team, including Australian defender Steph Catley. Who should Reign fans keep their eyes on?
tBT: There are several key players to watch for this match. Jasmyne Spencer has demonstrated her pace can cause issues to an opposing side. She's come close to hitting the back of the net. If she can start to do that it's going to change the Pride season.
In the midfield, Lianne Sanderson is a game changer. If she starts, she may not go the full 90 minutes, but then Orlando lack an impact player off the bench.
Finally, the goals Orlando has given up have come from miscues in the back line for that trend to stop players both center backs, Laura Alleway and Monica Hickmann, need to clean things up better.
There were no reverse questions this time
Tomorrow's match kicks off at 2:00 p.m. PT. It can be viewed on YouTube, or you can head to Kraken Congee to watch the match, which was just announced as the Reign's official away match headquarters.