This Sunday, Seattle Reign FC (2-1-2) completes its two-game homestand with a match against the Orlando Pride (1-2-1), a team coming off its first win of the season against the top-ranked North Carolina Courage. The game kicks off at 6:30 PM PT at Memorial Stadium, and the weather should be perfect for some evening soccer.
On the heels of a 6-2 thrashing of the Washington Spirit, Seattle brings a lot of offensive momentum to the match. But they’ll face a stingy Pride defense that has allowed just two goals in its last two matches and stifled a potent Courage attack last weekend.
However, Seattle has a vastly different style of play than the Courage, who rely on physicality, set-piece plays, and direct balls to their speedy front line. While Orlando was able to match North Carolina’s physical play and drop deeper to withstand a barrage of attackers, Seattle presents a new challenge — technical, possession-focused soccer.
Reign FC will really want to walk away with three points, as the squad follows this match with a three-game road trip that has them traveling to Houston, Chicago, and Kansas City before finally returning to Memorial Stadium on June 24.
What to Watch
Orlando’s attack got a lot more dynamic when five-time FIFA Player of the Year Marta joined the squad. She’s a wizard with the ball at her feet and can turn on the jets in an instant. The somewhat shaky Reign FC defense will need to be nearly perfect on Sunday — communicating constantly and limiting balls to Marta from the midfield.
Like Seattle, Orlando is a team that builds its play out of the back and typically lines up in a 4-3-3 formation. Most of the team’s width comes from its outside backs. Australian international Steph Catley often plays like a wingback on the left side of the field. She is comfortable on the ball and has both a dangerous cross and shot. On the other side of the field is Ali Krieger, a world-class right back who helps stabilize the backline and link with teammates.
Because the Pride like to build play from the back, Seattle’s high pressure will be critical. If the front line can break up play and sustain the pressure for all 90 minutes, it should spark some quick breaks for Reign FC attackers.
Naho Kawasumi and Megan Rapinoe will also be needed to provide defensive support on the flanks to limit Catley and Krieger, who attempt 34 and 53 passes per game, respectively, and about three crosses per match.
Consistency is going to be all the more critical against the Pride, who have scored 83 percent of their goals in the second half. Orlando is a team that will punish sluggish play from opponents, and Seattle will need to come out strong at the start of both halves.
Who to Watch
Brazilian midfielder Camila leads the team in goals, with two. She is a dynamic dribbler who can be found all over the field and is great in tight spaces. Camila has played every minute of Orlando’s first five matches, and the long cross-country journey might take its toll on her — though the 22-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down yet.
While Camila is aggressive in both the attack and defensively, she can get caught up high in the attack, which leaves room in the midfield for Seattle. Jess Fishlock and Rumi Utsugi will be critical in switching the direction of play and sparking quick Reign FC restarts on offense.
Seattle will need to be disciplined defensively on set pieces, as Pride midfielder Kristen Edmonds has a lethal shot from distance and strong placement on free kicks. She hasn’t had as much of an impact this season, but Edmonds managed to find the back of the net six times last year — the most of any Pride player — with many of these goals coming from set pieces.
Fortress Memorial has been extremely good to Seattle the last four seasons, while Orlando has been inconsistent on the road. The Pride are enduring their longest travel of the season in coming to Seattle. Reign FC has to take advantage of that — dictating the tempo of the game and putting relentless pressure on Orlando.
Date/Time: Sunday, May 21, 6:30 PM PT
Location: Memorial Stadium, Seattle, WA