For the first time in months, Reign FC have an injury report that includes fewer than 10 players! The biggest name that’s no longer on the list is World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe, who will be available for selection for the first time this season. Rumi Utsugi and Stephanie Cox also recovered from their calf strains and are available.
Orlando, on the other hand, sits at the bottom of the league table and will be without a number of stars — most notably Alex Morgan, Marta, and Ali Krieger. They also just waived Chioma Ubogagu, the team’s leading goal-scorer behind Marta, so she could sign with CD Tacón, the women’s team of Real Madrid.
What to Watch
Reign dominating possession: While new Pride head coach Marc Skinner touted the possession-heavy soccer he wanted to play when the season kicked off, the reality has been a bit different. The Pride simply don’t have the personnel to play that way — especially in the midfield. They sit at the bottom of the league in passes (6,415 completed, compared to 7,482 for Reign FC). This should be a game where Reign FC dominate possession. What they do with that time on the ball will be the big question. The team can’t simply move it around the backline; they’ll need to be aggressive moving it into the final third.
Second-half push: The Pride have conceded the most goals this season out of any team in the league, letting in 37 over 18 matches. Most of those goals — 23 — have been given up in the second half. The Reign will certainly want to come out of the gates with pressure, but it will be all the more important for them to sustain that in second half. I don’t expect Megan Rapinoe to start in her first game back, but she’d certainly be a helpful sub in the second, especially with Orlando’s shaky defense.
Watch runs into the box: Orlando recently beat the Chicago Red Stars 2-1, and both of their goals came from runs into the box. One was a long ball that Rachel Hill got a hold of. The other was a pass to Chioma Ubogagu in the box, who then slipped a goal to the far post. Orlando knows how to score goals, even without their key attackers. If the Reign want to keep a clean sheet, they’ll have to keep Orlando wide and protect the ball in their box.
Rachel Hill: The forward has mostly served as a substitute for Orlando, but has taken a more prominent role with key players out this year due to the World Cup and injuries. She’s struggled to be a consistent threat, but Hill is fast and can be tenacious around the box — and she put in a good performance for Orlando in their last week of play. She scored one goal and assisted twice.
Claire Emslie: The Scottish forward joined the Pride after the World Cup, where she scored her country’s first-ever goal in the international tournament. She hasn’t scored yet for Orlando but has provided some variety in the attack.
Alanna Kennedy: The midfielder, who also drops back to centerback when needed, is a threat on set pieces. She scored a bicycle-kick goal against the Reign earlier this year, and is good in the air. A lot of the ball flows through Kennedy as well.
Absences: Injury, international duty and suspension
OUT: Jasmyne Spencer (SEI - left knee), Taylor Smith (SEI – right knee), Michelle Betos (SEI - right achilles), Jaycie Johnson (SEI - right knee), Scout Watson (SEI - concussion), Jessica Fishlock (SEI - left knee), Lydia Williams (45D - left ankle), Shea Groom (rib)
OUT: Sydney Leroux (MAT), Toni Pressley (45-day DL), Emily van Egmond (L ankle surgery), Alex Morgan (right knee), Marta (left hamstring), Ali Krieger (excused absence)
QUESTIONABLE: Julie King (left ankle), Erin Greening (left knee)
By the Numbers
7-5-6, 27 points, 5th place | 16 goals for, 20 goals against
- Last 5: L, T, L, W, W
- Shots: 202 | On target: 77
- Bethany Balcer: 3 goals, 1 assist
- Casey Murphy: 47 saves, 14 goals against, 5 clean sheets
4-12-2, 14 points, 9th place | 19 goals for, 37 goals against
- Last 5: L, W, L, L, W
- Shots: 149 | On target: 56
- Rachel Hill: 2 goals, 2 assists
- Ashlyn Harris: 36 saves, 14 goals against, 1 clean sheet
Potential Starting Lineups
If we had to guess, here is who I suspect will start for both teams:
Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris; Kristen Edmonds, Shelina Zadorsky, Morgan Reid, Erin Greening; Alanna Kennedy, Dani Weatherholt, Marisa Viggiano; Rachel Hill, Danica Evans, Claire Emslie