OL Reign sits second on the league table, holding a 10-7-2 record. Orlando Pride are fourth with a 7-5-7 record.
Like the Reign, Orlando have gone through a revival after saying goodbye to their head coach. Former Florida coach Becky Burleigh came on as interim head coach at the end of July and has pushed the Pride into a solid playoff position. Laura Harvey praised Burleigh for being able to figure out how to have all of Orlando’s talent play as a group.
“I think what Becky's done brilliantly is she’s cultivated them as a group. I think they’ve come together as a group and they’re playing probably more as a team than they ever have been, they’re utilizing all of their strengths probably more than they ever have been before.”
Orlando has not used one consistent formation under Burleigh, rotating based on the attacking threat and formation of their opponent. They’ve utilized both a 3-4-3 and a 4-3-3 formation that sometimes looks like a 4-4-2 diamond. They will likely put four in the back against the Reign, with veteran players Amy Turner and Ali Krieger in the middle of the defense and Ali Riley and Phoebe McClernon as outside backs.
Gunny Jónsdóttir most often serves as the holding midfielder, staying at home so her other midfielders can roam and create. She’s also been used at right back (did we mention this team’s been able to rotate a lot?). Meggie Dougherty Howard, a workhorse in the midfield, often serves as the box-to-box player. But it could also be Taylor Kornieck, drafted last year, who gets the start. At 6’ 1” Kornieck uses all of her body to disrupt play. She’s been used a little further back in the midfield lately because of her ability to pick off passes. And then there’s the GOAT Marta, who often starts at the top of the midfield but roams to the right and left to find space and create.
The frontline probably needs no introduction. Sydney Leroux is tied with Bethany Balcer for the Golden Boot at the moment with eight goals. Leroux fights for every ball and shot, and the Reign will need to be sure she doesn’t have the time and space to do that. The team will also have Alex Morgan back and also has former Reign player Jodie Taylor, who is a great hold-up player and loves to find space in the box.
What to Watch
- Match their physicality: Orlando is a physical team that works hard to win the ball. And Harvey wants to make sure her team is ready to win duels against the Pride so that her club can play the kind of soccer they want to play. “Something that we’ve really spoken about, as a group, is that we have to fight in every game to earn the right to play the way we want. And it’s going to be no different on Sunday — they’re a very physically demanding team Orlando, and so we have to match that. And I think that that’s the biggest thing for us is, we have to remind ourselves of that piece of it, and not just all the amazing stuff we can do with the ball. We have to just be really, really good without it too.”
- Handle Orlando’s direct play: While Orlando is a team that likes to keep the ball when needed, they also play long and direct in the attack — looking for the runs of Leroux and Morgan. OL Reign will need to both prevent these opportunities and be well organized to handle the vertical balls into the Pride’s front line.
- A 90-minute performance: The most important thing for OL Reign right now is to gain some momentum heading into the last four games of the regular season. Securing one of the top two spots would ensure a break for the first round of the playoffs and a home match. To get that momentum, they need to have a confident performance across both halves — coming out strong and finishing strong.
OUT: Amber Brooks (Under Covid Protocol), Machaela George (Under Covid Protocol), Kelcie Hedge (excused absence), Megan Rapinoe (right thigh), Rosie White (illness)
OUT: Erin McLeod (right knee), Jade Moore (left knee), Viviana Villacorta (SEI)
How to Watch
OL Reign kicks off against the Orlando Pride at 4 PM PT at Cheney Stadium. The game will stream exclusively on Twitch (NWSLOfficial).