Pride quietly slide into second place but seeking first home win

·2 min read

It may be a surprise to some, but the Orlando Pride are undefeated through their last three matches, winning two of them on the road, and sit second in the NWSL standings.

Following their 2-1 midweek win over the North Carolina Courage, the Pride head into this weekend’s match hosting the Chicago Red Stars with momentum, looking for their first home win since last September (Paramount+, 7 ET).

For coach Amanda Cromwell, the belief in her team has been the driving force to start the season, after a disappointing Challenge Cup run just a few weeks ago.

“Sometimes outsiders might look at it as like, ‘What are they doing?’' or we might be criticized for some of those moves,” Cromwell said. “But we had a plan and it paid off. It can be risky sometimes, but I think the strategy paid off.”

Those moves included starting rookies Julie Doyle and Viviana Villacorta against the Courage while resting some of their veteran players like Gunny Jónsdóttir and Erika Tymrak. Doyle and Villacorta had significant impacts on the match, with the former playing a part in the Pride’s second goal.

“Viviana, you can see how smooth and comfortable she is on the ball,” Cromwell said, “We’re just excited for her to be able to get more and more minutes each week. There’s a great young group here that are really hungry and eager to play and help.”

The Red Stars come into the match having played half as many games as the Pride (2-1-1), winning one and losing their most recent one against expansion side San Diego Wave.

Chicago will have had a full week’s rest, while the Pride will be playing their third game in eight days.

“They’re a very organized team. There’s a lot of different ways they can play, different systems,” Cromwell said. “We’re trying to figure out what they might be in. Everyone’s battling for points, and I think it’s important that we protect our home field and get some points.”

McLeod signs extension

On Thursday, the Pride locked down goalkeeper Erin McLeod, extending her contract through the 2023 season. The 39-year-old has been a rock in the backline for the Pride, making 6 saves and keeping a shutout in their road win against Angel City on May 8 .

“It’s one of the best in-season extensions ever,” Cromwell said. “Look at the way she’s playing. We need her to not only make saves, but also her voice. She’s so calm and she gives great instruction and her presence just gives everyone around her on our team confidence. She’s playing like she’s 20 years old out there.”