Denise Duffy and Jonathon Hagger bring us their weekly in-depth behind-the-scenes preview of a game from the NWSL, including access to club media conferences. This week they focus on the match between Gotham FC and Orlando Pride (11/5/23).
Above: Jenna Nighswonger celebrates a goal for Gotham FC. Photo: Devon Cafaro / Gotham FC .
As Gotham FC continues to move forward, the Orlando Pride presents the next challenge in their path. Orlando comes into the match with a two-game winning streak and will be looking to make it three in a row this Sunday, May 14th 5:30 PM ET at Red Bull Arena.
Speaking after Gotham’s last regular season win over the Chicago Red Stars, the team’s third game in less than two weeks, Gotham FC Head Coach Juan Carlos Amorós said: “We were tired after the long week, but the team never gave up. Keep going, keep going, keep working and we were able to win away from home. Credit to all of the players, whether they played today or not, and to the staff. This is a big win for Gotham.” Gotham are going to need to maintain that resiliency if they hope to beat a surging Orlando Pride team.
The Orlando Pride come into the team with a very different approach, described by defender Kylie Strom in the following way, “We play with a chip on our shoulder, and we have to start changing the narrative. Every game, we have to earn respect. It is not going to be handed to us”.
With a season record of 4-2-0 Gotham FC comes into the match in the top four teams of the NWSL while Orlando start the match at 2-0-4 with the two wins coming from their last two games. Will Gotham FC end the streak or will Orlando Pride make it a hat trick of wins?
Lynn Williams is showing no mercy in the NWSL season as she dominates on the field. Now placed second overall in the number of goals scored by an individual in the NWSL, behind the legendary Sam Kerr, Williams is motivated and supported with good depth across all lines. Also, Lynn Williams now holds the title for the most career goal contributions with 103, surpassing Sam Kerr’s previous record of 102.
It’s also important to look across the rest of the Gotham squad to understand what’s working well. Some players to watch out for –
- Ali Krieger – Defender. Krieger will be again facing her old team that she helped build. She played an incredible match on 4th May in the Challenge Cup 1-1 draw against the NC Courage. Krieger has all to play for as she has declared this season to be her last as a professional footballer.
- Allie Long- Midfield. Long is a very experienced midfielder who keeps calm under pressure and spots opportunities to keep her forwards in attacking openings. Long’s quote in a USA Today Sports interview describes her perfectly “Since I can remember, anyone said I couldn’t do something, I’m going to show you that I can. If a team is going to beat me, no I’m going to beat you.”
- Yazmeen Ryan – Forward. Ryan has started the 2023 season brimming with confidence. While she hasn’t scored a goal yet, Ryan is a constant threat.
While the Orlando Pride team had a difficult time finding ways to score goals at the beginning of the season, they have started to find some form after toppling the San Diego Wave 3-1 and Racing Louisville 1-0. With four goals scored in two regular season games, this match is going to be very close.
It appears the goal-scoring drought is over and with quality of depth with players such as six-time World Player of the Year Marta, and fellow Brazilian Adriana. These two are the corner and free kick takers and have proven to be difference makers on set pieces. Also, Messiah Bright has been electric with more goals likely to come.
Orlando’s coach Seb Hines has placed importance on the team scoring from set pieces. “I love a good set-piece goal, a headed goal. We’ve been working on that in previous weeks and we talked about desire and attitude to go attack the ball”.
- Adriana – Forward. Adriana’s ball-handling skills are like magic on the field. When it comes to taking a shot at the goal, it’s often Adriana who takes charge for the Pride. She’s currently leading the Pride squad in shots attempted and shots on target, and is tied for the most minutes played. Therefore, Gotham needs to keep a close eye on her throughout the game.
- Mikayla Cluff – Midfield. After scoring from a set piece in the Pride’s victory over the San Diego Wave last week, Mikayla is entering the upcoming match with a great deal of confidence.
- Kylie Strom – Defender. Strom is the leader of the Pride defensive line. She uses her maturity to guide the players around her and is very comfortable in advancing the ball. She is also a very strong player in the air. Gotham’s long ball attack through the air could be closed down if Strom is near the ball.
What to expect in this match –
- Gotham FC bucked the trend of being a second-half scoring team when they got two in the first half against the Chicago Red Stars following two defensive lapses and fantastic finishing by the Gotham forwards.
- Gotham has a dynamic attack option when playing down the right wing with Taylor Smith and Yazmeen Ryan both providing a constant threat. Should Sinead Farrelly come off the bench she is a baller and an absolute finisher when opportunities to score present themselves!
- The dynamism of Lynn Williams paired with Taylor Smith, Ifeoma Onumonu, or perhaps a healthy Midge Purce will be the key targets.
- Orlando’s Messiah Bright is due to start a goalscoring run.
- It won’t be one-way traffic. While Orlando’s overall record so far this season has been disappointing, winning away from home over a strong San Diego Wave side, makes them a very real threat.
Keeper – Anna Moorhouse vs ?. Gotham has multiple keepers who can and will slot in including Betos, Smith, and Haught. They are all riding on a wave of confidence. Orlando’s Anna Moorhouse is also gaining in stability as well, but the edge goes for the trio of keepers on Gotham competing for the top spot.
Backline – Orlando Emily Madril has had some amazing defensive moments this season. The development of their backline throughout the season is worth keeping an eye on. We are again going to go with Gotham’s experienced crew.
Midfield – With the likes of Nighswonger, Zerboni, Farrelly, Long, Sheehan, Ryan, Mewis, this rotating group of players will be challenging for any team to get through. We are split on this, mostly because the Pride’s Brazilians are hitting high-quality shots from stoppages of play.
Front Line – Lynn Williams is driving the tempo and it’s leading to wins. Her best balls are coming from a charging midfield. On the opposite side, watch for Orlando’s Messiah Bright and a hungry Ally Watt coming off the bench. Once these three start looking for each other more, Orlando will be formidable. Edge has to go to Gotham right now for the sole reason of Williams.
Coaching – in the most recent post-match conference, Juan Carlos Amorós spoke at length about how he understands the skills and abilities of his players and he chooses his starting squads accordingly based on the opposition and the style of play he wants to see. He knows his players and this is an incredible strength. Seb Hines, Orlando’s coach, favours a 4-2-3-1 formation which is now starting to click with the player combinations coming together. This is a close call and we are split on who has the advantage here.
Back Office – Both teams are undergoing a rebuilding phase this NWSL season, led by former NWSL athletes. One notable figure is Orlando’s Haley Carter, who brings a wealth of experience. A retired player for the Houston Dash, Carter is also a former Marine and coach for the Afghanistan National Team.
Now, as Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager for the Orlando Pride, her appointment was a bold move that speaks volumes about her abilities. A fierce advocate for athletes, Carter understands the importance of driving an intentional culture and is poised to make a significant impact on the team’s success this season.
Fans, Stadium and Social Media – Both teams have demonstrated an innovative approach to the NWSL, prioritising the players as the stars both on and off the pitch. Each group of fans are certainly deserving of winning seasons, they’ve been through so much.
What has recently popped off the page was Orlando’s post after they won against a seemingly unbeatable San Diego team. It’s a stunning three-minute atmospheric backstage look at what it meant to come into San Diego and pull off a win. We’ve not quite seen the likes of this before and it is truly worth watching.