On Saturday, October 7, Portland Thorns FC will play host to the Orlando Pride at Providence Park in this season's first NWSL semifinal match, presented by Tillamook Yogurt (12:30pm PT, Lifetime, TICKETS).
Ahead of that match, here's a look at the Orlando Pride: who to watch, how they got here, and what to expect on Saturday.
On April 22, five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta made her debut for the Pride, just two days after arriving in Orlando. While Marta failed to make a major impact in that first match, a 1-1 draw with the Washington Spirit, it wasn't long before the Brazilian began asserting herself on the pitch. Heading into this playoff match, Marta leads the team with 13 goals (second in all of NWSL) and six assists.
Forward Alex Morgan may be the perfect compliment to the crafty, creative Marta. Despite only joining the Pride on July 1, Morgan has scored nine goals in her 12 starts for the Pride. Together, she and Marta have combined to score nearly half of the Pride's league-leading 45 goals.
In defense, the Pride are led by U.S. Women's National Team stalwart Ali Krieger. Krieger, a veteran of two World Cups, played every minute of every game for Orlando this season and is a nominee for Defender of the Year. Partnering with Krieger in defense are Alanna Kennedy, who was tied for third on the team in goals scored (4), and fullback Steph Catley, who is also a nominee for Defender of the Year.
The Pride finished their inaugural 2016 season in ninth place in the NWSL table, making the team's turnaround this season nothing short of remarkable.
After a slow start to their 2017 campaign – Orlando only won its first match on May 14 – the Pride began picking up momentum in midsummer. Since July 15, the Pride have racked up a 7-1-3 record, were unbeaten in August and September and finished the regular season with three wins and two draws in their last five games. In short, this is a team that has found its rhythm at the right time.
For his efforts guiding the team from ninth to third place in the standings, head coach Tom Sermanni has been nominated for NWSL Coach of the Year.
THE PRIDE ON THE ROAD
Despite a rough start on the road in 2017 (0-3-2 in their first five road matches), the Pride have proven that they are as capable of getting results on the road as they are at home. Since June, the Pride have an impressive record of five wins, two losses, and one draw on the road. The Pride's record on the West Coast this season is 0-1-1, their one loss coming at Providence Park in the season opener on April 15.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Pride clinched their spot in third place in dramatic fashion last Saturday. In the first minute of second-half stoppage time, defender Alanna Kennedy scored her fourth goal of the season with a free kick into the top left corner of the net, giving the team a 3-2 victory. The goal was the difference between third and fourth place in the table. A draw would have left the Pride in fourth place with 38 points.
The Pride will be without key midfielder Camila for the rest of this year's playoffs. The Brazilian international tore her ACL and sprained her MCL in the 32nd minute of the Pride's final match of the season.