Preview: Kansas City (h).
When? Sunday May 30, 3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. BST
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast nationally and internationally via Twitch, on the Twitch app or via twitch.tv. The game will also be available on Paramount+ in the United States.
It's been a rather momentous week for the Orlando Pride. The win over North Carolina shocked many outside of central Florida. Then the win over the Portland Thorns had those naysayers rubbing their eyes, and stumbling around as if in a drunken stupor. The NWSL community was in shock. Well, the community outside of the central Florida region, that is. There's been a quiet revolution building within the confines of Exploria Stadium. The disaster that was 2020, has been firmly shoved back into the shadows. I don't think these wins surprised too many in purple, least of all the players and staff. This is a new batch of Orlando Pride players. Not a Bad Batch, by any stretch of the imagination. Guffaw. But they're as bad-ass as Clone Force 99. That's for certain.
Next up is a visit from Kansas City Utah Royals Kansas City WoSo, as Megan Rapinoe would undoubtedly call them. Huw William's team will be another interesting test for the Pride. A test, I can see them passing with flying colours.
Kansas City's style
This is actually going to be a really tough game for the Orlando Pride. But not in the way you might think. In the Pride's previous two games, it's been about toppling the favourites. North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns are always everyone's favourites to win. The same cannot be said of this Kansas City side, a team that's endured a tumultuous start to the 2021 NWSL season. Having failed to win a game during the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup (0-1-3), the former Utah Royals have continued the regular season in much the same vein. Winless through their first 3 games, they have yet to record a victory in franchise history.
This is a team that's struggling to find any sort of rhythm, and has yet to establish any real sense of identity. It's not very often I say this, about either City or the Pride, but I expect Orlando to win this game. This is a team that turns the ball over a lot, particularly in the midfield. Against the Chicago Red Stars their pass completion rate was a lowly 60.7%, from 313 total passes (figure 2). You don't need me and my modest mathematical brain to tell you that 123 of their passes went astray, as Chicago chalked up a comfortable victory. If you look at the unsuccessful pass positioning matrix in figure 1, you'll see that they conceded a lot of possession in their middle and defensive thirds. Those turnovers could be costly, against a team that gets forward quickly, and with purpose, as the Orlando Pride do.
Figure 1 shows Kansas City's unsuccessful pass positioning matrix from their defeat to Chicago, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows the possession based statistics for Kansas City (left) in their loss to the Red Stars, whole 90.
As a result of their profligate play with the ball, they are a team that are always going to allow chances and shots on their own goal. Against Chicago, the team allowed 19 shots total, with 8 of them being on target (figure 3). That was against a team with a misfiring offence, that's only scored 3 goals in their last 7. Kansas City have conceded multiple goals in 5 of their 7 games so far. If Orlando play the game right, offensively, they could run up a score here. Kansas City aren't likely to be the best team we face this season, as such they're probably one of the trickiest opponents Orlando could face; if they don't apply themselves correctly. Whilst Orlando is undoubtedly the better of the 2 sides, all it takes is a bit of complacency to creep in and the Pride could fall flat on their faces. Though, I do not think that will happen. At all.
Kansas City do have some significant injury worries, heading into this game. Arielle Ship is definitely out, having suffered a season ending injury. Chloe Logarzo, Diana Matheson, Kiki Pickett and Lo’eau LaBonta are all also expected to miss out.
There are no significant injury concerns for Orlando heading into this one, only hurt pride. Pun intended. Vlatko Andonovski's strange decision to not include Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger in his Olympic squad will have been a personal blow to the experienced duo. Their availability to Orlando during the summer will be a huge boost, however. Whether we see them both in this game, remains to be seen. I would expect to see some rotation. Especially given the team's efforts in the week. Jade Moore is understood to be touch and go for this game. Aside from Moore, there are no known concerns for Marc Skinner.
Possible starting XI
I can see a little rotation happening in this game, they'll need to rotate to a certain extent to combat Orlando's direct style. Like the Pride, Kansas City are playing their 3rd game in 3 days. I think Jordyn Listro will come in, with a point to prove against her former employers. And Michele Weber will provide fresh legs up front.
A-Rod has featured in all 3 of their regular season games so far, playing 270 minutes in total. Her quality is clear, even as she enters the twilight years of her illustrious career. Having scored 1 in the regular season, she's continued where she left off in the Challenge Cup (2 goals, 3 chances created). The former USWNT player still likes to get forward as much as possible; 16 shots so far in 2021 with 3 goals scored which makes for a respectable conversion rate of 18.75%. She's also created 4 goal scoring chances for her teammates. A-Rod is definitely the principal threat in this team.
As previously stated, Kansas City enter this contest in rotten form. They are currently 0-2-1 on the season, and winless in 7 across all competitions. They currently lie 8th in the standings, with a -2 goal difference. The goal shy, Missouri based outfit will need to be at their best to get anything out of this one
Orlando, on the other hand, couldn't be in better shape. Things finally seem to be coming together for Marc Skinner's team. With an unbeaten start to the regular season, and only 1 defeat in 7 across all competitions, Orlando are flying. Back-to-back wins over the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns, have elevated the Pride to the top of the table. A win in this one, will surely see them stay there for another week.
*Statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com