CHICAGO — On Sunday, June 30 the Chicago Red Stars travel to Exploria Stadium for their first matchup against the Orlando Pride this season. Here’s everything you need to know about our upcoming opponent:
Acquisitions: The Pride lost some key pieces to the roster this offseason following a disappointing 2018 NWSL Season. Defenders Poliana and Mônica returned to their native Brazil, while midfielder Christine Nairn was traded to Houston.
The biggest departure, however, was head coach Tom Sermani. The only coach in Orlando Pride history mutually parted ways with the club after a seventh-place finish last year. He was replaced with Marc Skinner, who was praised for his style of play and success with England’s Birmingham City.
With the head coach announcement, Skinner began to make movements to his roster immediately. The first additions to the team were 2019 NWSL Draft selections defender Erin Greening and midfielder Marissa Viggiano. Both newcomers have earned multiple starts for the club this season, especially after the departure of national team players during the FIFA World Cup. Former Red Stars midfielder Joanna Boyles also joined the Pride back in April and has been a key member for the starting eleven for Skinner.
Aside from up and coming talent, Orlando’s biggest splash was the addition of former Manchester City player and Scotland National Team midfielder Claire Esmile. The forward scored eight goals in 31 appearances for her former club and was a member of the League Cup and FA Cup winning teams. She scored Scotland’s first-ever goal in World Cup history in their opening game against England and played in all three group stage games.
Opponent Form: The beginning of the Skinner era did not get off to a good foot for Orlando, who lost seven of their first eight games this season and scored a mere 2 goals during that span.
On June 15th against the Houston Dash, Boyles and Danica Evans scored two goals to earn a 2-2 draw and snap a 5-game losing streak. This last week Orlando won a game for the first time in 2019. Chioma Ubogagu scored a penalty in the 32nd minute of play. It looked as though the Pride were headed for another draw after Sarah Killion scored the equalizer for Sky Blue FC in the second half, but Viggiano made a great run into the box and her cross forced an own goal in the 81st minute for the win.
Who’s Hot: Ubogagu was able to get on the scoresheet for the first time in 2019 last weekend. The NWSL veteran has played the best soccer of her career since coming to the Pride back in 2017. She has scored nine goals for the Pride, including a career-high four goals last season and was one of the few bright spots of a lackluster campaign.
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