Leesburg, VA., (05/XX/2021) – The Washington Spirit face the Orlando Pride in the opening match of the 2021 NWSL regular season on Sunday, May 16 at 6 pm ET at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL. The match will be broadcasted on Paramount+ in the US and on Twitch for international viewers.
After missing the 2020 Challenge Cup, Orlando suffered through a truncated season. The Pride played just four times — all of which came during the Fall Series. Having hosted one match during 2020, Exploria Stadium finally opened its doors to the general public on April 14 when the Pride hosted NJ/NY Gotham FC.
With a remodeled roster following a busy offseason, Orlando enjoyed modest success during the 2021 Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant. The Pride ended the tournament with a 1–2–1 record and in third place. They drew 2–2 with expansion franchise Racing Louisville and 0–0 versus the Courage. Their sole loss was at the hands of Gotham FC, 1–0. Their only victory was a 1–0 win against the Spirit, a game in which Ashlyn Harris made nine saves to blank Washington.
The Pride are led by Harris in net, Ali Krieger and Ali Riley on defense and run their midfield through England international Jade Moore, Marisa Viggiano and former Spirit player Meggie Dougherty Howard. Even with a plethora of experienced players throughout the lineup, Orlando’s strength lies in their front three, where Marta, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux form one of the most potent striking units in the league.
The Spirit are looking to start the regular season off on the right foot and improve upon their Challenge Cup performance. With players coming back from injury and the national team players in town, the Spirit will have a full roster to work with in the opening match vs. Orlando.
Washington finished in fourth place in the East division at the Challenge Cup, picking up one win against Louisville, 1–0. Despite falling to North Carolina (3–2) and Orlando (1–0) and drawing their final game 0–0 with Gotham, there was plenty of excitement over the course of four games.
It was pandemonium at Audi Field when Ashley Sanchez scored a game-winning goal against Louisville in the 93’. Trinity Rodman was inserted into the starting lineup and immediately endeared herself to the D.C. fanbase with a goal and an assist. And fresh faces Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett and Saori Takarada all made their debuts for the club. The record might not reflect it, but there was plenty of building happening during April.