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Orlando, Fla. (08/03/2023) – The Washington Spirit will face the Orlando Pride in the Spirit’s final group stage match of the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup on Friday night. The match kicks off at 7 p.m. EDT at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida and will broadcast nationally on Paramount+ for fans across the United States. International viewers can stream the match on NWSLSoccer.com.
Following a 4-2 victory over NJ/NY Gotham FC, the Spirit travels to Orlando with a much-needed boost in morale. After conceding two goals within the first eight minutes of play (the team’s eighth and ninth consecutive goals conceded without an answer over three games), the Spirit scored four unanswered goals – the first time in NWSL history (all competitions) that a team won by multiple goals in a match in which it trailed by multiple goals.
Forward Ashley Hatch enters Friday’s match in impeccable form. With a brace and assist in last week’s contest, Hatch became the second Spirit player in team history – joining Francisca Ordega – to record two goals and an assist in the same game. The three goal contributions were tied for the most in a single game in Challenge Cup history with Hannah Betfort, Kristen Hamilton and teammate Trinity Rodman.
Additionally, a pair of Spirit players logged their first career NWSL goals (any competition) and will look to bring that energy to Orlando. Camryn Biegalski netted her first goal off an assist from Amber Brooks while Chloe Ricketts’ first goal made her the youngest player to score a goal in NWSL history, passing Portland’s Olivia Moultrie.
The last time these two teams faced off (July 1) the Pride earned a 3-0 victory at Audi Field. This marked the first time the Pride swept the Spirit in the regular season. The most recent Challenge Cup match with Orlando came on May 10 in which the Spirit won, 4-2. All four of the Spirit’s goals came from outside the box – the first time that occurred in a match in NWSL history (any competition).
The Pride has won each of its last two matches against the Spirit in all competitions including the 3-0 road win in the most recent meeting. It is Orlando’s second time winning consecutive games against Washington, also doing so in three straight games spanning 2018 and 2019.
In Orlando, the Spirit will look for its first road Challenge Cup goal this season – all nine of the team’s goals have come at Audi Field. These nine goals have been scored by eight different players through five Challenge Cup matches – more than the six goal scorers in 15 regular season matches this season.
Following Friday’s match, the Spirit receive a much-deserved week off. The team’s next match is a regular season away bout against the Houston Dash on Saturday, August 19 at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
The Pride enters Friday night’s match looking for redemption following a decisive 0-5 defeat at the hands of the North Carolina Courage. The Pride experienced a nearly identical defeat to the Courage as the Spirit did a week before them. The Courage scored 11 goals and conceded none in its two matches versus the Spirit and Pride.
The five goals were the most ever conceded in a Challenge Cup match by the Pride. It was Orlando’s fourth time allowing four or more goals in the competition with no other NWSL team having done so more than once in Challenge Cup history.
Against the Courage, Viviana Villacorta completed all 15 of her attempted passes. That is the most passes ever attempted by a Pride player (any competition) who finished a match with a perfect passing accuracy.
The Pride is struggling mightily in this year’s Challenge Cup, mustering only one point through four games. Its –9 goal differential is second worst in the NWSL across the three Challenge Cup divisions. The Red Stars are the only team with a worse goal differential (-10) but have played one more game than the Pride and have yet to score a goal through five Challenge Cup games.
Look for Pride coach Seb Hines to get creative with his Starting XI in an attempt to find a sparkplug. Last week, Hines made four changes to the Starting XI with Haley McCutcheon, Kylie Strom, Kerry Abello and Messiah Bright all getting the nod.
The Pride ranks the lowest during this season’s Challenge Cup in the following statistics: shots (32), shots on target (nine), expected goals (2.5) and save percentage (45.83%).
Next up, the Pride will finish out its 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup campaign in a match against NJ/NY Gotham FC on Wednesday, August 9 at 7:30 p.m. EDT. This match between the two sides was originally slated to occur earlier this year but was postponed due to air quality concerns.