Orlando Pride goes toe-to-toe with NC Courage in opening game

(Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Pride played to a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup against the North Carolina Courage on Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium.

The cup runs concurrently with the season — as opposed to how it has run before, where the cup ran only at the beginning of the year.

In the first half of the game, each team managed to fend the other off, and no scores had been made by the time halftime rolled around.

However, at 56 minutes into the match, the Pride’s Ally Watt received the ball from Summer Yates, crossing over the goal line despite the best efforts of the Courage’s goalkeeper Casey Murphy.

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The Pride were able to ward off offensives by the Courage for more than 40 minutes, but by the 99-minute mark, the Courage’s Denise O’Sullivan was able to score a goal on the volley through a crowded penalty zone.

Despite the even matchup, the Pride were still able to celebrate the debut of goalkeeper Carly Nelson, defender Tori Hansen and midfielders Yates and Viviana Villacorta.

The game also marked the first goal of the 2023 campaign for Watt.

“The players were tremendous. They put the work in, they were brilliant, and they stuck to the game plan,” said Head Coach Seb Hines. “You take a 1-0 lead, and we have to learn. That is the only way that we can develop.”

The Pride are expected to return to NWSL regular season play against the Kansas City Current at Children’s Mercy Park. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.