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Orlando Pride gears up for home stand against Washington Spirit

Canada’s Shelina Zadorsky has returned to the Orlando Pride after her World Cup run ended and is eager to help the club earn a win

Canada's Shelina Zadorsky, front, has returned to the Orlando Pride after her World Cup run ended and is eager to help the club earn a win. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

SANFORD, Fla. — Bolstered by the return of a five of its nine international players from the World Cup, the Orlando Pride will take on the Washington Spirit on Saturday.

The match is the first time the two teams have met during the 2019 season. The Spirit enter the match ranked No. 2 in the league, but the team is fresh off a 2-1 loss to North Carolina last week. 

“In my opinion, I think they’re probably the best team from playing out from the back,” Skinner said of Washington. “They’re a very, very strong team, I’m not surprised they are where they are. I think we’ve got to be excellent to beat them on the day and I think that we can do that, we’ve just got to make sure we’re on our money when we play them.”

The Pride has evenly spread scoring throughout the season, with five players — Joanna Boyles, Danica Evans, Toni Pressley, Marta and Alanna Kennedy — having scored one goal apiece. Chioma Ubogagu leads the team with two after last week’s game, when she snagged a heavy touch from the Chicago goalkeeper and dodged around her to score on an empty net.

Last week’s game saw a fiery return of Brazilian teammates Marta and Camila, who combined to earn and finish a penalty kick to provide the team’s second goal in a 3-2 loss to Chicago. Saturday’s roster will see the addition of Alanna Kennedy, Emily Van Egmond and Shelina Zadorsky, who have spent this week focusing on reintegrating into the team after completing their World Cup runs.

“Hopefully we can just bring some energy in and keep upping the quality and the competitiveness,” Zadorsky said. “We’re scoring goals as a team now, so now we just need to get clean sheets. It’s such a great team environment here and it’s awesome once everyone’s back in.”

As the Pride have struggled to find their rhythm on offense, keeper Haley Kopmeyer has provided an important presence in the net, notching 39 saves during the season as she fills in for starting keeper Ashlyn Harris during the World Cup. Kopmeyer earned the NWSL Save of the Week distinction after last week’s game against Chicago.

In stoppage time, Chicago forward Sam Kerr picked off a pass in the midfield, saw that the keeper had floated up and bombed a long-range shot on the open goal. Kopmeyer scrambled back and managed to stop the ball just as it bounced towards the goal, swatting it away to prevent Kerr from notching a hat trick.

Kopmeyer is second in saves only to Washington goalkeeper Audrey Bledsoe, a former Pride keeper who leads the league with 45 saves and five shutouts. The Spirit have allowed only seven goals, tied for the least in the league. Washington is led by forward Ashley Hatch, who has scored three goals this season. Forwards Jordan DiBiasi and Cheyna Matthews have each added two goals for Washington, which is one of the most prolific teams in the NWSL.

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