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Rachel Hill pleased to help Orlando Pride build momentum ahead of North Carolina match

Orlando Pride forward Rachel Hill said she is glad to contribute to the club's recent success. (Aileen Perilla/ Orlando Sentinel)

It was just a matter of time before Rachel Hill scored her first goal of the season for the Orlando Pride.

The second-year professional opened her 2018 scoring account on May 2 during a 2-0 win against the Chicago Red Stars — a result that helped Orlando earn seven points out of nine possible points during a three-game road stretch.

Hill is pleased she got her first goal out of the way — especially before the Pride host the top team in the NWSL. The North Carolina Courage visit Orlando City Stadium on Wednesday.

“I’m happy about it,” Hill told Pro Soccer USA. “I think we’re starting to click better as a team and the goals are coming easier now. With North Carolina, it’s a huge game, we know how big of a game it is and all our focus is on that right now. It’s nice that we have a while now to prepare for it and we’ll be ready to go.

“Anyone can beat anyone in this league, so we have our eyes on the win on Wednesday.”

Hill was one of several Orlando players who played in the Australian W-League during the offseason. During her tenure with Perth Glory, she recorded nine goals in 12 matches, a career-high Hill said she hopes to replicate with Orlando this season.

The forward praised the talent in the W-League, but she also noted the differences between the Australian and American pro leagues.

“Both leagues are very competitive,” Hill said of the W-League and NWSL. “There’s quality players and each league, but I think the experience is bit different. In Australia, there’s a lot of younger girls, so I was one of the older ones. So, I think the experience level is a lot different.”

Kennedy jumps right into lineup

There was no preseason for Australian standout Alanna Kennedy.

Kennedy missed Orlando’s first four matches of the season due to national team duty with Australia and rejoined the Pride during a 1-1 draw at home against the Seattle Reign last month.

She said Orlando’s talent-rich roster played a key role in her smooth transition back to the Pride lineup despite a significant adjustment from playing defender for her Australian club and national teams and midfielder for the Pride.

“For me, it was a little bit different… it made my job a lot easier,” Kennedy said of Orlando’s skilled roster. “I play as a defender for my national team and offseason I play as a defender, so for me to come back and play those few games, [it] took me a little while to condition myself to being back in the midfield. To be able to rely on the players around me to take a little of the load off me was really important in those few games. It’s great to have that around us this year.”

Kennedy said Orlando built a steady foundation last year, allowing her to mesh with the team faster despite not being with the Pride during the preseason.

She enjoys lining up alongside veterans Dani Weatherholt and Christine Nairn, but she knows sometimes lineup changes are necessary.

“It’s nice to get game time when you’re playing with the same person to be able to create chemistry, but with the schedule we have, it’s important to rotate our players and keep people healthy,” said Kennedy.

“We have a lot of time together in the training pitch to know how each other plays. I know Dani [Weatherholt] well, I’ve watched [Nairn] play in the midfield for years and played with her for years as well. It’s been good to be able to rotate, and it’s good sign when you have depth.”

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