Orlando Pride off to Slow Start After Challenge Cup Disappointment

Apr 23, 2022; Harrison, NJ, USA; Orlando Pride forward Darian Jenkins (11) kicks the ball past NJ/NY
Apr 23, 2022; Harrison, NJ, USA; Orlando Pride forward Darian Jenkins (11) kicks the ball past NJ/NY / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It's a new era of Orlando Pride soccer, but it sure does look a lot like the last one.

In the NWSL Challenge Cup, the Orlando Pride went winless, finishing with two draws and four losses in the six group stage matches. The Pride scored just four goals across the six games, including three-straight goalless games to start the campaign.

The rebuilding Pride are still looking to find their feet and some bite in the final third. Star striker Sydney Leroux went scoreless in the Challenge Cup across three games, and only Gunnhildur Jonsdottir and Darian Jenkins found the net.

Finding good goal scoring is essential for a team that scored the fewest in their group, but the Pride also conceded the most goals in the group as well.

The defense is probably of even greater concern, with four more goals conceded than the next worst team in the east. Orlando's defense would occasionally capitulate entirely, most notably against Norht Carolina when it allowed three goals in the opening ten minutes.

Based solely on the Challenge Cup, the Orlando Pride are the doormats of the NWSL. That's not great considering the Pride's already poor history, with just one playoff appearance in five full seasons despite star-studded roster.

This was always going to be a transition year, with new head coach Amanda Cromwell and the loss of stars like Alex Morgan, and that transition vibe was cemented with the injury to Marta. The good news for the Pride is that the Challenge Cup doesn't affect the regular season, and there's nowhere to go but up.

The Pride open the 2022 NWSL regular season tomorrow with a match against NY/NJ Gotham FC, a team they drew 1-1 last week in their Challenge Cup finale. If the Pride can get a result at home to start the season proper, maybe they get some rhythm and become more than the sum of their parts.