Orlando Stars Shine Bright in Tokyo

By: Casey Dobson
Posted: July 23, 2021

(Image courtesy of Orlando Pride twitter)

They’ve all played a game so far, so let’s check in with the four Pride players in Tokyo. 

Alex Morgan, USA

Orlando’s star striker Alex Morgan is featuring in her third Olympic games and is on the hunt for her second gold medal. The Olympics have seemed to bring out the best in Morgan, with many of her career highlights coming on the world stage. One of Morgan’s brightest moments came during the USWNT’s golden run at the 2012 Olympics when she found the back of the net in the 123rd minute, the goal that would send the States to the final after being pushed to the brink by Canada.

Morgan and the rest of the USWNT headed to Tokyo looking to become the first team to win the Women’s World Cup and Olympic gold in consecutive tournaments. Their bid at making history got off to an unpredictable (and horrifying) start, losing their opening game 3-0 to fifth-ranked Sweden. It was the first US loss in 44 games, the first time the team has failed to score in 73 games, the first competitive regulation loss since 2011, as well as the first time since 2008 that the team lost a game in a major tournament by multiple goals. 

Morgan was subbed off at the half for the States, being replaced by Carli Lloyd. It was hard to argue with the change as it was clear that something needed to change, but the choice to take off one of the most lethal strikers in the game is still perplexing. Many are calling for a completely new lineup ahead of the US’ game against New Zealand, so it seems as though only time will tell how much of an impact Morgan will actually have. 

Ali Riley, New Zealand

Competing in the same group are New Zealand, captained by Pride fullback, Ali Riley. Riley’s form with Orlando will need to continue for her national team if they’re going to stand a chance at getting through as this will be the first reunion of the Football Ferns since the pandemic began. While all of their players have been working hard to maintain their form for their club teams, they have a unique challenge of needing to perform as a top team without having been together since March 2020. 

These games will be Riley’s fourth, with the stalwart defender having played every single minute of her previous three. New Zealand opened the tournament against Australia, falling 2-1 to the Matildas. Australia had gone up 2-0 before the half, but New Zealand got a goal back in stoppage time from senior team debutant Gabi Rennie. 

The road to the knockout stage doesn’t get any easier on paper for the Football Ferns, as the USA are next up on the docket. But thanks to Sweden’s dominance, the Americans do look beatable. 

Marta, Brazil

The one-name wonder put on the Brazilian yellow for a fifth consecutive Olympics, and wasted no time making history. Marta became the first player to score in five-straight Olympics when she notched a brace in Brazil’s 5-0 win over China in the tournament opener. 

Marta and Brazillian icon Formiga may be the highlights of this Brazilian squad, but they didn’t become the seventh ranked team in the world off the backs of two players. The talent runs deep in a group that has both the veteran leadership of Marta, Formiga, and Barbara, but there’s also an unprecedented amount of youth up and down the lineup, assuring that the team will be able to keep up with the quick pace of their opponents. 

One of the most electric players in the NWSL, Marta is looking to lead Brazil to a podium finish for the first time since 2008. Their path to the knockout stage also has Zambia and the Netherlands, meaning they should get there, and could even win the group. 

The team will also be led by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage. Her time at the helm of the American squad from 2008-2012 was marked by two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup win. Following her tenure with the USWNT, Sundhage returned to her native Sweden and led their national women’s program to an Olympic silver medal in 2016. She took over the reins of the Brazilian team in July of 2019, amassing a record of 12-5-2 since then. 

Erin McLeod, Canada

The veteran Canadian keeper made the Olympic squad as an alternate. Her role will be to step in should one of the other goalies not be able to dress, something that is looking not out of the realm of possibility with starting keeper Steph Labbé leaving the team’s opener due to injury. 

Beyond being an insurance policy, the Pride’s goaltender brings a wealth of veteran knowledge and experience. McLeod backstopped Canada to their bronze medal in 2012 at the London games after making her Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008. She was last a starter for the team during the 2015 Women’s World Cup, before injuries truly derailed her time in the Canadian net. 

Enjoy watching your Pride players represent their nations during two of the best weeks on the sport calendar!

For more NWSL coverage from Venus Sports, click here.

For more soccer thoughts and opinions, check out Casey’s author page or Twitter.

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