Orlando sets NWSL record with 8th straight win behind Banda brace

The Orlando Pride won a National Women’s Soccer League record eighth straight match on Friday with a 2-1 victory over the Portland Thorns FC.

Forward Barbra Banda scored both goals in the first half for Orlando to draw level for the league lead with Thorns forward Sophia Smith, who missed Friday’s match with a calf injury. Banda has scored eight goals in seven matches since arriving in Orlando in April.

Portland entered the match riding a six-game winning streak, one shy of the previous league record set in 2014. The loss was also Portland’s first under interim coach Rob Gale.

Orlando is now unbeaten through 11 matches this season and sits atop the NWSL table, the best start in club history.

The Pride has previously only made the playoffs once since its inaugural season in 2016, and the team has endured some humble lows, including a 2019 season with just four wins from 24 games and 53 goals conceded, which remains a league record.

“It’s something that we dreamed about from the beginning,” said Brazilian midfielder Marta, who joined the Pride in 2017.

“And we worked very hard. We never give up; I never give up in my life so I’m never [going] to give up dreaming about this situation. You look behind and see everyone running after us, so we just have to run [faster].”

The Pride’s fortunes began turning around last season when Seb Hines was appointed full-time head coach. Hines had served in an interim role in 2022.

Orlando finished seventh in 2023, falling one spot short of the playoffs as the odd team out of a three-way tie for the final two playoff berths.

“This is a club that’s reached the playoffs one time since its existence,” Hines said after Friday’s win. “We missed out by fine margins last year and that was disappointing, but that just added fire to our belly to come into this year and show everyone what we can do.

“I think we’re still very much underrated from the outside. We know what we’re capable of. You know, if anyone would have said going into this game that this was going to be a blockbuster game, someone would have laughed at you.”

On Friday, Banda scored twice in the opening 40 minutes before being subbed off at halftime.

Banda opened the scoring in the 30th minute, scoring with her head on a rebound following a corner kick. The goal was Banda’s fourth of the season with her head, more than any other entire NWSL team this season outside of Orlando, per Opta.

Marta played the role of provider for Banda 10 minutes later. The six-time world player of the year textured a through ball with the outside of her left foot into the path of an on-running Banda, whose initial shot was blocked by Thorns defender Kelli Hubly. The rebound fell right to Banda, who dribbled around Thorns goalkeeper Shelby Hogan to pass the ball into the net.

Portland substitute Izzy D’Aquila scored in the 71st minute as the momentum shifted in favor of Portland. Thorns forward Ana Dias hit the crossbar 12 minutes later.

Orlando is one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NWSL as the international break looms. The Kansas City Current remain unbeaten through 10 games and play the last-place Utah Royals on Saturday.