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The Eagles look ahead to a weekend clash with FC Pride

After two tough WPSL matches, Columbus focuses on Saturday’s opponent with new talent to incorporate.

Ralph Schudel - Massive Report

This weekend, the Columbus Eagles welcome the team’s next Women’s Premier Soccer League opponent, Indiana’s FC Pride. With the matchup, Columbus will have the return of an Eagle scoring regular and the debut of a new name.

On Saturday, Columbus plays its first home match at their more permanent home of Capital University’s Bernlohr Stadium. The opponent is the second from the Indianapolis area, in FC Pride. The Pride comes into the match third in the WPSL Midwestern Conference after playing the Dayton Dutch Lions to a 2-2 draw at home.

The Eagles have had a tough stretch of matches to start the WPSL season, losing 6-0 to Lady Victory FC and last weekend’s 4-0 home loss to the Cincinnati Sirens. Although the results haven’t gone Columbus’ way, against Cincinnati the team had better opportunities on goal, but defensive lapses left the Eagles exposed.

Although Columbus has a new division alignment in 2021, there is some history against FC Pride. The two teams competed against each other in every season but 2019. Dating back to 2014, the Eagles have won against the Indiana side just once in 10 contests with three draws and six defeats.

A third match playing together should help improve communication on the Columbus backline. When in position and covering for one another, center backs Monique Reventlow and Morgan Wilcoxon can get in front of shots and make it difficult on forwards. Interim head coach Mark Wise and the Eagles made this a focus of training.

“We have extremely talented players but they have not played together that much yet and communication and organization is key,” said Wise. “We should be stronger (on Saturday).”

Since it’s a home match, the Eagles will have more players available. One player to look out for is midfielder Alicia Donley, a former player for the University of Tennessee, who hasn’t seen the field for Columbus yet in 2021 but is now available for selection. If Donley is available, Michaela Powers will slide back into her usual position on the defensive backline.

Powers had a strong match in the midfield for Columbus against Cincinnati and had good opportunities on net, but the combination with Reventlow provide a strong first-team center back pairing. Wilcoxon returns to fullback, her more natural position.

The Eagles are still on the lookout for the team’s first goal of the season. Forward Dani Gunderson had Columbus’ best chance in the rivalry game last week, which was deflected near the goal line in the second half. The Eagles’ passing hasn’t connected in their first two matches. If they can get into open positions and start stringing together shorter passes, it will give Columbus more opportunities to score.

A big help on offense will be the 2021 WPSL debut of Madison Costner. Long-time Eagles supporters and those that watched their 2021 indoor season closely will know Costner who provides goal-scoring experience and physicality up front to help break through defenses. For Wise, Donley and Costner will give Columbus a different look and help the team’s offensive pressure.

“We expect FC Pride to play a very direct game and we want to negate that by pressuring the ball enough to keep the ball on the ground,” said Wise. “Our possession should improve tomorrow and we should get the ball forward enough to get some quality chances on goal.”

Supporters can purchase tickets for Saturday’s 2 p.m. ET kickoff or stream the match live on the team’s official website.

Initially, the Eagles were also supposed to play a friendly on Sunday in Fort Wayne but that match was canceled. However, two matches in the same weekend is something Eagle supporters should get used to. There are three weekends where Columbus faces multiple opponents, and all six are WPSL league matches. In one of the trips, the Eagles travel to St. Louis for matches on June 19 and 20 against both Missouri-based WPSL sides.

With weather that is 30 degrees lower than last week’s match, look for a refreshed, new-look Eagles team.