ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The National Women’s Soccer League’s top two teams faced off at Orlando Cty Stadium Saturday with Orlando Pride hosting North Carolina Courage. The Pride, fresh off of a 2-1 loss to Houston Dash Wednesday, needed a win to maintain their number 2 spot and maintain their playoff prospects. North Carolina came into Saturday’s game with a 4-1 win against the Seattle Reign under their belt.
Pride head coach Tom Sermanni switched the starting lineup from Wednesday, and including the return of Ali Krieger, who was out with an injury. The remaining lineup includes Alanna Kennedy, Ashlyn Harris, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux (who was on the bench in Wednesday’s match), Marta, Monica, Poliana, Emily van Egmond and Rachel Hill. The lineup shift promised to breathe life into the team after Wednesday’s loss and was needed considering North Carolina’s attacking capabilities.
There was a nail-biting close call in the 17th minute. On a corner kick, the Courage kicked close to the goal, but the Pride swarmed the ball. Courage managed to get a shot off though, but Harris deflected it with a saving dive.
In the 21st minute, there could have been an Orlando goal, but Alex Morgan was called for a foul before a shot could follow through.
In the 33rd minute, Ali Krieger went down, gripping her right shoulder. She arose and chose to continue play, but still wrestled with the pain for the rest of the half.
North Carolina’s Debinha got her team on the board first with a near-miss goal in the 37th minute. Crystal Dunn made the shot first, but Debinha kicked it over a heads first, then got close and made the kick into the box. Harris touched it, and the ball slowly rolled into the net.
Within the next minute, Merritt Mathias brought the Courage’s second goal, making the score 2-0.
Jess McDonald, who made a breakaway, nailed goal number three in the 40th minute. Rachel Hill and Emily van Egmond gunned it for the goal, but Courage goalie Katelyn Rowland deflected it past the right goalpost. In the 44th minute, Syndey Leroux made a shot on goal, but that too was deflected–this one off the left goalpost.
Orlando couldn’t secure a goal before the half, leaving the score at 3-0 at halftime.
The Pride subbed in Dani Weatherholt for Rachel Hill at halftime.
From the 59th to the 61st minute, the Pride kept the ball in the box and made three attempts but still couldn’t score. It didn’t help that in the 62nd minute, Morgan made a breakaway shot on goal and the ball flew over the crossbar. In the very next minute, Leroux broke away and made a right cross to Morgan, who made another shot, but this time kicked the ball far right of the goal.
In the 71st minute, Orlando finally made another substitution: Christine Nairn came in for Emily van Egmond. The Courage subbed in Lynn Williams for Kristen Hamilton. In the 75th minute, Orlando brought in Kristen Edmonds for Ali Krieger.
In the 81st minute, Alex Morgan went to the bench, leaving the Pride one short, since they used all of their substitutions.
While Orlando did come alive in the second half and prevented any further North Carolina goals, they still weren’t able to score any of their own, leaving the final score at 3-0.
The Pride next host the Washington Spirit Saturday, July 7 at 7:30pm.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | email@example.com