ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando Pride returned home on a five-game winning streak and had to fight tooth and nail to defend it against the #1 team in the National Women’s Soccer League, North Carolina Courage, Wednesday. From the first whistle, the currently loss-less North Carolina put the pressure on, and Orlando had to stay on the defensive.
In the 6th minute of the game, Orlando was saved by the ref–North Carolina made what would have been a goal, but it was ruled offsides.
Much of the first half saw North Carolina rushing to the goal and Orlando scrambling to protect it. In the 30th minute, North Carolina’s Denise O’Sullivan assisted Jessica McDonald for the first goal of the game.
Despite shot attempts by Chioma Ubogagu (21′), Alanna Kennedy (26′) and Christine Nairn (39′), Orlando was still scoreless at the half, leaving the score at 1-0. For the Courage, it appears they knew it was a numbers game–they made 16 shots in the first half compared to Orlando’s three.
In the 52nd minute, Orlando finally got the equalizer: Marta rushed to the goal and made the kick, and Ubogagu tipped it into the back of the net.
In the 57th minute, however, the Courage pulled out ahead again with another goal: Debinha scored with the assist from McDonald, making the score 2-1.
In the 62nd minute, the Courage got a goal with a little help from Orlando goalie Ashlyn Harris. Samantha Mewis made the kick, which bounced off the right goal post, but in Harris’s attempt to knock it away, she tipped it in, making the score 3-1. The goal was immeddiately challenged.
The Pride, however, quickly brought their answer: Alanna Kennedy scored the Pride’s second goal, assisted by Nairn, bringing the score to 3-2.
In the 72nd minute, Emily van Egmund was issued a yellow card.
Orlando’s substitutions began in the 74th minute. Dani Weatherholt and Rachel Hill were subbed in for Christine Nairn and Chioma Ubogagu respectively. Poliana then subbed in for Carson Pickett in the 78th minute. North Carolina made their first sub in the 80th minute: Kristen Hamilton subbed in for Debinha.
In the 82nd minute, Marta manipulated the ball from the left and made the cross to Rachel Hill, who launched it to the back of the net, equalizing the score again at 3-3.
While things were looking up for Orlando, North Carolina’s Jessica McDonald scored the late goal in the 89th minute, breaking the tie.
Head Coach Tom Sermanni was less than pleased with his team. “Our first half performance, I would say was probably the poorest performance I think our team has put in the two-and-a-half seasons that I’ve been here,” he noted during the postgame press conference. “We came right back into the game. Kept coming back into the game. But then it was like we came back into the game and then took our foot off the pedal instead of getting on with it.” He went on to say that the team has to play better given the caliber of players on the roster.
Marta attributed the loss to the team’s lack of confidence. “We need to want to win more. We’re playing at home, we’re playing in front of our crowd, so we need to show them that we own it and that’s our home,” she said during the postgame press conference. “We need to be more aggressive.”
The Pride head back on the road for two matches starting Saturday, May 26 against the Chicago Red Stars at 3:30pm and Sunday, June 3 against the Seattle Reign at 9pm. The Pride’s next home game is on Saturday, June 16 at 7:30pm against Sky Blue FC.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org