ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando Pride returned home Saturday for the first in a series of three home games, kicking off against the Chicago Red Stars at Orlando City Stadium at 7:30pm. Due to FIFA’s inaugural Tournament of Nations which took place at the end of July, seven Pride players (Brazilian trio Marta, Monica and Camila, Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy and Steph Catley) were just returning Saturday, begging the initial question of whether Head Coach Tom Sermanni would bring any of them into the game given the potential for fatigue, but Sermanni chose to include Krieger and Morgan in his starting XI. And with good reason. The Red Stars are currently #1 in the NWSL, and Saturday’s match was their fifth and final match against the Pride for the season.
Orlando: In addition to Krieger and Morgan, Sermanni’s starters included Jamia Fields, Toni Pressley, Kristen Edmonds, Chioma Ubogagu, Rachel Hill, Dani Weatherholt, Jasmyne Spencer, Maddy Evans and goalie Aubrey Bledsoe.
Chicago: While Head Coach Rory Dame was absent due to sustaining a red card at Orlando’s last match against them in Chicago, the team’s starting XI promised a tough match, including its original 2015 NWSL trio Arin Gilliland, Danielle Colaprico and Sofia Huerta, USWNT goalie Alyssa Naeher, Vanessa Di Bernardo (who is #2 in the league in assists), Alyssa Mautz, Sarah Gorden, Jennifer Hoy, Taylor Comeau, Katie Naughton and Samantha Johnson.
Rachel Hill was escorted off the field due to injury in the 18th minute. Chicago’s Vanessa Di Bernardo made a drive in the 25th minute, but Spencer kicked the ball out of bounds before it could ever reach the goal. Alex Morgan scored the game’s first goal with the assist from Jasmyn Spencer.
The Pride’s later efforts were frustrated, however. Chioma Ubogagu had a close call when her attempt hit the crossbar in the 37th minute, while Morgan’s attempt bounced off the left tip of the goal in the 39th minute. Morgan tried again in the 41st minute, but Chicago goalie Naeher was ready to block her on the left side of the goal. Aubrey Bledsoe made a key save in the 44th minute on an open drive on goal. She was able to catch the ball before it could get close to the goal. One minute of additional play was assigned.
Orlando Pride led at the half with a score of 1-0.
Chicago’s Samantha Johnson and Orlando’s Morgan collided as they reached for the ball, and Morgan took a hard tumble, garnering Johnson a yellow card in the 51st minute.
With an assist from Jennifer Hoy, Chicago’s Sofia Huerta put Chicago on the board, tying the game in the 52nd minute.
In the 61st minute Jasmyne Spencer and Chicago’s Taylor Comeau fought bitterly for the ball as Spencer made the drive, but Comeau was ultimately able to wrest it from her. In the 67th minute, Comeau remained on her job: Spencer made a break down the left sie of the field and was lining to make a kick, but Comeau kicked it straight ahead–out of bounds.
In a close call in the 84th minute, Morgan made a break for the goal, but was intercepted by Chicago’s Katie Naughton. Marta retrieved the ball and made a shot on goal, but Naeher caught it.
The Pride and Red Stars tied at 1-1, even with five minutes of additional play in the second half.
“We probably should’ve had the game over by halftime. We dominated the game and played really well in the first half…Then we hit a real flat spell in the second half. We allowed them to come back in the game, and we seemed to lose energy and lose our way a little bit. [Chicago] are always a very dangerous team…I give a great deal of credit to our players and the way that we finished the game at the end.” – Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni on the team’s overall performance Saturday
Marta in for Rachel Hill – 23′
Alanna Kennedy in for Dani Weatherholt – 59′
Camila in for Jasmyne Spencer – 75′
Stephanie McCaffrey in for Sarah Gorden – at half
Lauren Kaskie in for Taylor Comeau – 88′
YC – Samantha Johnson – 51′
YC -Alanna Kennedy – 69′
The Pride next face the Washington Spirit at Orlando City Stadium Tuesday, August 8 at 7:30pm.
Mellissa Thomas is the Chief Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org