ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – With a 0-2-1 record, the Orlando Pride faced off against the Houston Dash at Orlando City Stadium Saturday, eyeing a much-needed first win for the season. Both Houston and Orlando are coming off of losses (Chicago and Portland, respectively), so both teams were hungry for the win, and given the fact that five of Orlando’s international players are away representing their home nations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying tournaments this week (Monica, Marta, Poliana, Emily van Egmond and Alanna Kennedy), Orlando changed their lineup accordingly.
Orlando: Ashlyn Harris (goalie), Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley, Shelina Zadorsky, Carson Pickett, Dani Weatherholt, Christine Nairn, Kristen Edmonds, Alex Morgan, Chioma Ubogagu, Sydney Leroux
Houston: Jane Campbell (goalie), Janine van Wyk, Rachel Daly, Amber Brooks, Kristie Mewis, Nichelle Prince, Linda Motlhalo, Meleana Shim, Kimberly Keever, Haley Hanson, Savannah Jordan
Houston Dash forward Savannah Jordan was one to watch during the first half on Sunday. She managed a hit on Orlando Pride goalie Ashlyn Harris within the first five minutes of the match, and in the 26th minute, with the help of midfielder Linda Motlhalo, nearly made the first goal of the game. However, Harris made the save with a double-dive.
In the 40th minute, Orlando’s Dani Weatherholt attempted a shot on goal, but missed it over the crossbar.
In the two minutes of stoppage time, Ubogagu spotted a breakaway opportunity–there was a clear path to the goal and no one around her–but was stopped by the halftime whistle. She was visibly displeased. The first half was scoreless, despite Orlando attempting seven shots and Houston attempting five.
In the 49th minute, Leroux made a pass to Ubogagu that nearly guaranteed the goal, since Ubogagu ran dead center and close to the goal box, but Houston goalie Campbell was able to intercede it.
In the 51st minute, Houston’s Nichelle Prince collided with Harris in a goal attempt, but the board remained at 0-0.
In the 59th minute, Houston’s Kealia Ohai (who was given the captain’s armband) was subbed in for Savannah Jordan, and Thembi Kgatlana for Nichelle Prince.
In the 62nd minute, Carson Pickett passed to Alex Morgan, was at goal with very little defense around her, but her shot was too high, flying over the crossbar.
In the 64th minute Rachel Hill subbed in for Carson Pickett, and Chioma Ubogagu put the first point on the board with Christine Nairn assisting, bringing the score to 1-0.
Houston’s Alli Murphy was subbed in for Kimberly Keever in the 77th minute, and in the 80th minute, Orlando’s Abby Elinsky subbed in for Ubogagu.
In the 81st minute, Krieger attempted to make a shot on goal, but the ball strayed slightly left, allowing Campbell to knock it away. In the 82nd minute, Leroux came at the goal, but the ball collided with the left goal post.
All in all, tonight’s game was a battle of defenses. Both back lines held strong. Despite four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half, the score remained 1-0. Orlando made 14 total shot attempts while Houston made nine.
Despite team’s bumpy first half, Head Coach Tom Sermanni was pleased with Orlando’s overall performance, especially given the international players’ absence. “We couldn’t quite seem to get into a rhythm in the first half…but we gained momentum in the second half…and the players’ performance was first class.”
Orlando goalie Ashlyn Harris is focused on pressing forward to continue the team’s success. “…I stand in front of the mirror and I don’t leave it until I feel like a giant–I know the look…I need [my teammates] to be giants on the field,” she said. “Tom can’t bring that out of them, I can’t bring that out of them. They have to believe it.”
The Pride next host the Seattle Reign at Orlando City Stadium Saturday, April 28 at 7:30pm.
Mellissa Thomas is the Editor of Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org