The first official Orlando Pride game is now a thing of the past as the Orlando Pride are heading home after a 2-1 loss in Portland. Steph Catley opened the scoring with a free kick goal early but the Thorns pulled one back before the half and USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan scored the late game winner.
Head Coach Tom Sermanni began the game in a 4-3-3, with Jasmyne Spencer, Alex Morgan, and Kristen Edmonds as the attacking front, Maddy Evans, Kaylyn Kyle, and Becky Edwards holding the midfield, and Steph Catley, Monica, Laura Alleway, and Josee Belanger anchoring the back line. Of course, Ashlyn Harris started the game in goal. Noticeably missing from the starting lineup were powerhouse midfielder Lianne Sanderson and aggressive forward Sarah Hagen, but both would play.
The game began with Portland on the front foot but unable to get many chances. The Pride finally came into the game and had the first good opportunity when Alleway hit the crossbar off a free kick in the ninth minute. Catley did one better in the 12th minute, with a goal off another set piece from the right side of the penalty area. Catley's first goal for the Pride, coming against her former team, was the first score in club history. The goal looked to originally have been tapped in by Alleway, but the credit was officially given to Catley.
Following the goal, momentum shifted to the Thorns with multiple chances on goal. In the 24th minute, Lindsey Horan made a nice switch of field to Tobin Heath, who chipped it into the box, allowing Dagny Brynjarsdottir to tap it in for the equalizer.
The rest of the first half remained at 1-1. Both goalkeepers were forced to come up with some big saves, including a hit to the head for Ashlyn Harris from Brynjarsdottir that sent the Pride keeper straight to the ground, struggling to get back up. Harris was able to continue and Brynjarsdottir was booked, and, shortly thereafter, the half ended.
At the beginning of the second half, Spencer was sent in 1-v-1 against goalkeeper Michelle Betos, but got in too close after a heavy touch and Betos came up big with a save. The game continued on with lots of back and forth, both teams struggling to string together passes until the 50th minute, when Long put a header in the back of the net off a beautiful cross. The goal was waved off due to an offside call.
The first change of the game came in the 58th minute, with Mallory Weber was subbed in for Mana Shim on the Thorns side. Then in the 61st minute, the Pride subbed Sanderson on for Edwards.
In the 62nd minute, Emily Sonnett came up huge with a block for the Thorns, stopping what should have been a goal for the Pride. Not even a minute later, Kayln Kyle chipped a ball right over the cross bar from point-blank range, giving the Pride another close call that went wanting.
Harris came off her line in the 64th minute to prevent a through ball from Tobin Heath, keeping the game tied at one. The Thorns then gave up a free kick a minute later, when Horan took down Maddy Evans, who eventually sent it wide.
Dani Weatherholt made her NWSL debut in the 71st minute, coming on for Maddy Evans.
Momentum continued to go back and forth between the teams with shots on goal from both sides until the 73rd minute when Orlando was awarded a free kick, beginning a series of shots on goal, eventually leading to Betos shutting down the offensive attack.
In the 81st minute, Morgan came up big with a shot on goal that was once again blocked by Betos. Less than a minute later, the Thorns broke the scoring drought with Horan slipping behind the defense and giving Portland the lead.
Hagen was subbed in for Spencer in the 85th minute as Orlando pressed for an equalizer.
In the 86th minute, Weatherholt had a near miss on goal on a back-post cross from Sanderson that was just a tad too deep.
Before being subbed out in stoppage time for Hayley Raso, Tobin Heath sent a screamer towards goal in the 92nd minute, sending Harris barreling off her line. Moments later, the final whistle blew, sending the Pride to a tough loss in their first match.
While the game ended in a loss, Orlando put up a strong showing in its first NWSL game. Playing in front of over 16,000 fans on the road is difficult, but the Pride put in a solid shift and had they taken their chances a bit better, could have found a result.
The Pride will return home for their next game against the Houston Dash in the home opener on Saturday. The club will attempt to break the NWSL attendance record at the Citrus Bowl against Carli Lloyd and company, at 7:30 p.m.