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Plenty of Positive Takeaways Remain for Orlando Pride Despite Season-Opening Loss at Portland

The Orlando Pride lost to the Portland Thorns 2-1 on Sunday night, but that doesn't mean the team played poorly. There were plenty of positives to build on from the match.

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride kicked off their inaugural season Sunday night in Portland, and even though the NWSL's 10th franchise dropped the three points in a 2-1 loss to the Thorns, there were plenty of positives to take away from the match.

Playing your very first match on the road is tough. Playing it 3,000 miles away from home is tougher. Playing it in Portland against a very good Thorns team in front of a big crowd (16,000+) is the toughest. The Pride faced all of that and still managed a hard-fought loss after taking an early lead 15 minutes into the match.

"We did better than I expected, to be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about tonight because I didn't know what to expect, and Portland did a fantastic job." said Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni after the match. "Outside of Seattle, this was our most difficult away trip. They are a team that's been together and they have a lot of international players, so when I judge the game overall, I think we had a fantastic effort and players can be really proud of what they did tonight."

Alex Morgan struggled in her return to Portland. Orlando had trouble getting her any decent service into the box, and even when the ball did find the Pride captain, Portland was quick to shut down her opportunities. She did well tracking back and helping on defense, and it's not totally surprising that she looked a bit out of sync, given that she spent most of the preseason with the U.S. Women's National Team.

She won't have a ton of games like this, and the Pride are certainly hoping that she won't if they want to compete for a playoff spot this season.

If anything, the Pride confirmed one of my biggest suspicions about the team: They've only been together for hardly five weeks, and only a handful of players were in camp long enough to develop any chemistry all. The Pride has a load of talented players, and when things come together they should be able to make a solid playoff run, if not this year (probably not this year), then next. Naturally, it's going take some game time to jell.

The defense, and the whole team really, looked organized for stretches, but we did see those breakdown moments you would expect from an expansion team still learning to play together.

The Pride couldn't find a goal from open play, but they were able to get off 15 shots against Portland's good defense. Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos played well, tallying five saves, including a point-blank stop on Morgan in the 81st minute.

Steph Catley played a great game, firing off a couple of quality free kicks -- including one that went in for the first goal in Pride history -- and defending well. Dani Weatherholt, the young defender who impressed enough to get signed after the preseason, gained some valuable minutes in the second half and looked good for the most part. Jasmyne Spencer also really added speed up top.

The Pride lost, but that doesn't mean they played a bad game. There was plenty to take away, and the club will be hoping for a much better result this Saturday in its home opener against Carli Lloyd and the Houston Dash.