The Orlando Pride finished off their preseason schedule with a 1-0 victory over Florida State University at the Citrus Bowl in a match that only lasted 32 minutes due to lightning and severe weather. With the win -- wins are wins, regardless of long much time was played -- the Pride finish their preseason undefeated, outscoring all opponents 17-1.
Lianne Sanderson scored the game's only goal in the 24th minute, shortly before a large bolt of lightning, followed by a loud clap of thunder, sent the two teams scurrying back to their locker rooms. After a short delay, the remainder of the game was canceled out of consideration for player safety. You could say it was a bit scary.
"It was great to at least get some of the game in because we saw the weather reports were pretty poor all day," said Pride midfielder Becky Edwards, herself a Florida State product. "But for FSU to come down here and to play against them -- a quality opponent -- it was special even though we only got 40 minutes in."
With Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris away with the USWNT, Tom Sermanni fielded a lineup that looked like this:
Starters for today: Bledsoe; Bélanger, Alleway, Monica, Catley; Edwards, Kyle, Sanderson; Witteman, Hagen, Spencer. #PridePreseason— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) April 2, 2016
Orlando jumped out of the gate strong, dominating possession for just about all of the 32 minutes, controlling the final third of the pitch.
Sarah Hagen nearly scored in the fifth minute, when a cross into the box from Sanderson found Hagen's head and rocketed off the far side of the crossbar.
After relentless attacks forward, the Pride finally broke through in the 24th minute, as Sanderson blasted a shot past the FSU goalkeeper to put her side up 1-0, with the rain continuing to fall.
It was eight minutes later that the game went into a lightning delay -- the second of the day, as the start of the match was also delayed -- and was called shortly thereafter.
After the match, Sermanni had mixed feelings, saying there were a lot of pleasing aspects of the team's performance but still he was unhappy it was cut short.
"We went back to play the (projected starting) back four today and I think we looked a lot more cohesive," Sermanni said. "Of all the preseason games that we played, today was a day when we looked like we sort of stepped up a gear. I thought our passing was good. I thought movement was good. I thought tempo was good. I'm just really disappointed that the game finished after 32 minutes."
With colleges limited to five friendlies, Sermanni said replacing the preseason match would be difficult but added that the club may scrimmage against the Orlando City academy teams between now and the start of the season.
"We're still a very new group," Sermanni said. "But I thought today there was a lot better understanding among the players and a lot more cohesion."
Edwards said it was good to get out and get a feel for the Citrus Bowl turf.
"This is the first time we've played in the Citrus Bowl. Big field, but (it's) good to finally play here," she said.
Sermanni said the team will lose Josee Belanger to Canada on Monday and Monica to Brazil on Tuesday, in addition to already missing Morgan and Harris to international duty.
"We are not going to be the finished product for quite some time yet," he said, adding that the team will lose about seven players about three weeks prior to the Rio Olympics.
The Pride will now regroup and train the next two weeks before their NWSL debut against the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on April 17. They'll return home to open their Citrus Bowl schedule against the Houston Dash on April 23.