Despite being eliminated from playoffs last week, the Orlando Pride came out strong, looking to put on a good performance for the fans who have stuck by them the entire season and end a five-game losing streak. However, their best efforts could not produce a win as they tied Sky Blue FC, 1-1.
This seems to be the story of the season for the Pride: strong showing, great shots, even better saves, but always just shy of a win. This draw continues the Pride's winless streak, making it six games since a victory. While the score line reveals a negative result, the Pride did have some positives, giving hope that they will continue to get better.
Tom Sermanni's chose to bench Jasmyne Spencer, putting Jamia Fields and Sam Witteman up top, along with captain Alex Morgan. For the first several minutes the team seemed to lack cohesion, and miscommunication and rust were clearly evident until the 15th minute, when Kristen Edmonds began to string together some passes leading to several shots on goal.
Morgan, the lone scorer for the Pride, seemed relentless in the first half, running up and down the field, taking multiple shots, and even dropping deep into the midfield multiple times to get more of the ball. Her efforts finally resulted in a goal in the 22nd minute. Maddy Evans played a beautiful through ball directly to Morgan's feet and the captain simply dodged two defenders and slid the ball into the back of the net, making it seem effortless as only Morgan can do.
The hero of the night, however, was not Alex Morgan. As in most matches this season it was none other than resident shark lover, Ashlyn Harris. Harris again had an incredible showing, with save after save. Sky Blue's goal even came off of a save from Harris, a result of a clearance failure by the defense. There is no longer any debate that Harris is one of the best 1-v-1 goalkeepers in the NWSL, especially after blocking two tonight.
After scoring early in the first half, the Pride continued to hold most of the possession, with corner kicks and free kicks up until the end of the half.
As the second half began, Orlando again struggled out of the gate, allowing Sky Blue multiple chances, forcing Harris to make saves. However, the Pride were able to turn the tide in their favor again with a chance on goal from Jamia Fields. This back-and-forth momentum continued for majority of the second half.
That is, until Maya Hayes broke through in the 80th minute with a beautiful shot on goal that was blocked my Harris. Unfortunately, due to a poor clearance by the defense, Sky Blue forward Sam Kerr was able to slip the ball in behind Harris to tie the game.
One good thing that came from the second half was the debut of Australian forward Lisa De Vanna, who came on in the 87th minute. While she failed to make a big splash against her former team, she will have another opportunity when Sky Blue FC travels to Orlando on Saturday.
Here's to hoping the Pride can walk away victorious.