The Orlando Pride ended the preseason with a clean sheet in a 3-0 shutdown of a very game opponent in the U.S. Under-23 squad at Sylvan Lake Park. Kristen Edmonds scored a brace and Jasmyne Spencer added a goal as the Pride ended the preseason with a 5-0 mark, allowing just one goal against.
“A lot of positive stuff but we've got a lot of things to work on between now and next Saturday,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the match.
The U-23 squad opened with tremendous pressure, seemingly startling Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. Two early miscues with the ball on her feet led to near chances for the U-23s. The second mishandled ball led to a penalty being called on Bledsoe as she attempted to recover the ball in the box. The resulting penalty kick sailed high over the goal, keeping the score at 0-0 and granting the Pride a fortunate break.
The Pride responded well to the early wake-up call and began to find the pace Sermanni has been looking for. A frantic, near-chaotic push forward by the Pride failed to garner any real scoring chances but it put the U-23s on their heels and allowed the Pride to take control of the game. With the match now under their control the back line for the Pride settled in and prevented any real threats to Bledsoe, who for her part was able to shake off her early struggles.
Edmonds opened the scoring for Orlando with a skillful interception just outside the 18-yard box and slotted home a shot low to the keeper’s left.
The U-23s attempted to respond but the Pride back line would not bend. Recently returned Steph Catley disposed of an attacker just beyond the center circle before sending a beautiful ball over the top, splitting the defenders and allowing Edmonds to repeat her earlier performance with another ball low to the left and securely in the back of the net.
A solid first-half brace by Edmonds sent the Pride into the half with a 2-0 lead.
Defender Laura Alleway entered to start the second half replacing Toni Pressley and the Pride picked up where they left off. There was little in the way of chances for either side in the first 15 minutes of the second half, which seemed to lull the Pride into a bit of sleep through the midfield and the U-23s began to bring the pressure again.
This wave of pressure from the young Americans revealed the calm and composure of the back four. Despite a consistent presence in front of their box, the Pride only conceded a couple of shots on goal. Both were expertly handled by Bledsoe, the opening five minutes long forgotten.
Despite not quite recovering to the breakneck pace they responded with in the first half, the Pride responded with pressure of their own. After a few corners and close threats from set pieces, Jasmyne Spencer slipped in behind the defense during the run of play and drove home the third goal for the Pride on the day.
A few hiccups in the midfield and a slight slowing of the pace in the second half will surely give Sermanni some focal points to stress while the club prepares for Portland, however, the overall performance against the most talented opponent of the preseason was very solid.
With resolute defense, opportune goal scoring, and a high pace of pressure, it would be difficult to call this team anything other than cohesive. It was a good performance heading into the season opener at Portland.
“Going away every team is pretty much going to have a home field advantage and they're probably going to want to press us at least at the start. So it was good for us to play out of that today,” Edmonds said. “The fact that we kept a clean sheet and not let any goals in was a positive for us."