The 12-game winless streak is broken. The Orlando Pride have won their first game this season and their first since July 10, 2016, in convincing fashion. Goals from Chioma Ubogagu, Camila, and Jasmyne Spencer in the second half sealed the victory for the Pride over the first-place North Carolina Courage.
The Pride (1-2-2, 5 points) snapped their four-game winless streak to start the season, while the Courage (4-1-0, 12 points) lost their first game of the year. This is the second game that these two teams played this season, with the Courage pulling out the 3-1 win in North Carolina. Orlando has all four goals the Courage have conceded this season.
“Great to get the first win against, at the moment, the best team in the league,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the game. “Playing North Carolina, you need to do a lot of defending from corner kicks, throw-ins, and other things coming into the box. You know, it’s like the land of the Jolly Green Giants trying to defend against them, so I thought we did that exceptionally well.”
In the first half, it was very much a back-and-forth affair for the first 15 minutes. Orlando tried to push the pace, but the Courage pushed right back. Eventually, a lot of the first half was played in Orlando’s half, with counter chances coming for Orlando.
Today’s game marked the first of many “hydration breaks” for Orlando this year, coming in the 33rd minute. This gave some time for Tom Sermanni to discuss some things with his squad and the team seemed to make some on-the-fly adjustments through the final 15 minutes of the half.
The best chance in the first half for Orlando came in the 42nd minute, when Jamia Fields fed Steph Catley on an overlap. She was able to put a cross into the box which just missed the boot of Marta as she came into the area.
Right before halftime, Sam Witteman, the former Pride player, struck a ball from outside the 18-yard box, testing Ashlyn Harris, but she was able to knock it away from goal with a tremendous save as the ball passed from shadow into sunlight.
As the second half began, it was all momentum for the Pride. Orlando controlled possession in the second half — 56% to 44% — and, within the first five minutes, blew the game open.
In the 48th minute, Marta was able to start an attack and play Ali Krieger into the box. She slotted it over to Fields, who skied the ball over the crossbar from three yards out, but was ruled offside at the end of it.
Then, just a minute later, the Pride broke through. Camila played a ball through to Krieger on the right wing and the defender played a one-touch cross across the face of goal in the 49th minute. It didn’t have too much power on it, but the Courage struggled to clear it. Chioma Ubogagu happened to be making a run on the far side, came in, and slotted it through North Carolina keeper Sabrina D’Angelo’s legs for the first of the game and her first with Orlando.
“Krieger, she’s a great player, and I think one of her best assets are her services and she played a great ball,” Ubogagu said after the match. “I don’t think they missed much. I just think it was a hard ball to deal with. And I just wanted to make sure I was helping offensively and getting in the box, and it fell towards me, and I just wanted to put it on frame.”
Then, just a minute later, Camila again was involved, forcing a turnover in the midfield and starting a break. She fed Fields on the break, who played a through ball back to Camila. Once in the box, she deftly chipped D’Angelo, making it 2-0 in quick succession.
Right after that, the Pride fell asleep a bit on defense and allowed Debinha to dribble into the box and blast one right past Harris to make it 2-1 at the 51-minute mark, capping a run of three goals in three minutes.
Harris put up her usual candidacy for save of the week, blocking a pinpoint header by Sam Mewis, almost drawing the game level.
Just four minutes after that, the game moved in favor for the Pride in a big way. Carolina captain Abby Erceg received a second yellow after a foul on Kristen Edmonds and was sent off, leaving the visiting Courage down a player for the rest of the match.
With the player advantage, the Pride settled in with the one goal lead and played more aggressively and it seemed like a third goal was coming. Finally, in the 82nd minute, that third one came.
After some great individual dribbling from Marta, Jasmyne Spencer — who came on in the 62nd minute — made a run into the box. Marta threaded a perfect pass to the forward, who calmly slotted it away for her first of the season.
Orlando managed to maintain the two-goal advantage until the final whistle, sending the 5,260 fans in attendance home happy.
“I think the planning, the trainings were very good, organized leading up to the game and everybody believed that we could win,” Krieger said after the match. “I think the team is really happy with the result because we worked our butts off and we won, and we deserved it.”
The Pride will now head to Seattle next Sunday, May 21, to play the Reign.