The Orlando Pride squandered good opportunities early and looked more like the visiting team than the hosts, falling 2-0 to the Houston Dash. It was the Pride’s first loss at Orlando City Stadium and came against a team that entered with only two wins on the year.
A crowd of 5,497 braved the midday Central Florida heat but wasn’t rewarded for its support, as Orlando (3-4-3, 16 points) simply didn’t have it on this day. Houston (3-7-0, 9 points) got just its third win of the year behind goals by Carli Lloyd and Rachel Daly.
“Given how we’ve been playing of late, I think it was a disappointing performance,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the game.
The Pride were actually on the front foot through the game’s first half hour but lacked the sharpness in the final third necessary to take the early lead. It started early, as Steph Catley’s through ball for Rachel Hill was picked off four minutes in. A minute later, Jasmyne Spencer left a back-post cross for Hill too close to Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell, who made a diving intervention.
In the ninth minute, Hill worked a nice give-and-go with Alanna Kennedy but the Pride midfielder couldn’t get the ball out of her feet to take a shot. Ali Krieger pushed a header wide on a Marta corner kick at the 11-minute mark as the Pride continued to buzz but couldn’t take advantage.
In the 21st minute, Camila made a sparkling turn and run to the top of the box but she got nothing on her shot and it was easy for Campbell to collect. Two minutes later, a ball fell perfectly for a wide-open Hill at the top of the box but she fired her shot right at Campbell.
The last good opportunity for Orlando in the opening period came in minute 27, when Catley placed a cross perfectly for Marta but Campbell got a touch on Marta’s header and sent it off the bar. The Houston keeper was able to recover in time to beat two onrushing Pride players to the rebound.
The water break at the half-hour mark seemed to settle down the Dash, who came into the game in the final 15+ minutes of the opening half.
“To be honest, up until the first water break I thought we were quite comfortable,” Sermanni said. “I thought we were playing OK, generally in control of the game. I felt if we had scored at that stage we would have probably gone on and won the game. But after that I thought we were very poor.
“The energy was poor. I thought our effort was poor. And I thought our execution was poor. We really never got at any stage of the game after that what I’d call on a roll to put Houston under any kind of pressure.”
“Obviously those water breaks are needed but it takes away from the momentum of the game,” Krieger said.
Toni Pressley gave up an unnecessary free kick shortly after the restart. Houston’s cross was headed clear by Krieger but fell for Janine Beckie, who sent her volley shot over the net. Beckie fired high again in the 40th minute from outside the box when given too much room. That problem led to the opening goal minutes later.
Poliana got in behind the defense on a ball over the top in the 42nd minute and her chip shot beat Aubrey Bledsoe, but Catley cleared it off the line at the last second.
The warning bells didn’t wake the defense, however.
In first-half stoppage, Poliana squared a ball to a wide-open Lloyd, who blasted her shot into the upper 90 to give Houston a 1-0 lead at the break.
Things didn’t improve for Orlando after the half. The Pride continued to make unforced errors, pass the ball out of bounds, cross into the box to no one, and lose the ball repeatedly.
Just 17 minutes after the restart, the Dash doubled their lead. Lloyd’s long diagonal ball found Poliana, who centered for Rachel Daly, who one-timed a shot past Bledsoe to double the visitors’ lead.
Sermanni emptied his bench to try to find some offense, bringing on Maddy Evans, Jamia Fields, and Danica Evans for Monica, Hill, and Spencer, respectively. It didn’t really work. Danica Evans got one shot off on a give-and-go with Kennedy at the top of the box but missed wide. Fields had a shot off a corner that was blocked. Aside from that, there was little in the way of opportunities for the Pride after the second Dash goal.
“Credit to Houston — they were really good,” Catley said. “They moved the ball well and worked really hard.”
The Pride out-shot the Dash, 14-10, but only got three of their efforts on target. Orlando fell to 4-2-0 all-time against Houston after six meetings. The Dash snapped a six-game losing streak and denied Orlando a three-game winning streak in the process. Houston’s last win was April 29.
Orlando won’t have long to try to regroup. The Pride travel to Sky Blue for a Wednesday night match.
“We’re going to move forward. We’re going to iron out the details this week,” said Krieger. “We understand that we can do a lot better and we can play a lot better.”