The Orlando Pride’s home struggles came to an emphatic end with a 4-1 drubbing of FC Kansas City in front of 6,073 at Orlando City Stadium. It was Orlando’s first win over FCKC in four tries after a draw earlier this season and two losses last year. Alex Morgan, Toni Pressley, and Kristen Edmonds all scored their first goals of the season and Alanna Kennedy chipped in her second as the Pride (5-5-4, 19 points) tied a club record for goals in a game and set a new mark at home, with four.
The win snapped the Pride’s two-game home losing skid and equaled last year’s point total for the entire season. FC Kansas City (3-7-4, 13 points) extended its winless streak to seven games (0-5-2).
“I think there was a lot of positives from tonight’s game,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the game. “We needed to put on a performance for the people in Orlando, for our supporters, and for everybody in the community and I think we did that tonight. I thought our soccer was incisive, and we played the way we’ve been trying to play and created lots of chances.”
Sermanni changed up his lineup a bit to get more offense in what he called a “must-win game” in the buildup, switching back to a 4-3-3. He started Chioma Ubogagu, Morgan, and rookie Rachel Hill up top, with Dani Weatherholt, Marta, and Kennedy in the midfield, in front of a back four of Steph Catley, Pressley, Ali Krieger, and Camila in front of Aubrey Bledsoe.
“We knew the way that they play, they try to play out from the back so we wanted to make sure, particularly at home, we went in and pressured them. So we tried to start out with a team that we felt could do that effectively,” Sermanni said.
The early going was fairly cagey with the bulk of play in the middle of the park but the Pride started getting forward more and more. Orlando’s first shot came six minutes in after Catley got forward and fed Morgan into the left side of the box. Morgan’s shot from a tight angle was saved out for a corner by Nicole Barnhart. Morgan sent a header just over the bar off a corner a minute later. In the ninth minute, Camila got forward and fired over the bar from about 25 yards out.
Orlando finally broke through in the 22nd minute after Ubogagu had a cross cut out for a corner. Camila took the corner short to Marta who crossed it into the box where Kennedy nodded home for her second of the year. It was Marta’s fourth assist on the season.
“I think we started really well,” Kennedy said. “We’ve had so many set pieces this year and we’ve come close a lot. Although we haven’t capitalized we still know that’s a strength of ours. I think that ball that Marta played was just perfect and I was happy to get on the end of it.”
The goal only spurred Orlando on, as the Pride continued to buzz around the FCKC box. Hill had one shot blocked and sent another over the bar in the minutes following the opening goal. Then the Pride caught a break in the 37th minute when Morgan was fouled in the box while trying to get onto a free kick from distance. She converted from the penalty spot at 38’ to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
If the first goal got the Pride even more on the front foot, the second woke up the visitors. FC Kansas City started getting into dangerous spots just after the goal and Brittany Ratcliffe forced a great diving save from Bledsoe in the 40th minute.
The game began to get stretched for the remainder of the first half. Morgan flicked one at Barnhart off a Hill cross a minute after the big Bledsoe save. FC Kansas City earned a couple of corners after that. Ultimately the Pride saw out the final minutes of the half and carried a 2-0 advantage into the break. Orlando held 55.6% of the possession, and held an 11-2 edge in shots (4-1 on target).
After a few half chances to open the second half, Morgan nearly got a second goal in the 61st minute when she barely got a toe on a Catley cross, but deflected it right at Barnhart.
But it was FC Kansas City that scored to close the gap to 2-1 in the 65th minute. Second-half sub Maegen Kelly on just about her first touch of the game was sent in behind the Pride defense and beat Bledsoe to pull the visitors back into the game. The back line got caught watching a bit as a ball over the top went off Sydney Leroux’s back and fell right onto the foot of the trailing Katie Bowen, who sent in the streaking Kelly for the scoring chance.
“Probably could have finished the game off long before it went to 2-1 and had a little dodgy spell in that period of time,” Sermanni said.
“With the style of soccer that we play it’s going to happen where we get exposed sometimes because we look to attack and get as many numbers forward as possible,” Pressley said. “But I think we just need to look at the defensive transition now and since we do commit so many numbers forward, always keep in the back of our minds that this could break down and that we need to be set defensively just in case something like that happens.”
But the Pride got back on the front foot after the FCKC goal. Five minutes later, Pressley took a pass from Camila, darted inside one defender and unleashed hell toward the Kansas City goal, scorching her shot just inside the back post to make it 3-1. It was Pressley’s first NWSL goal.
“I got the ball from Camila — it was a good ball — and I just looked to beat the defender,” Pressley said. “And I knew that I was pretty close to goal and I just decided to go for it. Why not?”
The visitors came right back with a chance. Kelly turned and fired a blast from outside the area but Bledsoe made another big save to preserve the two-goal advantage. That turned into a three-goal edge in the 75th when Barnhart was a bit too casual with the ball and a hustling Edmonds took it right off her foot, rounded her and deposited the ball into the empty net to make it 4-1.
From that point on, the game felt like it was over. FC Kansas City got a couple of more half chances but Orlando was still the more dangerous team down the stretch.
Second-half sub Jamia Fields forced a diving save from Barnhart in the 81st minute. Morgan nearly scored again in the 83rd minute when she got down the left but she fired a hard shot instead of chipping Barnhart and the keeper made the save.
When the full-time whistle blew, it was a deserved win for the Pride, who finished with 52.7% of the possession, a 25-10 advantage in shots (11-4 on target) — setting a club record for shots — and 80.4% passing accuracy on the night.
“What we said at the end of the game tonight is we want this to be the foundation of what we’re going to do,” Sermanni said. “We don’t want to now have a good result and then go back and have a bad result and a good result and a bad result. What we need to do is try to get on a run if we can.”
The Pride will be back in action next Saturday, July 22, when they visit the Chicago Red Stars at 3:30 p.m.