After an hour and 20 minute weather delay, the Orlando Pride played to a historic 5-0 win over Sky Blue (7-9-2, 23 points) in front of 5,243 fans in Orlando City Stadium. The Pride (7-6-5, 26 points) move into fourth place and a playoff spot, albeit having played an extra two games and with the Seattle Reign still to play Sunday. The five goals was a franchise single-game record.
Marta and Alex Morgan each bagged a brace and Dani Weatherholt scored her first professional goal to lead the way for Orlando in the final match of Maddy Evans’ NWSL career. The midfielder is leaving soccer to take a job in her home state of Pennsylvania. She nearly got on the score sheet herself late but had her penalty saved. Ashlyn Harris kept a clean sheet in her return from a quad injury.
“I was obviously very pleased with the performance tonight,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the game. “I think it was a comprehensive win, but apart from the score line, I was really happy with how we played. I thought we were very tight defensively and we kept possession more consistently than we had been doing.”
Harris made her first start for the Pride since May 21, taking the captain’s armband as well. The back four of Steph Catley, Ali Krieger, Monica, and Kristen Edmonds stayed the same from Tuesday’s 3-0 win against Washington. Evans, who announced her retirement, came off the bench in her final outing, with Dani Weatherholt replacing her in the starting XI. The only other change was Jasmyne Spencer coming in for Chioma Ubogagu.
It was back and forth action to start the game, with both teams having multiple attempts on goal in the first five minutes. In the fourth minute, Marta played a beautiful long ball to Alex Morgan. Morgan’s low, powerful shot beat Kailen Sheridan and the American scored in her fourth straight game, for the fastest goal in Orlando Pride history.
Morgan tried to return the favor in the 22nd minute. She played a ball into the box to Marta, but the Brazilian’s shot went whiskers wide of the near post. Seconds later, Sky Blue went on the counter. Samantha Kerr got the ball on the top of the box, and her shot looked goal bound until Harris made a diving save to keep the Pride up, 1-0.
After three attempts on goal, the Pride finally found the back of the net again in the 43rd minute. Weatherholt made history for Orlando, scoring her first professional goal and the 50th Pride goal. Camila beat two players before putting a low cross in and all Weatherholt had to do was redirect it.
Orlando went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, after both Morgan and Weatherholt made the record books. Sky Blue threatened early on, but it was all Orlando for the majority of the half. The Pride held 56% possession and out-shot the visitors 10-6 (7-1 on target).
With fans still not back in their seats from the break, Morgan found the back of the net again. Spencer played a perfect through ball to Morgan. With all the time in the world and only the keeper to beat, Morgan scored her fifth goal in four games, to put the Pride up 3-0.
Her five goals this season already eclipses Morgan’s production from 2016 for Orlando.
Spencer was at it again with the service in the 53rd minute. She put a wicked cross into the box that went into the hands of Sheridan, however the keeper could not hold onto the wet ball. Sheridan bobbled it, and Marta took advantage and headed in the Pride’s fourth goal of the night.
In the 58th minute, the Marta-Morgan connection hooked up again. From her own half, Morgan played a ball into Sky Blue’s box. Marta was calm and composed and scored her 11th goal of the year.
After the goal, Maddy Evans made her final appearance to a standing ovation. Spencer was taken down in the box in the 66th, and the entire Pride team forced Evans to take the spot kick. In what would have been too poetic of a moment, Sheridan made a fingertip save to deny Evans a career-ending goal.
“Today was a really emotional day; it’s been a really emotional week,” Evans said. “Leading up to today I’ve kind of just been going a little crazy, but once I stepped onto the field I was able to soak it up a little bit and enjoy the moment and just have fun.”
After having nothing to do for the majority of the match, Harris was finally called into action. Kerr got a head on the end of a corner, and Harris needed to use the crossbar to assist in keeping the ball out. Minutes later, Harris was called back into action, and needed to make a diving save to keep her shutout alive.
Up five goals, the game was all but over with a half hour still to play. The Pride started to sit back more and, in addition to bringing on Maddy Evans, Danica Evans and Nickolette Driesse were brought on to help see the game out. Straight from the opening kickoff the home side looked unbeatable, and the Pride took seven points from their three game home stand.
“I thought tonight was our first complete score line,” said Alex Morgan. “Obviously the 5-0 score line helps, but just starting it off with a goal early in the first half, I felt like we controlled the game from start to finish and you really just saw another level to our team tonight.”
The Orlando Pride are back in action again on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 4 p.m. ET when they travel to Boston to take on the Breakers.