Alex Morgan fired home two goals — one in each half — and the red-hot Orlando Pride (8-6-5, 29 points) came within seconds of a third consecutive clean sheet in a 2-1 victory over the Boston Breakers (3-9-7, 16 points) at Jordan Field. The win moves the Pride — at least for the moment — back above the Seattle Reign in the NWSL playoff chase.
Amanda DaCosta ruined the shutout deep in stoppage time with a goal from the penalty spot in her last game before retiring from the Breakers to finish school. DaCosta beat Ashlyn Harris after Jamia Fields fouled Adriana Leon in the box five and a half minutes after the end of normal time to give Boston a consolation goal.
Tom Sermanni flipped the lineup just a bit, sending Jasmyne Spencer back to the bench and inserting Chioma Ubogagu back into the attacking midfield.
The Pride came out of the gate a bit sloppy, with several poor passes in their own end leading to Boston possession in the final third. The Breakers fashioned the game’s first good scoring chance out of that possession with a free kick in the fourth minute. Ifeoma Onumonu got a free header on the set piece at the back post and directed it on target but Ashlyn Harris got there to make a huge stop early to keep it scoreless.
Four minutes later, the Pride broke the deadlock off a set piece. An Orlando corner kick was partially cleared by Boston but was headed back into the area and started pinging around, eventually slipping through into the six-yard box, where Morgan ran onto it and slipped it past Abby Smith to make it 1-0.
Camila nearly doubled the lead in the 13th minute off another corner that was cleared out of the box. This time, the ball ended up back with Camila, who had sent in the original corner kick cross. She ended up with the ball above the box on the left side and her seeing-eye shot sliced through the defense and forced a diving save by Smith.
Orlando got a scare at 20’ when Boston got a corner kick. The cross came to Harris, but she spilled it after slight contact. The whistle blew for a foul on the Breakers as Krieger was barreled into but the bouncing ball was being cleared off the line by Alanna Kennedy at the time of the whistle anyway.
Morgan forced two more diving saves from Smith in the 26th and 28th minutes, as the Pride looked for a second goal. The Pride had some good build-up and possession, with Boston occasionally getting forward on the counter.
Boston’s Margaret Purce took a pass from Katie Stengel and sent a dangerous cross into the Pride’s area in the 32nd minute that Onumonu couldn’t quite get onto to direct past Harris. It was another warning bell for Orlando, which was a bit inattentive in marking at times through the opening period.
At 39’, Morgan again shook free in the offensive zone, getting a head to a well-placed Marta cross. But the striker couldn’t get her near-post headed effort on target. At that point, Morgan was averaging better than a shot attempt per 10 minutes. Four minutes later Camila forced a diving save with another long-range effort.
Smith’s save went out for a corner, which the Pride played short. The ball ended up with Dani Weatherholt getting a shot partially blocked but headed high toward goal. Smith got up and tapped it just over the bar as it was headed toward the net. A headed attempt on Marta’s ensuing corner was over the bar on the first half’s last good opportunity for either team.
The Pride took their 1-0 lead to the break on Morgan’s sixth goal of the year. Orlanod held an 8-3 edge in shots (5-1 on target) and 67 percent of the possession with a passing accuracy of 84.4%.
After the break it was more of the same. Orlando finished with 16 shots to Boston’s eight.
Morgan’s second goal was prettier than the first. Ali Krieger served a free kick to Morgan, who slipped behind the high Boston back line, took down the ball with a lovely first touch, and chipped her shot high over Smith and into the net in the 73rd minute.
Morgan now has seven goals
From there, it was mostly a matter of managing the game, although Morgan did have a steal a minute after her goal and rather than go for the hat trick she laid off to second-half sub Spencer, but the pass was off line and the chance went wanting.
It looked like a second straight clean sheet for Harris — and third consecutive for the Pride — was in the cards until deep in stoppage time. Jamia Fields, who came on for Spencer right after the play in the 74th minute that went awry, took down Leon just inside the penalty area in the 96th minute. There was originally supposed to be four minutes of injury time but Fields herself stayed down for a bit just after normal time expired with a knock to her lower leg.
That proved fateful, as Fields and the Pride were still playing two minutes beyond the original four and she committed a silly foul about a foot inside the area. Leon stayed down to receive treatment for a couple of minutes, and DaCosta’s penalty kick went into the net in the 98th minute to spoil the party.
The Pride are now 3-1-0 against Boston in the all-time series, and 2-0 this season. The Breakers return to Orlando City Stadium for a third meeting on Sept. 2 at 4 p.m.
Orlando will play at FC Kansas City next Saturday with coverage starting at 3:30 p.m.