On a wet, rainy night in Central Florida the Orlando Pride (10-6-5, 35 points) managed to win their fifth game in a row and extended their unbeaten streak to six. Rachel Hill scored an early brace and Marta and Chioma Ubogagu added a goal each, as the Pride beat the Boston Breakers (3-11-7, 16 points) 4-2 in front of 5,413 fans in Orlando City Stadium. The win completed a 3-0 sweep of Boston in 2017 by Orlando.
“I thought the first 30 minutes we were superb,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “I thought that was the best 30 minutes that we’ve had, perhaps, this season. I thought we were slick, our movement was great, we were creating chances. I thought we really dominated the game and then we went to sleep for a little bit. We need to be, probably, a little bit better when we are not going through those spells and playing really well.”
With Kristen Edmonds and Jasmyne Spencer both injured, Sermanni was forced to make a few changes to his starting XI. Camila moved down to right back and Hill got her first start since Aug. 8. The rest of the starters from the Pride’s 2-1 win in Kansas City remained the same, with Alex Morgan leading the attack and Marta playing underneath her.
The Pride came out hot, and Morgan, Hill, and Marta all had chances, but it was the rookie that put Orlando ahead in the eighth minute. Ubogagu put in a cross from the left side to Morgan. Boston ‘keeper Abby Smith made a good save on Morgan’s effort and Hill was there for cleanup duty, scoring off the half-volley.
After the opener, the rain started coming down even harder. And with the rain, the Pride kept pushing forward and Hill got the first brace of her career in the 15th minute. Morgan put in a perfect ball, and Hill passed it into the back of the net to put the home side up 2-0.
It was Hill’s third goal and Morgan’s third assist of the season.
Hill nearly got the first hat trick in Pride history in the 23rd minute. Chi forced a turnover and beat two Breakers’ defenders before trying to hit Hill on the back post. Hill’s sliding attempt was fractions off, and the ball went out of bounds untouched.
“I think the great thing about our strikers or attacking-minded players on the team is everyone wants to score but at the same time no one’s forcing it,” Chi said. “So, I think if it’s the first minute or the 90th minute, Rachel is making those runs. She just really works hard for the team.”
The rain seemed to have an impact on the match, and there were many turnovers from both teams. Both the Pride and Boston had difficulty controlling the ball, first touches were poor at times, and a few slips.
After the first half hour, the Breakers got into the game and Orlando started to hold onto the ball. There were a couple of long spells of possessions for the Pride, and most of the action happened within the first 25 minutes.
The Pride finished the first 45 minutes with 60% possession, seven shots, and an impressive 86% passing accuracy. Hill’s two shots both found the back of the net, as the rookie was a nightmare for the opposition.
As the second half started, the rain stopped and Boston got one back. Rosie White got on the end of a cross from Amanda Frisbie to cut the Pride lead to 2-1. The Pride defenders looked unorganized and not ready, but the goal lit a spark for Orlando. Two minutes after giving up a goal, Morgan hit the post on the other end. Hill followed up the shot, but the ball took an unlucky bounce off the post and she could not complete the hat trick.
“At halftime [Ali Krieger] was kinda saying that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in football. So, starting the second half she wanted us to start how we started the first half,” said Ubogagu. “So when that goal went in it was kinda frustrating because we all knew that wasn’t good enough.”
The game went back and forth until Chi put the ball on a platter for Marta in the 67th minute. All alone, with only the ‘keeper to beat, the Brazilian had no trouble finding the back of the net. It was Marta’s 12th goal of the year, which is good enough for a tie for the second most in the NWSL.
In the 77th minute, Chi once again intercepted the ball and started an Orlando attack. Ubogagu had Morgan up top, but she was tired of assisting other players, so she took on Boston’s defense by herself before taking a left footed shot that beat Smith. The ball bounced off the far post and rolled in the net to secure the three points for the Pride.
Boston got a consolation goal in the 89th minute. Julie King out-jumped every Pride player off a corner from Adriana Leon. Ashlyn Harris had no chance at saving it, but the game was all but over at that point anyway.
The Pride finished with 12 shots, seven on target, and 54% possession. Orlando dominated for most of the game but there were periods of time when they went on autopilot, which led to the first time all season that the Pride gave up multiple goals at home.
“Yea, [giving up two goals] is worrisome, because we come up against a team vying for the top four next week and then we come up against two teams in the top four,” said Sermanni. “If we make fundamental errors at the back, we’ll get punished. We talked about it at half, because we saw some of the signs of it in the first half. And again, there’s a couple of things. I thought one-against-one we made life too easy for them. I thought collectively we never got ourselves organized as well as we could have. You combine those factors, you give away goals.”
The Pride are nearing the end of the season and face Seattle, Portland, and North Carolina to finish out the season. Seattle has the second most goals scored in the NWSL, behind the Pride’s 41, and Portland and North Carolina are second and first in the standings, respectively.
The Pride continue their home stand on Saturday, Sept. 9. They take on sixth-place Seattle at 7:30 in Orlando City Stadium.