The Orlando Pride headed north to to take on the North Carolina Courage, who had already punched their ticket for the playoffs and won the Supporters’ Shield. The Pride had also earned a playoff spot in just their second season, but evidently nobody told the the Pride or the Courage that they could sit their starters, as all of the stars were out at the start of this match.
The Pride built a 2-0 lead and watched it evaporate, but, in the end, Orlando captured third place in the NWSL with a 3-2 road win over the Courage on Alanna Kennedy’s stoppage-time free kick. The Pride (11-6-7, 40 points) finished the regular season on a 6-0-3 run, won the season series against the Courage, 2-1, and will face the second-place Portland Thorns at Providence Park for the NWSL semifinals next Saturday.
North Carolina (16-7-1, 49 points) started fast, getting into the final third of the pitch, but the Pride weathered the first attack without a shot being taken. Shortly after that, Lynn Williams stayed onside on a long pass counter, but Ashlyn Harris was up to the task and made the save.
The Pride were clearly trying to find their footing on the road against the number one team in the league. Finally, in the 10th minute, they got their first shot on a chip from Kennedy, though it was too easy and fell right to the keeper.
North Carolina continued creating chances, including when Kristen Hamilton stumbled and Harris was able to dive on it. Going back the other way, Chioma Ubogagu was able to find Alex Morgan up the left side, but the flag went up for offside. The back and forth continued, until finally, in the 22nd minute, Alex pushed it up to Ubogagu, who then crossed it for an excellent tap in by Kristen Edmonds to put the Pride up, 1-0.
North Carolina got right back on the front foot, taking several chances, including this cross that found its way behind the Pride defense, and a clean shot on goal with nobody defending except Harris, who made what is sure to be a Save of the Week contender.
Here’s another look at it.
The Pride kept absorbing North Carolina’s attacks with Harris making several more saves. including one that saw her fully stretch to make sure the shot rolled just past her fingertips and wide right. Oddly, this opportunity came after Camila had been fouled, though no such call was made by the ref. It was later confirmed that she had sustained a right knee injury and had to be stretchered off the field. As of the time of this article, the seriousness of the injury has not been ascertained. The Pride announced during the game that she’d be further evaluated.
Rachel Hill came on for Camila in the 35th minute, and Orlando continued to deal with the North Carolina attack. When the Pride finally got going the other way, Morgan took a long shot from outside of the box in the 44th minute, but it sailed wide left. Kennedy also took a long-range shot off a deflection in first half stoppage, but nothing came of that one either. However, Orlando did head to the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
The Pride got the ball to start the second half, and both teams seemed to settle into the game. It didn’t take the Pride long to double their lead as Marta scored on a give-and-go with Morgan in the 51st minute to take back the lead.
Morgan had another chance in the 55th minute, but this time sent the ball wide to the right. North Carolina then upped its attack again with a chances in the 56th, 57th, and 61st minutes, but again Harris and the defense held firm. The fourth time was the charm though, as Lynn Williams broke through and got the Courage’s first goal of the night in the 62nd minute.
The Courage kept up the pressure and in the 65th minute the referee awarded a penalty kick when Ali Krieger put her foot out to stop Debinha. Lynn Williams lined up for the kick, and while the referee was talking to the wall, Harris came out of goal to give Williams something to think about, and received a yellow card for her trouble. Needless to say, Williams made the penalty kick and it was all even at 2-2.
Harris wasn’t the only Pride player to get a yellow card, as Marta was awarded one against Samantha Mewis, after Mewis had gotten away with an obvious foul just seconds earlier. Jasmyne Spencer came on for Edmonds in the 76th minute for the Pride, and Jessica McDonald came on for Lynn Williams.
The Pride got back on the front foot following the substitutions, with several corner kick opportunities, including one that Rachel Hill got a head on, but sent it wide right. In the 83rd minute, Toni Pressley came on for Chioma Ubogagu.
Five minutes of stoppage time gave the teams a little more time to see if one could come out on top. It was then that Spencer earned a foul just outside of the box when Abby Dahlkemper threw out an arm and boxed her out without playing the ball. Alex Morgan, Marta, and Alanna Kennedy all lined up for the shot. First, Morgan broke away and headed towards the goal in case of a rebound and then, to the surprise of many, Kennedy — not Marta — took the shot, and absolutely buried it.
Our faces are still frozen like pic.twitter.com/Osc3QLgSFf— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) October 1, 2017
That goal sealed the victory for the Pride. Kennedy was the one to defeat her former team in their place with what should be a possible Goal of the Week contender.
Tom Sermanni’s club will visit the Thorns Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in a semifinal game that will be televised on Lifetime.