The Pride won their first ever home opener and remain undefeated in home openers (1-0-2) after a 1-1 draw against NWSL newcomers, Utah Royals FC. Here are our five takeaways:
Who will replace Alex Morgan?
Alex Morgan went down late in the first half after a collision with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith. The striker was shaken up on the play and did not come back out in the second half. The club revealed she is undergoing concussion protocol. The two players to replace Morgan were Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill and it was Chi that came on to start the second half. Hill came in for the last 17 minutes and neither forward recorded a shot. Chi’s first touch of the game was a perfect ball to Sydney Leroux, who should have scored. Both Chi and Hill could be in line for a start next week, though, if Morgan cannot play — with Marta out for international duty.
Marta Shows Why She’s One of the Best
She did not score from the run of play but Marta’s penalty kick was textbook perfection — a hard powered shot to the inside post to which Smith had no chance of saving. Marta’s composure and touch are among the best in the game and she controlled the attack for the Pride. She finished the night with the lone goal for Orlando and was the only Pride player to attempt multiple shots. If this form continues, the goals will definitely start to fly in from the Brazilian.
The officiating in the game was poor, for both teams. The Pride’s penalty was questionable at best, as the ball look to hit Becky Sauerbrunn in the face rather than her hand. For the rest of the night calls were inconsistent. Sometimes there were touch fouls, others hard challenges that were allowed to play on. There needs to be some level of consistency, moving forward but don’t expect it to get much better based on history of PRO referees.
First Game Feels
It was easy to tell that this was the first game of the season. Both Morgan and Leroux missed one-on-one opportunities with the goalkeeper, play lacked in the final third, and the team shape was all over the place. In the 78th minute, Tom Sermanni said it perfectly when he shouted out, “Just keep the ball moving.” Orlando finished with 74% passing accuracy, a number that should have been much higher. There were several long balls and through balls that never found there target, instead of being played simpler and shorter in the final third. This was just the first game and the team will need time to gel together and there is definitely a bright future ahead. However, there could have been better ball movement and an improvement in the final third that would have given the Pride the win.
Tom Sermanni vs. Laura Harvey
This game was a battle of two great coaches in the women’s game and both Sermanni and Harvey could not have had different approaches. Harvey was animated the entire game, moving up and down the sideline. Sermanni was calmer and more relaxed. Still, they both got their teams to play and got their players up for last night’s challenge. Both teams were threatened by the opposition in a tight game, and the coaches showed why they are both at the top of their game.