The Orlando Pride traveled all the way across the country to take on the Portland Thorns on a cloudy rainy afternoon, and continued their winless streak to start the season. Chioma Ubogagu scored first to put the Pride ahead but the Thorns got goals from Lindsey Horan and Christine Sinclair to complete the comeback and win, 2-1.
Orlando fell to 0-5-1 in six meetings (regular season plus playoffs) against Portland.
The Pride (0-2-1, 1 point) still have seven players out on international duty. With no Australians or Brazilians, and Rachel Hill unavailable due to a groin injury, Tom Sermanni continued to utilize the depth he installed this off-season. As such, he rolled out the following lineup:
The first half started out as a fairly open game with both sides able to get into the other team’s final third. Despite missing so many players, the Pride were able to keep up with the Thorns in the initial going. In the 16th minute, Portland was able to get the ball into the box and seemingly should have had several chances, but ultimately Ashlyn Harris made an outstanding save, and Orlando dodged Portland’s best chance to that point.
The Pride were able to strike first in the 20th minute when Christine Nairn stole the ball and passed to Ubogagu, who was able to bury it for an early lead for the Pride.
Kristin Edmonds should have doubled the lead in the 27th minute after taking a cross from Carson Pickett and firing, but her shot bounced off the crossbar and Orlando was unable to extend the lead. These are the types of chances that need to be converted when on the road against a quality side.
It only took a minute for the defending champions to make Orlando pay for the Edmonds miss. Horan took advantage of space above the penalty area and delievered a well-placed, left-footed shot from outside the 18-yard box that hit the right post and bounced back in behind Harris’ outstretched arms.
The Pride found themselves on the back foot following that first goal and Sinclair gave the hosts the lead when she tapped in an easy goal in the the 39th minute on a cross from Horan. It was so quick and close, there was nothing that Harris could do about it.
The Pride would see the half out with no more damage done.
Orlando came out in the second half, and initially maintained some possession. Nairn dropped further into the midfield to help out and Ubogagu moved up just a bit for the attack. Both teams looked a bit better after their halftime adjustments.
There wasn’t much action to start, but Portland did have a chance in the 51st minute, forcing another diving save by Harris to keep Sinclair from getting a second goal. On the other side of the field, Ubogagu was sent down the left side on a nifty Sydney Leroux pass in the 53rd minute, but Chi’s cross was poor.
In the 62nd minute, Harris made another diving save on Ifeoma Onumonu to keep Orlando within striking distance, though Portland started making things more difficult about this time, putting the Pride on the back foot for a while. Eventually, the Pride recovered and Nairn took a long distance shot in the 72 minute, but it sailed just over the crossbar. They would continue the attack with a free kick in the 80th minute, however they couldn’t quite take advantage of it.
The back and forth continued, and Portland made another attempt in the 86th minute, but the Pride were lucky that Harris happened to be lying on the ground when the ball was kicked into her body. The Pride’s last chance came in the 89th minute on a corner kick, but the shot from Ubogagu went wide.
Given the circumstances, the Pride played pretty well without many of their key players, and having to travel across the country. However, forwards Alex Morgan and Leroux were isolated from the rest of the team and could hardly muster a scoring chance between the two of them. Ubogagu did well to get on the ball but often dribbled into blind alleys or ruined promising attacks by passing directly to Thorns defenders or improperly weighting her passes.
Portland out-shot the Pride, 8-1, and led in corners (4-1), passes (434-370), and possession (54.5%-45.5%) and was ultimately just too big of a task on the night for a depleted Pride squad. It’s hard to say how the game might have changed had Edmonds fired her shot a foot lower, but the bottom line is that the Pride have struggled without their midfield stars out on international duty.
The Pride next take on the Houston Dash in Orlando Stadium on April 22.