The Orlando Pride earned their first victory of the 2018 NWSL season in a 1-0 battle against the Houston Dash in front of a record low 3,890 fans in Orlando City Stadium. It was a sloppy game with a large amount of turnovers but Orlando (1-2-1, 4 points) was able to move up the standings from last place to sixth.
“I’m delighted to get the first win of the season,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the game. “We knew it was going to be a very difficult game, particularly with the way Houston sets up defensively.”
There were opportunities for both teams in the first half but neither team could do anything in the final thirds of the field. Chioma Ubogagu had a few chances early on but turned the ball over often in key moments. In the second half, she made up for her turnovers. The Pride had a set piece and Christine Nairn put a perfect ball in. All Chi had to do was redirect it and put Orlando up 1-0.
“We’ve yet to put a performance of 90 minutes together to get three points,” said Ubogagu after the game. “We always have things that we do really well in the final third and we defend really well, at times, but we’ve got to do it for the complete 90 minutes and I’m just excited to keep building off of it.”
There was a scary moment for the Pride early in the game. After coming out to collect a low ball in the fifth minute, Ashlyn Harris collided with Houston forward Savannah Jordan and landed hard on the ground. After a few minutes she was able to get up and stay in the game.
The Dash had a couple of opportunities but most were thwarted by offside calls, with Houston racking up a total of seven — five in the first half. Linda Motlhalo had one of the best opportunities for Houston in the first half when a shot from distance went just inches wide in the 21st minute. Three minutes later, Jordan’s low shot forced Harris into a fingertip save.
“[Houston] made it really tight and very difficult to break them down,” said Sermanni. “We found that out in the first half. It was probably a little frustrating because we could never quite get into a rhythm. But I was really, really pleased with our response in the second half. I felt we upped the tempo a bit. We started, I think, pretty much dictating most of the game in the second half.”
The Pride came out of halftime high pressing Houston. They were able to win the ball back and tried to possess the ball and look for an opening. However, similar to the first half, the final pass was not there and Orlando struggled in the final third.
About halfway through the second half, both teams made substitutions that changed the momentum of the game. Kealia Ohai and Thembi Kgatlana went on for Houston and then shortly after Rachel Hill was subbed in for Carson Pickett. On the ensuing play Orlando took the lead via Chi’s head.
“I was very relieved and very happy [Ubogagu scored],” said Sermanni chuckling. “She kept plugging away and she kept getting in there. It was a terrific free kick but somebody still has to get on the end of it.”
Trying to close out the game, Orlando had a few chances. Ali Krieger got on the end of a bouncing ball that forced Campbell to make a low, diving save. Sydney Leroux was one-on-one with the Campbell minutes later, but hit the post. Alex Morgan made some room outside the 18 with two defenders on her but her shot went over the bar. Houston nearly leveled the game and stole a point in stoppage time as a corner went inches wide of the post.
“Sometimes you just have to grind out a win and get that momentum and build off of it,” said Harris. “There’s some great things that we can pull from this game and not-so-great things we need to work on. We move forward. That was not an easy win so I’m very proud of the ladies.”
The Pride are back in action again on Saturday when they take on Seattle in Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 p.m.