On her return from international duty, Marta’s stellar free kick helped the Orlando Pride secure a point in 1-1 draw in Orlando City Stadium in front of 5,058 fans. It was another night of frustration for the Pride (1-2-2, 5 points) where they played well but could not convert anything in the final third. Seattle (2-1-1, 7 points) remains a tough opponent for Orlando, as the all time series remains tied — 1-1-3.
“I thought it was a good game,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “I thought it was a competitive game. I thought it was a game where two teams tried to play good, open soccer and I think that at different times throughout the game both teams were in the ascendancy. I think the key thing to take away from the game, at least one of them, is that I think when we were having those good spells and we’re on top, the thing we need to add to our game now is actually scoring.”
Scoring is something that the Pride have struggled to do this season and of the four goals that the Pride have this year, only one is from the run of play — a strike at Portland from Chioma Ubogagu. Orlando’s other goals have come on a penalty and two free kicks. The Pride have done a decent job in possession and moving the ball forward but when entering the final third the play has fallen apart, and tonight was no different.
“We started the game very well,” said Marta through a translator about the play breaking down in the final third. “We need to take advantage of these moments so we don’t look back and say, ‘we missed those opportunities.’ Obviously we have amazing and great quality players up front and all over the field but one thing that I have also noticed is that when I get the ball I have three players on me. When Alex [Morgan] gets the ball, she has three players on her. When Sydney [Leroux] gets the ball, she has three players on her. So I feel that when teams play us they pay more attention, so that’s why we have to take advantage of the opportunities because we might only get two or three in the whole game.”
The Pride finally had a full team today, and Sermanni took full advantage of it. Marta, Monica, and Alanna Kennedy all were inserted into the lineup. Up top remained the same, and Sermanni went from the recently used 3-4-3 to a 4-2-3-1.
The first half started out similar to last week. Orlando was sloppy on the ball and there were many turnovers, but it only took about ten minutes for the Pride to get their act together. In the 12th minute the Pride should have taken the lead but Seattle goalkeeper Michelle Betos came up with two huge saves on Kennedy and Morgan to keep the game goalless.
The Pride then kept the pressure up until the 33rd minute. Seattle won a free kick and Harris tried to punch it away but the ball failed to get out of the box. Christine Nairn then tried to clear it but the ball went back across the middle of the field and Megan Oyster won the 50/50 challenge, heading the ball to Allie Long who had no issue finding the back of the net.
The second half started out pretty slow. Neither team had big chances and the game was played largely in the middle of the field. It wasn’t until just after the hour mark that the game changed. Morgan went up for a challenge about 25 yards from goal and was fouled. Marta, Kennedy, and Christine Nairn all stood over the ball, but of course it was Marta who took it, and she put it where no ‘keeper in the world could stop it to tie the game at one.
“Marta sort of looked at me and I think she thought I wanted to take it because the last free kick we had I stood over it and she let me take it and I scored,” said Kennedy. “But I just said to her ‘If you feel good take it,’ and Christine [Nairn] said the same thing. And she said, ‘I feel good,’ and I said, ‘okay you take it.’ You trust Marta over the ball. She put it away really well and you don’t expect anything less from such a quality player.”
That goal opened the game up a little more but both teams struggled in the final third. The Pride were slow in transition and were constantly outnumbered moving forward. At the end of the game they threw players forward, moving to a three-back system, but still could not break down the Seattle defense.
“I think we just need to take it one game at a time,” Kennedy said about the Pride’s upcoming three-game road trip. “It’s a quick turnaround, I think it’s Wednesday that we play. So obviously, you have to recover quickly now for that game and each game is going to present a different challenge. We will assess that game-by-game and just try to keep our players healthy.”
Orlando’s next game is Wednesday, when the Pride travel to Chicago to take on the Red Stars. Then the Pride will visit Utah and Portland.