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Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars: Final Score 5-2 as Leroux’s Brace Breaks a Second-Half Deadlock

The Pride bounce back from the North Carolina loss with an offensive explosion.

Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

Sam Kerr’s brace brought Chicago back from an early 2-0 hole but the Orlando Pride got a brace from Sydney Leroux in the second half en route to a 5-2 win against the Red Stars on the road. Rachel Hill and Alex Morgan gave Orlando an early lead but Leroux’s two and Dani Weatherholt’s first of the season pushed the Pride to their most lopsided win of the year.

Here’s the lineup Tom Sermanni rolled out, although in practice it was more of a 4-2-3-1.

The Pride came out on fire, scoring just two minutes into the match. Poliana crossed a ball in for Hill, who went up with a defender and after the collision was the first to react to the loose ball, slotting it inside the near post past Alyssa Naeher to make it 1-0. It was the fastest goal to start a game in Pride history.

Four minutes later, the Pride doubled the lead. Alanna Kennedy played a ball out of the back to Marta in space in attacking half. The Brazilian looked up and sent a curling cross behind the defense. Morgan shook off the hold of a Chicago defender and headed it past Naeher to make it 2-0 just six minutes into the match. It was another Pride record — this time for the fastest two goals in Orlando’s history. But that record only lasted until the second half.

It was Morgan’s 30th career NWSL goal and gives Marta three assists in her last two games.

The Pride were in control of the match, passing well, and threatening to add to the lead. Orlando was able only to fashion a few half chances. Chicago then struck back against the run of play.

Orlando nearly escaped a scary moment in the 20th minute when Kerr got in behind the defense and went one-on-one with Ashlyn Harris. The Pride goalkeeper stood her ground and made an outstanding save to keep the Red Stars off the board — but only for the moment.

The Pride clearance didn’t go very far and kept the play alive for Chicago. The cross sailed just an inch or two over Shelina Zadorsky’s head and Poliana was marking air, allowing Kerr the easy finish to make it 2-1. Despite not getting much power on the header, the placement was too near the post for Harris to get over and keep it out.

The Pride responded well, with a couple of quick corners, one of which sailed just inches over Kennedy’s head. After that, the game became more evenly played between the two teams. Kerr tried a severe angle shot in the 28th minute that Harris stopped. Then Morgan nearly picked out Emily van Egmond but the defense arrived just before the Aussie could line up a shot.

In the 39th minute, the Pride nearly struck again. A corner kick nearly found its way in but Naeher got a hand to it. A second ball hit off the post and then Kennedy improbably sent the rebound over the crossbar from close range.

A ball got in behind the Pride defense again, springing Kerr in the 41st minute. The 2017 NWSL Golden Boot winner slid the ball back across for Michele Vasconcelos with a gaping wide net in front of her. Poliana got just a touch on the ball, however, to keep it off the foot of Vasconcelos and send it out for a corner.

After five minutes of first-half stoppage time the whistle blew on a 2-1 Pride lead at the half. Chicago ended up with 51% of the possession. Shots were 5-5 (3-3 on target) and Orlando had the better passing accuracy (73%-71%).

Kerr threatened to tie the game just two minutes after the restart, getting in deep from a tight angle and Harris closed her legs at the last second to save the shot. But in the 60th minute, Kerr did equalize. She beat the Orlando defense with a well-timed run and slotted past Harris to make it 2-2.

The tie game didn’t last long. Second-half sub Leroux, who came on in the 52nd minute for Marta finally opened her Orlando account. Ali Krieger sent a perfect back-post cross and Leroux sent her diving header past Naeher to restore the Pride’s lead in the 61st minute.

Just two minutes later, Leroux struck again. Krieger sent a ball to van Egmond, who sent Morgan down the right. The striker’s cross attempt was deflected behind Leroux, who turned, recovered the ball, spun, and slotted her second past Naeher to make it 4-2.

Unfortunately, Krieger had to come off with a knock in the 70th minute. Krieger blocked a cross attempt by Arin Gilliland and was shaken up on the play as her leg took a lot of the shock. She came out and was replaced by Carson Pickett, ending her NWSL-best consecutive minutes played streak at 3,227.

The Pride went more defensive, with Kennedy almost playing as a third center back and the tactic kept Chicago from getting good looks at the net. It also led to a counter attack that put the game away.

Second-half sub Christine Nairn sent Morgan down the left side. Morgan drew multiple defenders to her and crossed to a wide-open Weatherholt, who sent it past Naeher with her first touch to make it 5-2 in the 83rd minute.

From there, Orlando saw out the game and started its two-game road swing with a win — its second in a row in Chicago and only its second ever against the Red Stars. The Pride were out-shot, 13-11 (7-6 on goal) and lost the possession battle slightly (51%-49%), but were rarely threatened again after the shock of Leroux’s two quick goals.

The Pride will play at Seattle on June 3 at 9 p.m. ET. Morgan and Harris are expected to be with the USWNT and will miss that match.