An amazing long-distance goal by Alanna Kennedy was the lone goal for the Orlando Pride as they edged out the Washington Spirit 1-0 in a tough road victory. The Pride (6-3-4, 22 points) were able to overcome poor finishing to hold onto their early lead while the Spirit (2-8-4, 10 points) simply weren’t able to capitalize on many opportunities to score.
Here’s the lineup Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni sent out, which features the much-anticipated return of Camila, who didn’t play but made the bench for the first time this season:
The Pride started the game with their foot on the gas. Alex Morgan had an early shot that was saved by Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and Christine Nairn had a few crosses into dangerous areas that just couldn’t find someone to hammer it home. However, Bledsoe had to come out and punch one of Nairn’s crosses away in the sixth minute and it was clear that Orlando was going to be the aggressor in the game.
Although Orlando looked likely to score at some point, the Pride’s first goal came out of nowhere and from incredible range in the 11th minute. Intercepting an errant pass near the midfield line, Kennedy looked up and saw Bledsoe too far forward and took aim at goal. The Australian’s powerful shot sailed over Bledsoe and into the net for her second goal of the season to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.
The last time Kennedy found the back of the net, she won NWSL Goal of the Week and it’s a safe bet that she will do it again after this.
Most of the Pride’s chances in the half came on the left side, with Chioma Ubogagu wreaking havoc and finding Emily van Egmond just moments after the goal. Van Egmond’s twisting shot threatened Bledsoe enough on the far post that the former Pride goalkeeper had to come save it.
While the Pride’s chances came from many different players, the Spirit relied heavily on the pairing of Ashley Hatch and Francisca Ordega in the first half. Ordega did most of the legwork on the right wing to cross the ball into the box to Hatch on many occasions. Fortunately for the Pride, Hatch had an off night and sent shot after shot off target.
In the Pride’s last real chance in the first half, van Egmond got an open look just outside the box. But her low shot skipped past both Bledsoe and Washington’s goal to go out of play.
The Spirit weren’t about to quietly go into halftime however. In their best chance of the half, Joanna Lohman got her head on the end of a deep cross and was able to get the ball on target, but Ashlyn Harris was all over it and snuffed out the opportunity, sending the Pride into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The two teams finished the first half practically even in everything except the score, with the Spirit having a slight edge in possession, with 53%. Although the Pride had two fewer shots (six) than the Spirit, Orlando had many more crosses with seven compared to Washington’s two.
There was a role reversal at the start of the second half, with Washington looking like the more dangerous side as the Sprit fought for an equalizer.
Hatch’s shots edged more and more on target and her best attempt came when she fired a ball toward the far post. Luckily, left back Carson Pickett was able to cleanly clear away the danger, but the threat of Hatch getting closer to scoring loomed.
The Pride spent most of the second half defending, with their best scoring opportunity being a near own goal by Washington in the 61st minute. Pride right back Poliana found space on the right side and crossed a ball that deflected off a Spirit player and looked like it would go into the net before Bledsoe smothered the near disaster.
As the Spirit began to find more of the ball, they started to find scoring chances that just weren’t there in the first half. A few minutes after the near own goal, Spirit defender Taylor Smith found open space on the right and fired. Luckily for the Pride, Smith put a little too much power on the shot and it continued to sail instead of dropping down as it flew just over the crossbar.
Washington continued to put pressure on Orlando’s defense and the Pride were nearly caught on the counter when Ordega sprinted down the Pride’s right flank. She eventually ran out of real estate and wasn’t able to get a good angle, her resulting shot finding the side netting as the Pride desperately tried to hold on for all three points.
Perhaps the best chance of the game for the Spirit was in the 84th minute when Caprice Dydasco let loose a swerving shot that looked destined to go in until Harris fully laid out to make the save. Harris wasn’t able to wrangle it in and the ball dangerously bounced around until going out for a corner but the crisis was averted by Harris’ save.
The Pride nearly doubled their lead in stoppage time when Sydney Leroux dribbled the ball in the box, but quick defending by the Spirit ended the chance.
The Pride were able to see out the game and secure their first road win against the Spirit in club history. The Pride are now unbeaten in four games as they head home to Orlando with three points and a match with the Houston Dash at Orlando City Stadium next week. Orlando has earned points in nine of the last 10 overall matches.
Despite the win, the Pride were lucky to come away with the result given their poor finishing and their only goal coming from Kennedy’s snipe. Not to discredit Kennedy in the slightest, but goals like that can’t be counted on each and every week. The Spirit weren’t able to punish the Pride for their mistakes and turnovers in the second half, but other teams in the NWSL certainly will.
But for now, the Pride will enjoy the win and start preparing for the Dash as they look to stay in playoff position.