Toni Pressley got her first goal of the season but Jodie Taylor hit back as the Orlando Pride and Seattle Reign played to a 1-1 draw in front of 5,074 fans in Orlando City Stadium. The Pride (8-6-5, 29 points) could have jumped into second place with a win but Seattle (8-4-6, 30 points) fought to earn a point to remain one point ahead of the Pride with a game in hand.
“I thought we started okay. We had some decent passages of play but we just didn’t seem to have the energy tonight to really threaten Seattle as much as we should have,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “I just felt like we made what I call a lot of fundamental errors. And I felt this was a game where we went back to bad habits at times. It was kind of frustrating, particularly the second half. Really delighted that we hung in and got a point but there were some fundamental parts of our game that I think we need to do an awful lot better.”
With Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan away on international duty, Haley Kopmeyer got the expected start in goal. Sermanni decided to go with a three-back system, with Marta and Sydney Leroux up top. Monica and Chioma Ubogagu both made their 50th NWSL appearances, of which Monica has spent all 50 games with the Pride. On the other side of the field, former Pride players Steph Catley and Jasmyne Spencer started for the visitors.
Your #XmasInJuly Starting XI facing Seattle on Lifetime at 3:30! #ORLvSEA ⛄ pic.twitter.com/7ne3znCnsQ— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) July 21, 2018
The match started out a bit slowly as both teams tried to feel each other out. The game was played largely in the middle of the field and both teams were looking for balls over the top. Spencer was a main target for the visitors early on but was unable to get much going and Taylor had the best chances for Seattle. Taylor finished with a game-high six shots, three on target, and the game-tying goal.
However, it was Marta that got things going first. She took on multiple defenders to get into the box before looking up and seeing no teammates helping her. The Brazilian decided to go for goal on a tough angle and won a corner.
The game continued to be played in the middle of the field until Seattle won a corner in the 15th minute. Nothing came of the corner but the Reign won a free kick after the Pride cleared it. Kopmeyer came up huge on the corner, denying Jessica Fishlock, after she had made a long run and was alone in the box.
The breakthrough came in the 21st minute. Marta took a free kick from distance that Seattle was able to clear but Marta got the ball back and took a shot that was headed away. Ubogagu got on the end of it and sent it into the box for Dani Weatherholt. The ball bounced around a bit before Pressley put it in the back of the net. That was Pressley’s first goal of the year and second as a Pride player.
.@Toni_Deion is currently Santa's favorite helper thanks to this Christmas miracle! pic.twitter.com/Zm4AFWvHuA— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) July 21, 2018
After the goal, Seattle immediately got down the field but Kopmeyer was able to grab the cross. Play then stopped as Seattle’s Beverly Yanez went down injured. The Reign then made a double substitution, taking out injured Yanez and Rumi Utsugi, who was listed as questionable before the game.
Kopmeyer came up huge again with two saves on Taylor to keep Orlando up a goal in the 37th and 39th minutes. Kopmeyer finished the game with six total saves against her former club. Both of her starts for Orlando this season have come against the Reign, which described as “pretty bizarre.”
“If anybody knows [Seattle] it’s probably me, so that’s a good thing,” said Kopmeyer. “It definitely puts a little extra edge on the game for myself, as well as other players because there’s been a lot of crossover between the two teams. It’s an exciting match-up, that piece of it, and also the fact that we are neck-and-neck in the standings. It always makes Seattle a match-up that you want to come out with a point. Obviously, we’d love three [points] but a point keeps us moving in a playoff push.”
Right before halftime, Ubogagu could have put the Pride up two goals. Chi made a great run and played a give-and-go with Marta but her shot went straight into the chest of Lydia Williams on a difficult angle.
Orlando finished the half up a goal and was the better team. The Pride held 52% possession and seemed in control of the match. However, the second half was a different story.
One of the most notable differences was in the officiating. Orlando finished the game with 17 fouls, compared to just three by the visitors. In the past three matches the foul count is 43-11 against the Pride, and Sermanni was clearly frustrated at this discrepancy.
“I don’t see how a game could be as level as that was and one team could commit 17 fouls, if I’m being frank, and another team can commit three fouls,” he said. “I think in [the Houston game] we had 65% possession and [the Dash] only committed two fouls and that’s, to be honest, quite absurd. To have a foul count of 17-3 is absurd as well. The referee is not responsible for our performance but they are responsible for their performance and I think when you throw statistics that’s 17-3 it says that there must be something wrong, somewhere.”
Right out of halftime the game was played largely in the middle of the field. Orlando was sitting back more defensively and were staying compact. The Pride did a good job at high pressing and forcing Seattle’s defenders to control the ball.
Seattle should have gone ahead in the 57th minute. Taylor took way too many touches in the box before shooting and Pressley, running back to cover for Kopmeyer who was beat, saved the shot with her back. Shortly after this play Pressley was subbed out.
A tag-team effort to keep this one from @Jodes_14 out of the back of the net.#ORLvSEA | #NWSLonLIFETIME pic.twitter.com/7GErZADHAp— NWSL (@NWSL) July 21, 2018
“I try to always put myself in a good position no matter where it is on the field,” Pressley said. “Fortunately, I was able to score a goal and make a save as well, as well as many other players. Whatever I can do for this team I’ll do and I’m happy to do so.”
Seattle then went on the attack and Orlando spent a large amount of time defending. This eventually would come back to haunt the Pride, as in the 70th minute Taylor recorded the game-tying goal. Taylor was left wide open and Kopmeyer had no chance at stopping it.
.@Jodes_14 finally nabs that goal. All even in Orlando now!#ORLvSEA | #NWSLonLIFETIME pic.twitter.com/bXerxBb8j0— NWSL (@NWSL) July 21, 2018
The last big chance of the game came when Marta tried to take on the entire Reign defense by herself. She was eventually called for a foul around the six yard box.
The Pride ended the game with 49% possession, were outshot 18-12, and had just a 74% passing accuracy. This draw keeps Orlando in third place and the season series remains tied with three draws.
“A bit disappointed not to come away with a win but obviously a point is a point against a very good Seattle team,” said Pressley. “We obviously wanted more out of that game but we’ll take a point a move forward.”
The Pride now go on an international break and are not back until Aug. 5 when they host winless Sky Blue.