After Mother Nature put an end to things last night, the North Carolina Courage and Orlando Pride picked things back up, starting in the 22nd minute, this morning. The Pride needed at least a point from the game after last night’s result in other NWSL matches, but turnovers and defensive mistakes handed the home team a 3-0 victory.
The Pride (8-8-6, 30 points) have fallen to fifth place in the NWSL standings and need to win out, plus need help, to make it into the final four. The Courage (16-1-5, 53 points) were honored as the NWSL Shield winners at the conclusion of the match.
The biggest noticeable difference from today, compared to last night, was that Orlando was much more threatening yesterday. Today was all North Carolina as it dominated straight from get-go. Late in the game Orlando collapsed and allowed the Courage to score three goals in the last 15 minutes.
In case you missed the first 22 minutes, here’s how that went:
Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni changed the shape from a three-back system that he had used in the past few games to the 4-3-3 that the Pride have typically used. Surprisingly, though, Marta and Camila played up top with Alex Morgan, while Rachel Hill was deployed in the midfield.
The Pride pressured the Courage for much of the 22 minutes played, but could not put one in the net — a continuation of a troubling trend for the club this season.
It took just 40 seconds for the first chance of the game. Hill took a heavy touch followed by a poor pass and Crystal Dunn jumped on the end of it and started the counter. Dunn drew three defenders and found Lynn Williams on the right side. Williams put the cross in and it bounced around a little before Ashlyn Harris was able to get on the end of it.
A few minutes later, Jessica McDonald held off Shelina Zadorsky and played a great through ball to Dunn but the USWNT star couldn’t get the ball on frame.
In the next 10 minutes, it was corner after corner for the Pride but they only had one true chance off of seven corners. Marta’s service was too short and North Carolina easily defended it. However, the ball fell right to Marta’s feet. She put in another cross that was too low and the Courage again defended it with ease. North Carolina turned it over though and the ball fell to Emily van Egmond. The Aussie midfielder quickly turned and shot and it was kept out by the woodwork.
The game took another stop in the 22nd minute because of lightning and the Pride were looking like the more dangerous team towards the end of that period of play. North Carolina had five shots compared to Orlando’s four but Kristen Edmonds was the only player to get a shot on target. The biggest stat was the Pride’s seven corners to the home team’s none.
The morning brought a more sluggish Orlando side after another night on the road and a more energized Courage.
In the 27th minute, the Courage had a good opportunity but could not stay onside. Two minutes later, Debinha took a shot that went well over the bar.
The first true opportunity for the Pride today came at the half hour mark. Marta led the counter attack and looked up to find Alex Morgan by herself on the right wing. Marta made the pass, Morgan gave it up for Camila, whose shot was deflected out for a corner.
The Pride would have been down right before half time if not for Ashlyn Harris. Lynn Williams took a rocket of a shot from outside the box that was heading for the side netting but Harris’ diving save kept the game goalless.
Including stats from yesterday, the Pride were outshot (12-6), had fewer shots on target (2-1), were out-passed (205-158), and held less possession (56%-44%) than the home team in the first period. Orlando did have the advantage in corners though (8-3), even though seven of them came in yesterday’s 21 minutes.
Whatever the team talk was at halftime clearly did not work and the Pride were second best once again in the final 45 minutes. Hill was very quiet in the first half and committed many turnovers in the second. She earned a free kicked in the opening seconds of the half but could not do much else.
One of the best chances in the game for Orlando came in the 48th minute. Off of one of the Pride’s 12 corners, Rowland missed the ball completely and multiple Pride players were in the box ready to pounce on it. However, the referee claimed that Rowland was fouled and called the play dead, though there looked to be little, if any, contact and the call bailed out North Carolina.
Orlando could not do much. The Pride struggled to get the ball into the final third, opting to play balls over the top often. Other times, individuals attempted to dribble around North Carolina, and the play was easy to stop or sloppy or lazy passes were easily read and picked off. The Pride needed much better ball movement and in the end the turnovers came to haunt them, as it has all season long.
The best player for the Pride was Harris. She made two huge stops for Orlando, including the first-half save. She made another Save of the Week candidate in the 71st minute, this time quickly getting down after a free kick. A few minutes later, she had to get looked at by the trainers but was able to remain in the game.
Harris did let in a soft goal though. The Courage’s first goal was created by a turnover in the midfield after a bad pass by Hill, combined with good work from Williams. Zadorsky tried to defend it but ended up deflecting the ball, which beat deflected in off Harris inside the near post.
From there, Orlando fell apart. Six minutes, later, Ali Krieger failed to hold off Williams, perhaps looking for the ball to trickle out for a goal kick, but it was hardly moving. Williams fought to win back the ball in the box, which fell to the feet of Debinha. The Brazilian powered it over Harris’ head and within minutes the Pride were out of the game.
The regular season champions did not stop there. After a failed ball over the top, North Carolina passed right around Orlando. Sam Mewis put a cross on the head of a completely unmarked Williams, who headed it into the top corner and Harris could only watch.
Sydney Leroux, who came in as a substitute, played only 30 minutes. She missed the past few games with an illness and had to be subbed out in the 89th minute with an apparent injury after a collision in the box.
The Pride failed to get a shot on goal today, and had just five total shots this morning. After creating seven corners last night, they finished with 12 in the game but nothing came from any of them. Orlando looked like a completely different team from the one that came out last night, and this result gives the Pride an uphill battle for a playoff position.
The Pride are home against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Chicago is one point ahead of Orlando but Orlando holds the tie breaker against the Red Stars. A loss to Chicago would likely end the chase but a win has the Pride right back in it.