A terrible season came to a merciful end as the Orlando Pride played the victims in Sky Blue FC’s only win of 2018. Carli Lloyd’s goal in the second half was the only one of the game and Kailen Sheridan was a savior in net for the hosts in a 1-0 Pride loss at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ.
As has been the case all season, the Pride (8-10-6, 30 points) squandered chances, gave away the ball cheaply, and simply weren’t good enough given the names on the backs of the jerseys. The tactics and shape were fine and the team created plenty of opportunities to take control against Sky Blue FC (1-17-6, 9 points) but couldn’t capitalize.
To make matters worse, Sky Blue played a road match just four days ago while the bulk of Orlando’s roster was fresh. The Pride, who scored just one goal in their final four games, finish the 2018 NWSL season an unbelievable seventh in the nine-team league.
The only real surprise in Tom Sermanni’s starting XI was Haley Kopmeyer in net in place of Ashlyn Harris. With Marta unavailable with a hamstring issue, Chioma Ubogagu started up top with Alex Morgan and the returning Sydney Leroux.
Let's go get three points. #NJvORL pic.twitter.com/NV7JOOWhyg— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) September 8, 2018
The Pride controlled much of the first half in terms of possession and passing but lacked clinical finishing, as we’ve seen much of this season, and most of Sky Blue’s scoring chances came on careless turnovers and counters.
Sky Blue fashioned the first good scoring chance when Imani Dorsey beat Kopmeyer but hit the crossbar in the seventh minute. The ball came back to her but her follow shot was deflected wide.
.@SkyBlueFC was inches away from an opener, but @Imdorsey96's shot rattles the crossbar.#NJvORL | NWSL pic.twitter.com/6E92cO2xmm— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
The first good Pride chance came in the 10th minute when Morgan nearly got in behind but Erica Skroski got back in time to block her shot attempt.
#NJvORL | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/5uyLUQ39Hs— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
Seconds later, Morgan took the ball from a defender and poked a shot on target but Kailen Sheridan made a good reaction save to keep the game scoreless.
The Pride had penalty shouts in the 14th minute when Morgan made a nice move to slide the ball into the box and cut inside her defender. The Orlando striker was sandwiched and impeded on her run but the referee saw nothing wrong and the chance went away.
After Carli Lloyd pushed a shot wide in the 16th minute, Christine Nairn sent in a beautiful cross to a wide-open Dani Weatherholt but her headed effort went straight at Sheridan in the 18th minute.
Sky Blue got a couple of good looks in the 20th minute. The first came when Shea Groom took the ball in the midfield, dribbled through most of the Pride defense and slipped a ball in for Dorsey, who shot wide. Moments later, Shelina Zadorsky turned the ball over by not getting it up the field quickly enough and Lloyd took it from her but again fired wide.
Orlando again should have gone ahead in the 23rd minute. Chi Ubogagu slipped Morgan into the box but the striker didn’t make good contact with the ball and Sheridan made an easy save. Moments later, Chi fired wide from the left side, attempting a near-post shot. Ubogagu sent in a good cross in the 26th minute that Leroux flicked with her heel but her touch took too much speed off the ball and Sheridan was able to get down for the save.
Chioma Ubogagu provides some fancy footwork of her own before @sydneyleroux nearly completes a cheeky finish at the near post. #NJvORL | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/dsvtrbdYYu— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
Sky Blue gifted a free kick to the Pride just outside the box in the 32nd minute when Sheridan handled an obvious back pass. Morgan’s set piece hit the wall, however. The Pride had the last good opportunity of the half when Chi sent in Leroux in the 42nd minute and the former USWNT striker patiently waited for traffic to clear before shooting. But Sheridan again made a good reaction save and again the Pride’s final touch wasn’t clinical enough.
@Kailen_Sheridan comes up huge to keep the score even!#NJvORL | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/9cbKg5UZij— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
The Pride and Sky Blue went into the half scoreless. First-half shots were 10-9 to Sky Blue, though very few of those 10 were memorable and many were from long range. The Pride led on shots on target (4-0), possession (54%-46%), corners (4-1), and passing accuracy (77%-73%).
The second half was more of the same. Orlando had opportunities and continued to waste them. Leroux headed a corner kick delivery just wide in the 48th minute.
Sky Blue fashioned the next couple of chances with Groom firing high in the 52nd minute after Monica stepped up and missed the ball, allowing the hosts to break. Three minutes later, Groom turned Nairn inside out near the sideline then slipped a ball to Dorsey, who fired wide.
Ubogagu tried a long-range effort in the 57th but missed the net, looking to pick out the top corner on the far side. Morgan then fired wide moments later but she was offside anyway after a corner kick was cycled back in.
Lloyd went for goal from distance on a free kick in the 63rd minute but fired off frame and Kopmeyer likely had it covered anyway. The next warning sign for the Pride came in the 66th minute after a failed clearance, when Katie Johnson lost her mark simply by making a quick turn, then hit the crossbar.
Crossbar has been huge for @ORLPride. #NJvORL | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/vf9dDq2FyN— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
Nairn fired a rocket from long range in the 69th minute that Sheridan not only saved, but also held onto. Five minutes later, Sky Blue broke through. Groom centered the ball to Lloyd near the top of the area and the USWNT captain one-timed it past Kopmeyer inside the post for the game’s only goal.
Think we've seen this before from @CarliLloyd. @SkyBlueFC now leads. #NJvORL | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/gyk0pIye7N— NWSL (@NWSL) September 8, 2018
Morgan smashed a ball across the box from a severe angle in the 78th but Sheridan knocked it out for a corner. Two minutes later, second-half sub Rachel Hill had her shot blocked for another corner. On the ensuing set piece, the ball fell to Zadorsky’s feet but she couldn’t cleanly poke it home.
Camila and Emily van Egmond came on in the 83rd but neither really made an impact on the game. Camila fired high in the 88th minute from the top of the area and van Egmond nearly got to a great long ball from Pickett but Sheridan came off her line to beat her to the ball.
After just two minutes of stoppage — after a goal, six subs, and a bit of time wasting — the whistle blew on the Pride’s season.
Orlando held the advantage in shots (20-18), shots on goal (6-4), possession (56%-44%), corners (9-1), and passing accuracy (77%-68%). Sky Blue’s 31 clearances tell much of the story of how much time was spent in the hosts’ defensive end.
In the end, none of the statistics mattered because Sky Blue finished once and Orlando couldn’t do the same, despite numerous opportunities. It was a microcosm of the 2018 season.
That’ll do it for 2018. The Pride won’t play again until preseason. We hope you’ve enjoyed our game coverage throughout the season and that you’ll stick around for our season in review ratings for the entire roster, as well as all the off-season news to come as there is sure to be a bit of a shakeup this winter.