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Orlando Pride vs. Reign FC: Final Score 2-2 as Marta Equalizes Late

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Pride show fight to earn a point in the finale while welcoming Toni Pressley back from breast cancer treatment.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Marta’s late goal lifted the Orlando Pride (4-16-4, 16 points) to a 2-2 draw in the 2019 NWSL season finale against Reign FC (10-6-8, 38 points) in front of 8,103 fans at Exploria Stadium. Rachel Hill put the Pride up first, then the Reign scored two unanswered to take the lead before halftime. Marta scored a potential Goal of the Week in the dying minutes to allow the Pride to come away with a point.

“I'm really proud of them tonight,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said after the game. “We were woeful against Washington. Tonight we were aggressive, we were front foot. We conceded two goals which we were not happy with, of course. But I think for the first time the stats represent what I felt the game was like.

“Tonight absolutely belongs to Toni [Pressley] — the amazing woman that she is — and I’m so glad that the girls fought hard for her, and anyone else that has suffered or will suffer from breast cancer. I think that it is tremendous that we have super women in terms that they have the ability to face that, come back, and aggressively take on the challenge. I haven’t got the words to express just how I feel about Toni because she’s Wonder Woman.”

It was Breast Cancer Awareness Night, and before the match, a group of survivors made a pink ribbon at the center of the field. There was a video on the jumbotron of the Pride players talking about their reactions to Pressley’s diagnosis.

“Of course it meant a lot to all of us [having Pressley back],” Marta said through an interpreter. “She went through this difficult time and she overcame everything so strong. And that was a great example to all of us — showing how strong she is and how she was determined and never gave up through all this. So whenever she came in I was super happy and very emotional because it just shows to all of us overcoming a challenge. So it was a great example to all of us working hard, determination, and being strong.”

Skinner made several changes to his starting XI. He changed the back line for the fourth straight match, giving Julie King her first action since her red card in her Pride debut. Claire Emslie started up top, but she only lasted 43 minutes before a head injury forced out of her game. She finished with a team-high three chances created and an assist.

The Pride started the game out playing some of the best soccer that they’ve shown all year. Orlando had eight shots (five on target) before the half-hour mark. Camila had three of those shots, all on target.

This led to the first goal, 24 minutes in. Marta found Emslie up top. The Scot used one touch to feed Hill behind the defense. Hill dribbled around Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy and passed the ball into the back of the net.

The lead lasted just 10 minutes. In the 34th minute, Kristen Edmonds had the ball inside Orlando’s final third. Megan Rapinoe was chasing her down, and Edmonds passed back to Ashlyn Harris. With a Reign attacker running down at her, Harris barely got her foot on it. The ball fell to former Pride fullback Steph Catley, who sent in a perfect cross to Darian Jenkins. Jenkins volleyed it past Harris, and the game was tied at one.

The visitors doubled their lead in the 41st minute. From the left wing, Rumi Utsugi sent a fantastic ball forward. Jodie Taylor used speed to run by Alanna Kennedy, then used some nifty footwork to create space, and powered the ball into the back of the net.

Marta nearly tied the game in first-half stoppage time. She got the ball and dribbled around a hopeful defender, but shot it directly into Murphy’s chest.

The Reign took the 2-1 lead into halftime. Orlando was the better team for the majority of the half, but the visitors took the momentum after scoring their first goal and took the lead. Orlando took nine shots in the first half, and six found the target. The Reign only had five shots, four shots on goal. Possession was fairly even with Orlando holding 49%. The Pride got into great positions, but the shots were poor and right at Murphy, who finished with five saves.

“I think it’s great to end on a positive and get a draw from the game,” said Pressley. “I think the girls did so well tonight. From the moment the first whistle blew, so exciting to watch. Rachel’s goal was unbelievable and then to finish with Marta’s was so fantastic and it’s amazing to be back out there.”

The second half had significantly less action. Both teams had chances, but they were mostly snuffed out before reaching dangerous areas.

Pressley came into the match in the 72nd minute. It was her first game action since being diagnosed with breast cancer. The center back got a standing ovation as she came on, and Harris gave the captain’s armband to her.

“It was just so surreal,” Pressley said about getting the captain’s armband. “[Harris] is someone I love dearly and have so much respect for. She's such a great leader and for her to hand that over to me in that moment was so special and it is something that I will never forget.

“It felt amazing to have everyone be so supportive and be behind me and just give me that extra push to get on that field. I think that’s a testament to how wonderful our fans our. They stick it out with us every single game and just to have them it means the world.”

Minutes after Pressley came on, Pickett sent in a cross. Pressley nearly got on the end of it, on what would have been too perfect of a moment.

In the 86th minute, Marta scored a goal for the highlight reel. Off a corner, the ball slowly rolled to the top of the box. Marta sized up the goal, wound up, a powered the ball into the back of the net to level the game at two.

“I really thought, ‘Finally it went it!’ after so many chances,” said Marta. “For everything we did today, everything we tried, all the chances, and also for the cause, I really think we should have won.”

In the dying minutes of the game it looked like Marta would get a brace. She took a shot from distance and Murphy came up with yet another huge save to deny the Brazilian.

Orlando finished the match with the most shots and shots on target all season. The Pride had more shots (21-10), shots on target (10-7), and possession (52%). Marta led everyone in shots with nine, and Camila put all four of her shots on target.

Orlando finished the season in last place. Skinner has already been looking forward to next season and said that he has identified players that he wants to bring in — both in the NWSL and abroad. It will be a point of emphasis to bring in experienced players that are not on their national teams. With the Olympics next year, Skinner does not want to be in the same situation where he loses half the team during international games.