The Pride (0-1-0, 0 points) have dropped three of their four season openers, going 0-3-1 on opening day, with all three of those losses coming to the Thorns (1-0-0, 3 points). Orlando dropped to just 1-7-1 in the all-time series against Portland.
Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris showed their disappointment after the match and said the team needs to improve quickly if the Pride are going to be able to beat North Carolina on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t good enough from us,” said Skinner. “I think all the things that we looked at doing in preseason we didn't affect first half. We just didn't do them. So, we had some words at halftime, we were better second half, but still not good enough. That’s nothing against the players, that’s nothing personal, that’s not me telling the players they aren’t good enough. That’s me saying as a team, as a collective, we were not good enough in that game. Hence the reason why we lost.”
A few new signings made their debuts today for the Pride. Joanna Boyles started at center back and Erin Greening came off the bench to play the final 16 minutes. Bridget Callahan got her first start for the Pride. She came off the bench on March 31 against Washington and played one minute. Today she got a surprise start in the midfield, played 74 minutes, and finished with 44 touches, 32 passes, an impressive 91% passing accuracy, and a team high three tackles.
Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond both missed the game due to illness. Harris, Ali Krieger, Alex Morgan, Chioma Ubogagu, and Marta all came back from international duty and were inserted right into the starting XI.
The first half it was all Harris for Orlando. Portland had chance after chance, but Harris blocked nearly every attempt and finished the first half with four saves, and added another two in the second.
She was first called into action in the fourth minute. A Pride turnover led to a shot from Christine Sinclair, and the ‘keeper made a fingertip save over the bar. Six minutes later, it was Tobin Heath’s turn, and Harris calmly caught the ball. In the 30th minute, Lindsey Horan took a shot from distance and Harris made the diving save to keep the score 0-0.
“Of course it’s frustrating, it could have been five or six nothing in the first half,” said Harris. “We were lucky to go into the locker room with only one goal [conceded]. I don’t want to beat a dead horse but what can I say? Am I pissed? Yeah, I’m pissed. But I have to be the best version of myself everyday for this team.
“I believe in myself that I’m the best [expletive] player out there every single day. and I can’t give that to other people. That is something that they have to wake up and feel every [expletive] day. I can’t give that. I’ll run through a brick wall for this team and every single one of you out there know that. I can’t give that to everyone else; that’s a choice. I hope that we continue to grow and dig deep.”
The game took a temporary water break just after the 30-minute mark, and Skinner was able to make some adjustments. After the break, Orlando limited Portland’s chances but was still second best.
For how much better the Thorns were, Orlando still had its chances. Ubogagu had a few chances of her own. In the 18th minute she had two chances in the box, but both shots were blocked. About 10 minutes later, Morgan played a perfect ball over the top for Chi, but Ubogagu had no one helping her. She made one move to get by the defender but her shot was blocked, and the attack ended.
Shelina Zadorsky was one of the better players on the field today. The Thorns were the better team and continuously put pressure on the Orlando defense. The Canadian stepped up and broke up many attacks, but her back pass at the end of the first half gift-wrapped a goal to the visitors.
Zadorsky passed it back to Harris, and the ‘keeper was forced to slide to clear the ball away. It went straight to Portland, and Sinclair played the ball to Heath. With Krieger on her back, Heath made a no-look back pass to Foord who took one touch before beating Harris.
.@CaitlinFoord finds her first.— NWSL (@NWSL) April 14, 2019
A cheeky assist from @TobinHeath, too, and @ThornsFC are on the board just before halftime.
0-1 #ORLvPOR | @YahooSports | https://t.co/Odrr3iENtU pic.twitter.com/z1U6d6KxQd
“You have to be brave to be a footballer playing for me, playing how we want to play,” said Skinner. “We were not brave enough first half. Don’t take that the team was not brave, they were not brave enough first half. And that’s what needs to change.”
The Thorns took a 1-0 led into the half, but Orlando should be happy that it wasn’t worse. While the Pride held more possession (54%), Portland had more shots (15-5), shots on target (5-0), and corners (5-1). Skinner had some strong words for his team at halftime, and Harris described it as they got their “[expletive] chewed out.”
“I think we’re all professionals, so coming into [halftime] we knew that we didn’t have a great half and we knew what we needed to work on and we just needed [Skinner] to come in and do exactly what he did — just let us know tactically, emotionally, and get us going again,” Carson Pickett said. “I think we stepped it up in the second half but we don’t have a half to lose next time.”
Portland picked up right where it left off and scored five minutes after the second-half kickoff, with Heath putting the ball in the back of the net in the 50th minute. Portland won a 50/50 challenge in midfield and went straight to goal. Foord sent the ball into the box and Heath, who was on the ground, somehow doubled the visitors’ lead.
The game started to settle down after the goal. Orlando was able to hold onto the ball a little better and made fewer turnovers. Portland, comfortably holding a 2-0 lead, did not need to press forward as much. This led to much of the second half being played in the middle of the field, but Orlando still had its chances to make it a game.
In the 58th minute, Marta had the ball dribbling into the box and looked to have been fouled. With no call, Morgan took the chance at goal, but her shot hit the crossbar.
In the 66th minute, Morgan hit the post again. The chance came from a throw-in, and Portland failed to clear the ball. Camila hit the ball to Morgan and the forward dribbled across the center of the field and took a shot, sliding to the ground. The ball somehow got through the traffic but banged off the woodwork again.
With the game all but over, Orlando had one last opportunity to at least get a goal on the board. Krieger dribbled down the right-hand side of the field and the Pride had numbers going forward. With two defenders closing in on her, she sent in a cross to Morgan, and Morgan’s volley hit Franch. With the ‘keeper on the ground, Kristen Edmonds had a wide-open goal and she put her shot over the bar and into the stands.
The game ended with the Thorns holding onto the 2-0 lead, and they were thoroughly deserving of it. The Pride did better in the second half, dominating parts of it but overall it was a poor effort.
“The thing I’m disappointed with most is what did they have to do first half?” Skinner said. “We allowed them to do it. We’re going to turn this place into a fortress in the future but I’m learning fast and fast and fast on what our players do and don’t know already. And that for me is — it’s nothing about the players, it’s not personal — it’s understanding and educating. I don’t think that Portland really had to earn it, they didn’t do anything to earn their victory. I think we gave them the victory today and that’s the disappointing part that I’ll fix very quickly.”
The Pride are back in action again on Wednesday when Orlando visits WakeMed Soccer Park to take on the defending NWSL champions, the North Carolina Courage at 7 p.m. ET.