Just three days after losing to the Portland Thorns, the Orlando Pride (0-2-0, 0 points) once again failed to score. Orlando traveled to North Carolina, and the Courage (1-0-1, 4 points) had no difficulty in getting the three points. The Pride were able to play the defending champs close for a half but got blown out after halftime.
Orlando was able to fend off countless attacks and pressure from the home team in the first half, but Alex Morgan and Alanna Kennedy mistakes led to goals from Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald, respectively. Crystal Dunn added a second-half brace, and Julia Spetsmark made it a handful.
Head Coach Marc Skinner made just a few changes from the weekend. Skinner inserted Kennedy and Emily van Egmond into the lineup after they missed the season opener due to illness.
The game went about just as one would expect. The Pride tried to play possession-based soccer and did well in spurts in the first half but failed to connect in the final third and North Carolina was just too strong in the end.
For the majority of the first half, the game was pretty even. North Carolina was clearly the better team but the Pride had their chances as well. The action started out early, and Harris was forced into a save in just the second minute. She ended up making six saves in the first half, but most of them were easy, from distance, and right at her.
The Pride got a couple of chances to take the lead but couldn’t convert. In the 18th minute, Marta put a dangerous cross through the area but no one could connect with it. Just two minutes later, Morgan gave Rachel Hill a perfect pass to send her through but she took a heavy touch and the ball rolled to goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, ending Orlando’s best chance of the evening without even a shot fired.
The Courage should have gotten their first goal just after the half-hour mark. Morgan turned over the ball at midfield, and McCall Zerboni launched a counter attack. Williams put a cross in that found Sam Mewis all alone at the top of the box. Mewis had Harris beat, but her shot hit the crossbar.
So so dangerous. @McCaLL2 picks the pocket. @lynnraenie with the cross. @sammymewy lets 'er rip.— NWSL (@NWSL) April 17, 2019
Only the crossbar denies @TheNCCourage the opening goal.
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Right after Mewis’ miss. Orlando got right down the field, and Ali Krieger put a perfect cross in for Morgan. The striker took the shot off the volley, but it went over the bar, and she was called offside anyway.
For the second time this week, Orlando gave up a goal in the 45th minute. This time, it was because of an awful turnover from Morgan.
Morgan had the ball and decided to try to dribble out of trouble. Crystal Dunn had no difficulty in stealing the ball and immediately went on the counter. Morgan, instead of trying to win the ball back, threw up her hands and watched Dunn dribble towards goal, begging for a foul. Dunn passed the ball off the Williams, and she had no difficulty in beating Harris.
Patience pays off. @TheNCCourage snag one just before HT courtesy of @lynnraenie.— NWSL (@NWSL) April 17, 2019
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The Courage had 13 shots — seven on target in the first half — compared to Orlando’s four shots. Officially Orlando had no shots on target but that’s a scoring error, as Carson Pickett did put a shot from distance on frame that Labbe caught. The Pride held 49% possession and had no corners. Whatever adjustments were made at halftime had the opposite effect and the Pride might as well not even have shown up.
The second half saw the Courage take firm control. North Carolina put Orlando on the back foot and the second goal came in the 55th minute. This time it was a mistake from Kennedy that led to the goal. It was a poor pass that hit Williams in Orlando’s box. The ball fell to McDonald, and she doesn’t miss those.
Mistakes like that are certain to get punished by @J_Mac1422.— NWSL (@NWSL) April 18, 2019
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Orlando won a free kick in the 65th minute. Marta stood over the ball and put in an excellent service that found the head of van Egmond. However, it was too soft, and Stephanie Labbe easily picked it up.
The Courage made it 3-0 in the 70th minute. Mewis shot and tried to beat Harris near post, but the ‘keeper quickly got down and made the stop. On the ensuing corner, the Pride failed to clear and there was nothing the Harris could do to prevent a goal from Crystal Dunn, who shot from about six yards out.
(don't make a Dunn pun)— NWSL (@NWSL) April 18, 2019
(don't make a Dunn pun)
(don't make a Dunn pun)
(don't make a Dunn pun)
(don't make a Dunn pun)#NSWL: "She's Dunn it again!"
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The Pride barely touched the ball after that third goal, and the game was all but over. The Courage took advantage of it, kept the pressure on, and Dunn got her brace in the 77th minute.
The goal looked eerily similar to Dunn’s first, and someone on the Pride should have been defending the U.S. international a little closer. Harris, who was one of the better players for the Pride, could do nothing about this goal either.
Check the stitching on that ball. @crysdunn_19 just crushed this goal.— NWSL (@NWSL) April 18, 2019
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The Courage made it 5-0 in the dying moments. Spetsmark shot from distance. It was deflected and Harris had to readjust to make the save. She got a hand to hit, the ball then hit the crossbar, bounced off Harris’ back, and rolled into the net.
That's one way to make a Swede debut, @JuliaSpetsmark.— NWSL (@NWSL) April 18, 2019
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The Courage finished with 30 shots, 13 on target, and seven corners. Orlando failed to record a single shot on target, although Pickett’s attempt was on frame and must have been judged as a cross (it didn’t look like one).
The Pride rarely held possession in the second half, and when they did struggled to get out of their own half. There was little doubt before the game of how strong North Carolina is, but this game just shows how far away Orlando is from reaching that level.
The Pride next travel to Tacoma to take on Reign FC on Sunday 10 p.m. ET.