The Orlando Pride returned home after two road matches looking for their first win of the season. Instead, they found more frustration in the final third and continued to allow good scoring chances at the back in a 1-0 loss to Utah Royals FC in front of 4,640 fans at Orlando City Stadium. Christen Press scored the game’s only goal.
Accountability is the word that Orlando Pride Head coach Marc Skinner continuously used after the game. He said that players need to take more accountability for themselves and the failure of it was a key reason why Orlando (0-3-1, 1 point) lost to Utah (2-0-0, 6 points).
“I think what’s really, really missing from this team is a consistency,” said Skinner. “The first half was far too passive. Second half was much better, but we were just out of the game by that time. We give teams too many leads, and that’s what we’ve got to fix.”
Skinner deployed nearly the same starting XI as the North Carolina game. Ashlyn Harris was a last-minute switch after picking up an injury in warm-ups. Haley Kopmeyer got her first start of the year and fourth start for the Pride overall. Camila made way for Chioma Ubogagu from last week, and the back line remained the same for the third consecutive week.
“From my perspective, you really never know what is going to happen,” Kopmeyer said. “Obviously before the start of the game, I did what I normally try to do and prepare no matter what. It’s one of those rare instances in a career when you get called upon when maybe that day you’re thinking you might not. But this is why I’m here, and I was ready for it.”
The game was very back and forth to start. Both teams had chances, and there were four corners in the first 12 minutes. Carson Pickett sent in a good cross on one of them in the seventh minute that found Alanna Kennedy’s head. The ball hit Utah goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and went behind her, but the ‘keeper fell on top of it and saved it with her back.
Utah found the go-ahead goal in the 19th minute and was on the front foot for the rest of the half. Press did well to control the ball on the top of the box, and then turned and shot. It was a slow-moving ball that Kopmeyer probably should have gotten. However, it was deflected off of Shelina Zadorsky which made it difficult for Kopmeyer to adjust to.
“The goal was just ridiculous,” said Skinner. “It was a ridiculous goal. You can’t concede things like that and hope to build the foundations that we need to go forward. I just talked in the huddle [with the team] at the end about accountability. The players must be accountable for that because no coach in the world can stop that goal from going in. It needs to be stopped by the players.”
Utah controlled play for the rest of the half. The Pride were second best, but they still almost got on the score sheet. The play continued to stall in the final third, though, and the last ball was missing.
Ali Krieger hit a ball over the top in the 26th minute, but Chioma Ubogagu just missed on it. Four minutes later, Orlando used excellent buildup play to get down the field. Morgan then tried to pass to Ubogagu, but it was too strong. It was a similar situation a few minutes later when Pickett put in a cross that was just a bit too hard and Morgan was unable to make good contact.
“I think we could use some more numbers in the attack,” Morgan said. “I think that we attack in a block and I think if we could get up our defensive six, that would help a lot and just in the readings in the attacking third and the central half.”
Utah led in most of the statistics at the half. The Royals had more shots (9-5), shots on goal (4-2), total passes (257-170), and possession (60%-40%) than Orlando. The Pride were better in the second half but still struggled to get into the match.
“No excuses; it’s a no excuse culture. We have to create that,” said Skinner. “That’s the hard part for us. Because everybody wants to hide behind, ‘it’s not my fault, it’s their fault.’ No, no, no, no. Everybody’s accountable. That will be the word that rings out on this press conference. Accountability. I’m accountable, the players must be accountable.”
Orlando had a golden opportunity in the opening minutes of the second half. Good ball movement led to Morgan playing in Ubogagu. The England international took a shot from about six yards out, but her shot was well wide of the net.
There was not much happening for most of the second half. Utah was comfortable with its 1-0 lead and sat a bit deeper and held onto the ball well. Kopmeyer was called into action in the 58th minute, but it was an easy near-post save.
Starting in the 60th minute, the Pride had a few chances to get the tying goal. It was the same story as the first half though, and Orlando struggled with the final ball. Orlando finished the game with 10 corners, and most of them were dangerous. Carson Pickett and Emily van Egmond took the majority of them, and almost all were aimed at Kennedy. The Australian international continued to get on the end of the services, but they were easy saves for Barnhart.
Press nearly got a brace in the 64th minute. She took a one-timer off the volley, but Kopmeyer got there to make the stop and keep Orlando in it.
About 15 minutes later Orlando had its best opportunity of the game. Pickett cut inside and took a shot from a distance. The ball somehow got past all the traffic but was heading wide. Kennedy was there, running onto the ball, but her slide to put it in the back of the net was just a little late, and it went out for a goal kick.
The Pride had one more chance in the dying minutes. Morgan was fouled at the top of the box. Marta and Kennedy stood over the ball, but it was the Brazilian who took it. With a one-step run, Marta chipped the ball over the wall but it went inches above the crossbar as well.
Orlando finished with 15 shots, four on target, and just 44% possession. Morgan only tallied one shot, which was not on target, and after the game said that she should have been a bit more selfish.
“I think the teams that have had the same coach over the last couple of years is probably a little bit easier,” Morgan said. “With the style that Marc wants to implement, I think that it’s going to lengthen the process more. It’s not going to be a two- to three-month process, it’s more of a four- to six-month thing.”
The Pride play again next week against the Houston Dash on Sunday, May 5 at BBVA Compass Stadium.