The Orlando Pride (0-5-1, 1 point) remain winless in 2019, but at least Orlando found the back of the net. Toni Pressley scored first, but then the Portland Thorns (2-0-2, 8 points) scored three unanswered goals and Orlando fell 3-1 in front of 4,369 fans at Orlando City Stadium.
“I’m proud of what they did tonight,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “Could the quality be better? Of course, it could always be better. But they give everything and I’m really pleased with that and that shows the foundations that we are trying to build for a better tomorrow.”
With the Americans and Canadian out on international duty, and Alanna Kennedy and Kristen Edmonds injured, Skinner was forced to make some significant changes to the starting XI. Toni Pressley returned from injury and slotted into the back line. Morgan Reid saw the pitch for the first time in her professional career, partnering with Pressley, and finished with four tackles.
“It feels great to be back on the field with my team, especially scoring a goal,” Pressley said. “I think that we still have a lot of work to do. It’s not great losing here on our home field, letting three goals in. There’s still a lot of work to be done but it feels great to be back out with the girls.”
When the game started, it looked like it was going to be a repeat of the season opener. Portland had all the momentum and was pushing forward. Orlando somehow managed to get out of the spell without conceding and the game changed in the 10th minute.
Orlando won a corner, and Carson Pickett sent in an in-swinger to the near post. Pressley was first to it, and her header went sailing into the back of the net.
Portland almost got right down the field and equalized. Ana Maria Crnogorcevic made a good run and got behind the Pride back line. She somehow got past goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer also, but Erin Greening was there to stop the attack.
The game was fairly even with back-and-forth action until the 28th minute. Caitlin Foord took a shot from just outside the box. Kopmeyer had the net covered, but the ball hit the post, and the ‘keeper couldn’t get up in time. Dagny Brynjarsodottir was the first to react and passed it into the back of the net to level the score at one.
About 10 minutes later, Ellie Carpenter was all alone at the top of the box, and all Rachel Hill could do to stop the attack was bring Carpenter down. Hill was rightly given a yellow, and the Thorns had a free kick just outside the box. Andressinha stood over the ball and sent it into the top corner.
The half ended 2-1 in Portland’s favor, but there were many positives for the Pride. However, the two goals that Orlando allowed were very preventable. The Pride held 48% possession, took six shots, and managed to get two on frame.
“[The message at halftime was] that we just keep going, keep fighting, we stick to the game plan,” said Pressley. “You know, we never doubt ourselves. So, even though we were 2-1 down we still believed, we still wanted to come back out and keep fighting and get that goal, get that tie, then get the third goal. So that was our mentality coming out from halftime. We just keep going, keep fighting, keep pushing.”
The second half started out evenly, and the game was played mostly in the middle of the field. Portland had most of the ball though and took advantage of the possession in the 57th minute.
Carpenter had the ball out wide, and Hill was defending about as well as a forward typically defends. The ball ended up falling right to Foord, who was wide open, and Kopmeyer had no chance of keeping out her shot.
That goal brought all the momentum to Portland, and the Pride players looked dejected. Then, in the 65th minute, the Thorns seemed about ready to end all hopes of a comeback. Pressley took down Midge Purce in the box, and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Kopmeyer came up huge with a save and then another on the rebound and kept Orlando in it.
The save brought all the momentum to Orlando, and the crowd got back into it. Orlando had a few chances on the other end but once again struggled with the final ball. The theme was getting the ball wide and send in a cross, but the final ball was always missing. Orlando players had a few headers that went wide of the post, but mostly the crosses were defended by Portland.
As the game moved into stoppage time, apparently Mother Nature was also unhappy with the result. There was lightning and the referee suspended play in the 91st minute, instead of just calling it. There was about an hour weather delay before the final three minutes. To no surprise, it was uneventful.
“Everyone just wanted to use those two minutes to show our heart and determination and try to get a goal,” said Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt. “It really showed the character of our group.”
The Pride had 14 shots and five on goal. Before this game, Orlando had a total of six shots on goal all season. The Pride finished with 49% possession and 17 fouls, compared to Portland’s eight.
The Pride are back in action Saturday, May 25 when Orlando travels to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Utah Royals FC at 8 p.m. ET.