The Orlando Pride traveled to Sandy, UT, and it was much of the same story. Orlando (0-6-1, 1 point) struggled in the final third, lacked creativity, and was outplayed by the Utah Royals. Amy Rodriguez and Makenzy Doniak both scored as the Royals (4-1-1, 13 points) won 2-0 and moved into first place. Orlando, meanwhile, remains winless and at the bottom of the table, one point behind Sky Blue FC.
It was a much different lineup for the Pride with all of the international players gone — one that was highlighted with youngsters. The back four remained the same from Orlando’s 3-1 loss to Portland. Bridget Callahan returned to the starting XI for the first time since the opening match and struggled to make an impact. Dani Weatherholt wore the captain’s armband, but was also quiet.
It was the Abby Elinsky show in the first half. The midfielder was all over the field and doing everything for the Pride. She was up and down the field, putting work in on both ends, and looked like the only player who wanted to play. The first half itself was rather dull, and there was little action. Both teams could have gone ahead early on, but the game settled itself pretty quickly.
In the second minute, Becca Moros sent a ball to Amy Rodriguez, who tried a shot from distance. Kopmeyer was forced to make a one-handed save that just barely stayed out of the back of the net.
A minute later, Rachel Hill had a chance on the opposite end. The striker took a shot from distance, and Utah ‘keeper Nicole Barnhart was forced to make a save. A few minutes later, Katie Stengel almost opened the scoring, but Kopmeyer kept the game goalless.
In the 27th minute, Hill should have put Orlando up 1-0. Greening sent a through ball over the top and Hill had a great look on goal. Her shot was aimed to the near post, though, and it was an easy save for Barnhart.
The breakthrough finally happened in the 31st minute. Callahan took out Vero Boquete from behind in the box and was lucky to walk away without a card on the challenge. Rodriguez took the penalty kick and nailed it into the top corner.
Utah held onto the ball very well for the rest of the half and Orlando struggled to get back into it. All the momentum was with the home team and, other than Elinsky, there was very little movement from the Pride. The midfielder nearly got on the board as the half was drawing to an end. She had the ball in the box but had no help. With three Utah defenders on her, Elinsky had no choice but to take them on and ended up winning a corner.
Most of the halftime stats were close except for possession. Orlando held the ball for just 34% of the half but did manage more shots (6-5). The Pride had seven corners, but no good looks came from any of them.
The second half was much of the same for the Pride. Orlando struggled to get anything going forward and had nothing in the final third. Utah did well in possession, and the Pride found it challenging to break the Royals down.
Directly after halftime, Callahan had an awful giveaway that nearly gifted Utah a goal. Orlando was able to clear the chance, though.
It looked certain that Rodriguez would get her brace. She finished with six shots but had a tough time getting the majority of them on target. In the 49th minute, her shot went just high.
Carson Pickett went down in the 53rd minute. Fighting for a 50/50 ball with Lo’eau Labonta, Pickett won the duel. Labonta then deliberately kicked Pickett’s shin, and the fullback immediately went down injured. The deliberate attempt to injure should have been a sending off to Labonta, but the referee did not even call a foul. After getting helped off the field, Pickett was eventually able to return to the game.
There really wasn’t much else happening in the match. Utah controlled the ball, finishing with 60% possession, and Orlando lacked creatively without its star international players. Danica Evans and Caitlin Farrell both entered late in the game but did not have a significant effect on the match. Evans’ flip throws put the ball into dangerous positions, but no one could get on the end of them. Farrell had a shot in the box in the 88th minute that was blocked.
Following that block, Doniak scored for Utah to make it 2-0. There is no video of how the goal happened though. The game was showing a replay during the play after a possible handball shout in the Utah penalty area, and the replay only shows Doniak putting the ball in the back of the net.
Orlando tried throwing everyone forward after that. The Pride won a few corners, but nothing came of them. Utah controlled most of the stats, including shots (16-12), shots on goal (4-3), possession (59.3%-40.7%), passing accuracy (78.1%-66.4%), and clearances (29-10).
The Pride play one more game before the World Cup break. Orlando hosts the North Carolina Courage on June 1 at 7:30 p.m.