The Orlando Pride finally won. In Piscataway, NJ, the Pride (1-7-2, 5 points) came away with a 2-1 win against Sky Blue FC (0-7-2, 2 points) in a dull and sloppy game that put a halt to Orlando’s 15-match winless streak that dated back to last year. The game saw two penalties converted — by Orlando’s Chioma Ubogagu and Sky Blue’s Sarah Killion — and an own goal created by Marisa Viggiano.
It was Marc Skinner’s first win since taking over as the Pride’s head coach and his side has gone two straight without a loss after a terrible start to the 2019 NWSL season.
Following her goal last week, Danica Evans got the start up top, with Ubogagu and Rachel Hill. She had a quiet night though. Skinner’s back four remained the same, and Dani Weatherholt, Joanna Boyles, and Viggiano completed the midfield.
The match started out all Sky Blue. The Pride defense was under immense pressure for the first 30 minutes, and goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer was lucky to hold a shutout at that point.
Raquel Rodriquez had a shot in the fourth minute that was deflected and went just wide. Four minutes later, Jennifer Hoy forced Kopmeyer into a save. Another four minutes after that should have been the opener. Imani Dorsey had the ball in the 18. She took too many touches on it though, and the Pride defense was able to recover.
Just after the 20th minute was the worst moment in the match for Orlando. Weatherholt went down holding her lower left leg. The trainer came on, and Weatherholt’s night was over. The midfielder gave the captain’s band to Toni Pressley, and Bridget Callahan was subbed on.
Orlando found the breakthrough in the 32nd minute. The Pride took a short corner to the top of the box. Carson Pickett cut inside and sent a ball forward that hit Elizabeth Eddy’s outstretched arm, and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Ubogagu stepped up to take the spot kick and coolly converted it.
After the goal, Sky Blue continued to dominate. However, the New Jersey side could not find the back of the net. The closest the hosts got was in the 45th minute. Killion sent a great ball in. Gina Lewandowski was the first player there, but her shot hit the crossbar.
The second half was sloppy and ugly from the Pride, and Sky Blue dominated. Orlando’s young midfield trio of Viggiano, Callahan, and Boyles struggled, and their youth and inexperience showed.
Kopmeyer was called into action at the hour mark. Pickett played a terrible back pass that was aimed at Pressley. Instead, it was a perfect through ball to Hoy, who cut the ball back to a wide-open Rodríguez, but Kopmeyer came up with a potential save of the week.
Five minutes later, Morgan Reid handed a goal to Sky Blue. Hoy got down the left wing. She cut inside and sent a cross to the middle of the box. Reid tried to clear the ball over her head with her back to the field. Her arms were raised, though, and it was a clear penalty. Killion converted the penalty kick and tied the game at one.
After the goal, Sky Blue held possession for just about the remainder of the game. When Orlando did manage to find it, the Pride could only keep possession among the defenders. Almost every ball that went forward was a giveaway.
This trend continued until the 81st minute. Ubogagu dragged two defenders to the corner. The forward turned and passed the ball back to Viggiano. The 22-year-old rookie then took the ball to goal. Four defenders closed in on her, but the midfielder used nifty footwork to break free and sent in a low cross. Didi Haracic parried it, but the ball hit Lewandowski and rolled into the back of the net as the Pride went up 2-1.
Sky Blue threw players forward after the goal. It looked certain that the New Jersey side would find an equalizer, but the Pride defense somehow managed to prevent another one. Orlando trailed in almost every statistical category — shots (21-6), shots on target (5-3), corners (4-2), passes (487-399), and possession (56%-44%). However, Skinner’s side fought hard and came away with its first victory of the season.
The Pride are back in action on Sunday, June 30 when they host the Chicago Red Stars at 5 p.m. ET.