The Orlando Pride’s modest two-game unbeaten streak is over. Sam Kerr scored a hat trick in her return from the World Cup as the Pride (1-8-2, 5 points) continuously gifted the Red Stars (4-4-2, 14 points) chances in a 3-2 win over Orlando at Exploria Stadium.
Sam Kerr turned three Orlando turnovers into Red Stars goals to lead the visitors to victory. The Pride got goals from Chioma Ubogagu and Marta — from the penalty spot — to keep the game within reach but despite a late barrage of possession which produced a few chances, the hosts could not equalize.
Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner talked at length about the team’s mistakes after the match.
“Look, we can’t give away the goals that we’ve given away and win a game,” he said. “We’ve again — third consecutive game — scored two goals and lost the game. It’s not acceptable.”
“I wish the result was different, but we’ll still keep working hard to improve more to find a way to start to win the games,” Marta said.
Skinner wasted no time inserting Marta back into the starting lineup, slotting her up top next to center forward Rachel Hill, with Ubogagu on the left in her normal slot. With Dani Weatherholt out, the midfield (left to right) consisted of rookie Marisa Viggiano, Bridget Callahan, and Joanna Boyles. The back line in front of Haley Kopmeyer remained unchanged: Erin Greening, Morgan Reid, Toni Pressley, and Carson Pickett.
Back from the World Cup, Kerr made her presence felt immediately. A terrible back pass from Reid was too slow, allowing Kerr to run in and take it away, round Kopmeyer and fire it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Pride nearly pulled the goal right back. Marta sent in one of her patented stellar crosses that found Pickett making a run from the left. Pickett got a touch on it but Emily Boyd made a huge reaction save to preserve Chicago’s lead.
Callahan was forced off after a midfield collision with Yuki Nagasato as the two players clashed heads. After treatment on the field, Callahan was escorted directly to the locker room by the training staff and Camila subbed on in the 16th minute.
Six minutes later the Pride equalized. A back pass to Boyd ended up with the goalkeeper taking a heavy touch. Ubogagu beat Boyd to the ball and slotted into the empty net to make it 1-1 in the 22nd minute.
Kopmeyer made a nice save to deny Casey Short in the 32nd minute after the Chicago right back nutmegged Pressley on the perimeter, walked right around her and fired.
After a brief hydration break, Orlando went on the attack and Ubogagu got into the box but slipped and fell before she could shoot or find a teammate in the 35th minute.
The Red Stars sank a dagger into the Pride in first-half stoppage time. Kopmeyer sent a short goal kick that Nagasato headed back toward Orlando’s goal. Kerr was ready but the Pride defense was not. The Chicago star striker won the race to the loose ball and slotted home past Kopmeyer, who had come off her line too late to have any effect on the onrushing Kerr, letting the visitors take a 2-1 lead just before the break.
Chicago out-shot the Pride 8-2 in the first half (5-2 on target), held 51% of the possession, and was the more accurate passing team (78%-73%).
Orlando continued making mistakes after the break. Greening got beat down the wing shortly after the restart and the ball ended up with Vanessa DiBernardo at the top of the area, but her shot went wide. In the 51st, another poor back pass by Pressley was picked up by Kerr, but this time Kopmeyer was able to save it. The rebound was left for Chicago but the follow-up shot was wide.
Kerr completed her hat trick in the 55th minute off another turnover. The Australian international received the ball after a Greening turnover and cut across the field, blazing past Pressley with speed and powered a shot back against the grain to beat Kopmeyer, building the lead to 3-1.
Chicago took control of the game for about the next 20 minutes. Kopmeyer was forced into making a few saves on shots from distance. The Pride also continued to turn the ball over carelessly. A Pickett turnover nearly led to Kerr’s fourth goal of the game but the Aussie sent her shot wide and into the side netting in the 71st minute. A minute later Pickett cleared a Kerr header off the line off a cross into the box.
Kopmeyer made the save of the game in the 77th minute. Pressley’s turnover gifted Danielle Colaprico with an opportunity and her rocket toward the far post seemed to be headed in until Kopmeyer got her hands on it to push it wide.
A minute later, the Pride got a lifeline. Marta sent a gorgeous ball to the left side to Camila, who cut in between two defenders and was tripped by Brooke Elby. Marta stepped up and smashed the penalty kick home to make it 3-2 in the 79th minute.
Orlando did get the ball in and around the penalty area in the final minutes of the game but couldn’t produce a clear-cut chance. In fact, the opposite almost happened, as Kerr jumped on a Pickett giveaway and nearly scored from near midfield but Kopmeyer ran back and got a hand to it just in time to keep it out.
Chicago out-shot the Pride, 20-6 (12-4 on target), out-possessed Orlando (53%-47%), and passed more accurately (78%-72%). In the end it was the turnovers that doomed the Pride in this one.
“We’re still going to keep playing out from the back,” Skinner said. “I’ve never known anybody to get better at a skill if you stop doing it, so for me, to be better at things, even though they’re higher risk, you only see the beauty of it after you’ve gone through the pain.”
“I think we need to trust more. I think we need to have more confidence,” Marta said through a club interpreter. “I think it was unacceptable the goals that got scored. It was just too easy. I just feel like if it was me having all those balls (that Sam Kerr got) I would have scored as well.”
Marta explained to the assembled media that soccer boils down to two basics — trapping and passing — and said the team needs to work on just doing those simple basic skills in order to progress.
Orlando still hasn’t earned a single point at home and the team’s performances and the afternoon heat kept the Exploria Stadium crowd to a disappointing 3,906.
The Pride will welcome the Washington Spirit to Exploria Stadium next Saturday at 7:30 p.m.