The Orlando Pride had no right to go into SeatGeek Stadium in Illinois and come out with three points, but they did just that. The Pride were sloppy and failed to deal with seemingly dozens of routine balls that should have been easily cut off or cleared, but the Pride (4-11-2, 14 points) got timely goals from Rachel Hill and Chi Ubogagu and held on to beat Chicago (9-7-2, 29 points), 2-1.
Both Hill and Ubogagu also assisted on the other’s goal on a night when the Pride became the first NWSL team to receive three consecutive red cards in the league. Alanna Kennedy was sent off for a challenge in the 90th minute, knocking Sam Kerr down from behind outside the penalty area.
Orlando snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Red Stars on the road for the third consecutive time. The Pride also inched above Sky Blue FC in the NWSL standings to take over eighth place.
Morgan may have gotten the start, but she didn’t stay on the field long. Just six minutes in, on a long ball intended for Morgan, Julie Ertz crushed the Pride forward before the ball arrived and knocked her down. While falling, her head hit the hip of Sarah Gorden and Morgan stayed down.
After Chicago countered and Kerr hit the crossbar from 30 yards out after being left all alone, After play stopped, Morgan stayed on the field for several minutes before being replaced by Chioma Ubogagu in the 13th minute.
The Pride were sloppy at the back and gave the ball away cheaply and often but the Red Stars couldn’t do much with it. Orlando’s first half chance came when Hill got into the area but was a bit off balance in the 17th minute. She tried poking the ball to Ubogagu but couldn’t get much on it and Gorden took it away.
Chicago got a good look 24 minutes in when Erin Greening lost one of many battles with Yuki Nagasato, who crossed in for Vanessa DiBernardo, who had a free header but nodded wide of goal.
Hill opened the scoring in the 33rd minute against the run of play. Ubogagu threw the ball in from the sideline and took a pass from Marisa Viggiano, before lofting a gorgeous ball toward the top of the six. Hill made a brilliant run, beat the defense and flicked the ball just inside the back post and out of Alyssa Naeher’s reach to make it 1-0. It was just Hill’s second goal of the 2010 season.
The Red Stars could and should have pulled that goal right back four minutes later. Greening got beat again down the flank and the ball found Morgan Brian at the top of the area with no one in front of her, but the USWNT midfielder fired her shot right at Ashlyn Harris.
A Casey Short cross got through everyone two minutes into first-half stoppage time and Harris had to bundle it out for a corner kick. The final chance of the half came in the seventh minute of stoppage when Claire Emslie — who had an active first half — got deep in the area but had no passing options so she tried to squeeze the ball past Naeher along the goal line. The U.S. international made the save and allowed no rebound.
I can’t give you the halftime stats because the NWSL site still showed the game at the 14-minute mark on the match center page. I’m guessing Chicago had more shots and a better passing accuracy.
Orlando nearly threw the lead away in the first minute of the second half. A simple ball forward wasn’t dealt with by the defense, which struggled all night with seemingly easy clearances or interceptions, and Kerr broke in behind the defense at an angle, moving to her right. Harris came out to cut down the angle and made a vital sliding save to keep the game at 1-0.
Another awful giveaway in the defensive end found DiBernardo, who wasted the chance and fired wide of the short side in the 59th minute. That miss loomed even larger two minutes later, as the Pride doubled their lead.
Ubogagu played a ball to Hill, then blazed past the sleeping Short, took the return feed, then slotted home with her left foot to make it 2-0. With the goal, Ubogagu moved into a tie for the team lead, with four, equaling Marta’s 2019 total.
Chicago’s next good opportunity came in the 69th minute. Ertz headed a ball that took a deflection off Shelina Zadorsky and Harris did well to make sure it didn’t sneak inside the post.
The Pride did mostly a good job of killing off the game, but things did occasionally get shaky. Another seemingly routine ball forward found Kerr’s feet and Kennedy could do nothing but trip up her international teammate. She was sent off for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity as the last defender. Savannah McCaskill hit the free kick poorly and it bounced off the wall and out for a corner as the game moved into six minutes of stoppage time.
Harris did well to capture a pinballing soccer ball in the 92nd just in front of the goal line off a set piece. A minute later, Kerr headed a corner kick cross over the bar. McCaskill fired a ball off the crossbar in the 96th that ricocheted completely out of the penalty area to Tierna Davidson, who slotted home her first NWSL goal from long range on a ball that Harris either didn’t expect or see until it was too late to get over and cover her post on what wasn’t a hard-struck shot.
First a cross bar from @smccaskill_21's effort and then a shot from distance by @tierna_davidson finds the back of the net to pull a goal back for @chiredstarsPR.— NWSL (@NWSL) August 22, 2019
1-2 | #CHIvORL pic.twitter.com/2N7EMVsxcx
The Pride were able to see the game off from there and capture a big win on the road against the league’s second-place team.
Chicago led in shots (18-5), shots on goal (5-3), corners (8-1), passing accuracy (74%-65%), and possession (61%-39%) and yet, didn’t win.
The Pride were fortunate that the Red Stars were wasteful with some chances, which takes a bit of sting out of the soft goal late in stoppage time to ruin the shutout.
The road trip continues for Orlando on Saturday, when the Pride visit the Washington Spirit at 7:30 p.m.