The Orlando Pride (4-14-2, 14 points) had a chance to move out of last place with a win. Instead, the Pride kept the Chicago Red Stars (11-8-2, 35 points) goalless for 94 minutes before the visitors scored with the last touch of the game. Casey Short’s header deep in stoppage time snapped the scoreless deadlock and sent the Pride to yet another loss despite Chicago having a player sent off just past the half-hour mark.
The Pride fell 1-0 to the Red Stars in front of 4,592 fans in Exploria Stadium. Chicago dominated the match but Ashlyn Harris kept the Pride in it with six fantastic saves.
“It will be probably be the lowest that Orlando Pride has been and only from there can you rise up,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “My job is to make sure that we manage until the end of the season, and then focus on developing the players, making sure they are growing. Then recruiting in the off-season to make sure that we have a team that continues to have a mental resistance to be successful.”
Skinner opted to go with Kristen Edmonds and Erin Greening as fullbacks with Ali Krieger and Shelina Zadorsky in the center of the defense. Alanna Kennedy, Joanna Boyles, and Marisa Viggiano played in front of them. Claire Emslie and Rachel Hill played the wings with Camila up top.
The first half was pretty uneventful. Chicago dominated and Orlando struggled to gain possession. The Pride finished the half with 61% passing accuracy on just 153 passes. Most of them were from the defenders too, as Camila, Hill, and Emslie combined for only 23 passes.
Orlando had one shot on target in the half. It came in the sixth minute. Hill sent in a good long-range cross. The ball found Emslie, but the winger was unable to get it past Alyssa Naeher.
Chicago was threatening the rest of the half but could not find the back of the net. Sam Kerr was kept in check, most by the Pride successfully playing an offside trap. Kerr did have a shot late in the half, but it was blocked in front.
Harris made an incredible save in the 26th minute. Katie Johnson took a rocket of a shot from distance. The ball was headed for the top corner, but Harris got to it and punched it out for a corner.
“I thought [the defense] was brilliant,” Skinner said. “I thought Ash made some world-class saves. I thought Ali and Shelina were excellent. Erin will make positional mistakes but she won’t lack in effort and heart to give to the team. And obviously Kris this was her third or fourth 90 minutes in the whole season. I think they were very, very resilient.”
Chicago led the Pride in shots (7-4), shots on goal (2-1), corners (5-0), and possession (64% - 36%). The stats don’t do the half justice though as Chicago was more dominant than the numbers show. Orlando attempted to beat the Red Stars on the counter but struggled connecting forward passes. The Pride’s impressive back four, which turned into a back five at times, limited the Red Stars from getting many good looks on net.
“I thought we should have put our chances away. We had an opportunity to win the game,” said Emslie. “We worked hard. The first half wasn’t very good but I think second half we were much better. But at the end of the day we just need to put the ball in the back of the net.”
The second half started much of the same way. Chicago dominated and Orlando had no answer. Kerr missed two chances in the first 10 minutes of the half, both of which she should have converted.
In the 56th minute, Harris had one of the best saves of the year. She parried a corner but could not hold onto it. The ball bounced around, and the ‘keeper made two saves from on the ground to deny Chicago its opener.
The Pride finally caught a break in the 64th minute. Johnson took a hard, late challenge on Edmonds. It was Johnson’s second yellow, and she was ejected. Afterwards, Krieger pulled the team together and looked to try to motivate the players to keep working for the rest of the match.
In the 75th minute, Kerr again should scored. She finally beat the offside trap. Krieger tried to bring her down, but Kerr was too strong. The NWSL goal leader was in on goal, but Harris came up huge with the one-on-one save.
“Ash kept us in that game,” Edmonds said. “She had a few good saves tonight — world class saves. It’s always nice to be super confident in your ‘keeper behind you to know that if they get in behind you that you still have a chance and Ash came up massive tonight.”
Orlando finally decided to push forward in the last 10 minutes of the match, and it ended with a few chances. However, the Pride were unable to convert on any of the opportunities. Bad shots, poorly played passes, and awful decisions cost the Pride, and they failed to break Chicago’s defense.
In the dying minutes, the Pride earned a corner. No one got on the end of it though, and Ertz dribbled out of the box. She then sent Chicago on the counter. After some desperate defending the ball fell out wide to Kerr. The Australian then sent in a perfect cross and Casey Short headed it past Harris. The ‘keeper got a hand on it but could not keep it out.
The Pride did not have any shots on target in the second half, and Chicago led 7-1 on the match. The Red Stars also had more shots (16-10), corners (8-2), passes (417-332), and possession (56%).
The Pride will next face the North Carolina Courage on Saturday at 7 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park.