The Orlando Pride (4-14-2, 14 points) fell to the North Carolina Courage (11-4-4, 37 points) 6-1 in Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in front of a Courage record crowd of 9,563. The crowd was there for Heather O’Reilly, as the club was celebrating her career. Despite a great effort by Ashlyn Harris, the Courage had too much firepower for the Pride to handle.
The Courage scored two goals in the first half, and Orlando added an own goal. North Carolina doubled that number before the match was out with five different players scoring. Rachel Hill managed the Pride’s only goal of the match.
With Alex Morgan and Marta still unavailable, Marc Skinner made some changes to his starting XI. The Pride came out in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Kristen Edmonds, Shelina Zadorsky, Ali Krieger, and Erin Greening started on the back line. Dani Weatherholt and Alanna Kennedy in the defensive midfield, with Abby Elinski, Marissa Viggiano, and Claire Emslie in the attacking midfield. Danica Evans started up top.
The Pride came out fairly aggressively against the league’s top team. For five minutes, the Pride’s sense of purpose seemed to catch the Courage off guard, but in the sixth minute Lynn WIlliams put into the ball into the back of the net to give North Carolina a 1-0 lead.
In the ninth minute Kristen Hamilton made it into Orlando’s area, but Harris was able to get a hand on it to keep the score even. On the ensuing corner kick, Harris made another save, but couldn’t hold onto the ball. It bounced around, and fortunately the ball went out for a goal kick. In the 11th minute, Hamilton made another run up the left side, and Greening got a hand on her. The result of which was a yellow card for Greening, and a penalty kick for the Courage.
Abby Dahlkemper took the spot kick for the Courage, but Harris dove to her left, and made a huge save. The ensuing corner kick looked to have given North Carolina its second goal, but it was ruled offside.
In the 19th minute, Lynn Williams made another run for the Courage. Again, Harris came off her line, cut down the angle and Williams sent the ball wide right. The Pride continued to try to push the ball forward, but couldn’t seem to get into the final third of the pitch.
North Carolina was relentless, with a wide open Debinha missing a header, sending the ball right to Harris. Harris made a save in the 22nd minute, and in the 25th minute another Williams shot went just over the goal.
Finally, in the 28th minute Elinski made a long run up the middle of the pitch, but ended up with a yellow card when she tried to get the ball back after losing it. Less than a minute later, Kennedy also received a yellow as the Courage tried to get the ball going back the other way.
The Courage continued to attack, with Debinha taking a shot that was once again saved by Harris. Unfortunately, Harris was unable to make the save against Edmonds, who scored an own goal while trying to clear the ball over the goal in the 37th minute.
In the 41st minute, Jess McDonald one-touched the cross from Jaelene Hinkle just inside the right post to give the Courage a 3-0 lead.
Despite four minutes of stoppage time, the Pride were able to see the half out.
The second half picked up right where the first left off, with the Courage on the front foot and the Pride trying to press up the pitch. In the 47th minute Edmonds earned the Pride’s first corner kick of the night, but they were unable to capitalize.
North Carolina went back on the attack, and in the 51st minute, McDonald looked to have a chance for the Courage, as Harris came out to make another save, but the play was ruled offside. Less than a minute later, Debinha had another shot, but it went wide left.
Harris took a hard shot after making a save in the 54th minute. It looked as though she may have taken a cleat to the chest. Fortunately for the Pride, she was able to continue. North Carolina had several more shots that were off target, and in the 72nd minute Heather O’Reilly took a shot. Harris’ swiping save to deny the Courage another goal should be a Goal of the Week contender.
The Pride were able to stave off the Courage for over 30 minutes in the second half. However, in the 78th minute, McKenzie Meehan opened her account, putting the courage up 4-0.
The Pride pulled one back in the 82nd minute on a spectacular goal from Hill. It was the Pride’s only goal of the night, and things got much worse after that.
In the 85th minute, O’Reilly finally got her goal. She put it in the upper right corner, and Harris never had a chance.
Once again, four minutes of stoppage time were given, and Debinha took advantage of the added time to score the final goal in the 92nd minute.
In the 93rd minute, O’Reilly was subbed off, and the Pride voluntarily played with 10 players to see the match out. It was a tough night for the Pride, though to be fair the Courage are very, very good.
North Carolina managed 23 shots with 11 on target to the Pride’s four shots with two on target. The Courage held 68% of the possession to the Pride’s 32%. If not for several outstanding saves from Harris, the final score would have been much worse.
Orlando doesn’t play again until Sept. 29, when they travel to take on Sky Blue FC at 1 p.m.