As we count down to the new year of 2021 — which will be Orlando City’s seventh in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s sixth in the NWSL — and say goodbye (and good riddance) to 2020, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.
It was a rough year for the Orlando Pride. The NWSL didn’t have a regular season, the club had to pull out of the NWSL Challenge Cup due to positive COVID-19 tests just before the start of the tournament, many of the club’s top newcomers didn’t play a second of action for the team, and the top players went to compete in Europe, leaving a young and unproven squad to take part in the NWSL Fall Series.
None of it was ideal for Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner, who was eager to prove that 2018 wasn’t a representative sample of his leadership of the club. Orlando played only four matches in the calendar year — all of them in the 2020 NWSL Fall Series, a made-up group of friendlies in which the league divided its teams into “pods” to play each other in a round robin format. The Pride just happened to be geographically located closest to the Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash and the defending league champion North Carolina Courage.
Orlando went on the road and got a surprising scoreless draw at North Carolina — another team that fielded a young lineup, although the Courage still had some of their stars. The Houston Dash then swept the Pride, setting up the last game of the Fall Series as Orlando’s last opportunity to win a game in 2020. While the Pride didn’t come away with three points, Orlando did rally after a terrible end to the opening half to take something from the match in dramatic fashion.
Debinha staked the Courage to a 1-0 lead and that looked like it would be the halftime score. But Lynn Williams scored five minutes into first-half injury time to make it 2-0, and Debinha tripled the lead a minute later after an errant pass by the Pride. The Courage took a 3-0 lead and a lot of momentum into halftime.
But the Pride refused to go quietly in their final match of the season — and the final match in Orlando for some of the younger players who participated. Katelyn Rowland made a save on a Sydney Leroux shot, but Marisa Viggiano was first to the ball and put the Pride on the board in the 54th minute.
As the match entered the final 20 minutes, Kristen Edmonds cut the North Carolina lead to 3-2, curling a left-footed shot around the goalkeeper and it was suddenly game on in the 71st minute.
Defense is at a premium in this one. @Kris10edmonds nets the fifth goal in the contest to pull @ORLPride within a goal.— NWSL (@NWSL) October 17, 2020
2-3 | #ORLvNC
Tune in now on @CBS and @Twitch.#NWSLFallSeries | #VerizonCommunityShield pic.twitter.com/Vc0REhYhc7
It looked like Orlando would run out of time, but the Pride kept fighting. The Pride won a free kick in stoppage time and Marta stepped up to take the set piece. The Brazilian talisman sent in a good cross and Ally Haran rose up to meet it, beating a pair of Courage defenders and heading past Rowland to equalize the match at 3-3.
For Haran, it was her first goal with the Pride and it might turn out to be her only one, as the short-term contract player’s deal expired after the 2020 Fall Series. But her goal allowed the Pride a rare moment of glory in a shortened and frustrating season in the 3-3 draw.
“I’m immensely proud,” Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said of the comeback. “I think you summed it up right as a roller coaster, again. We left it to the second half again to be impactful in the way that we know we could. Again, those are good games to be on the end of, obviously if you are the one coming back, but I’m so proud. I didn’t think we played particularly too bad — a couple of defending moments that we could do better on, but apart from that I thought they were just tremendous and I’m really, really proud of every single one of them.”
The Pride finished the Fall Series at 0-2-2, taking only two points from the four games. However, Orlando did manage to avoid finishing last in the Fall Series, beating Utah Royals FC — also 0-2-2 in the Fall Series — on goal differential.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City SC’s top 10 moments of 2020.