The Orlando Pride have never come from behind to win a match in the Marc Skinner era. For a mere five minutes, it looked like that would change after Abi Kim scored in the 88th minute. But Brooke Hendrix found the equalizer in stoppage time, and the Pride tied Racing Louisville FC, 2-2. Taylor Kornieck and Kim both scored their first NWSL goals, and Meggie Dougherty Howard earned two assists in her first game with the Pride.
“We’ll take a result,” Skinner said after the match. “We always knew we were going to fight against the crowd as well as the team that we’re going to play against. It will just increase and get better as we go throughout the games. It’s risky because it’s so early.
“I’m really pleased with how the players came from behind showed resilience that we’re trying to work on them for. You know, we’re disappointed to give a goal at the end but take nothing away from Louisville, and the event tonight was a good experience for everyone.”
There were few surprises in Skinner’s starting XI. Ashlyn Harris started in net. In front of her were Phoebe McClernon and Konya Plummer in central defense, with Ali Krieger at right back and Ali Riley on the left. Dougherty Howard slotted in at center defensive midfield with Jade Moore. Marisa Viggiano, Kornieck, and Marta played above them, with Sydney Leroux as the lone striker. Viggiano, Kornieck, and Marta rotated positions throughout the game.
It was back-and-forth action to start the match. Each team had a few chances. Just two minutes in, Leroux fired a shot just over the bar in the first good look for either team. In the fourth minute, Louisville probably should’ve gone ahead, but Harris got the better of Yuki Nagasato from close range.
The breakthrough came in the 12th minute. A wonderful through ball from Emily Fox saw Cece Kizer all alone. She then did well to slot the ball behind Harris for the home side’s first-ever goal. After the goal, Harris talked to her defenders, presumably about giving the Louisville forwards too much space.
Leroux had a call for a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. She was running towards goal with Brooke Hendrix fighting to defend. The two players used their bodies to get to the ball. The attack ended with them both on the ground. It’s hard to tell if there was any foul there, but Leroux clearly was not happy with the no-call.
The Pride tied things up two minutes after that. Viggiano did well to steal the ball from Fox in the right corner, then found Dougherty Howard at the corner of the box. Dougherty Howard sent in a great cross, and Kornieck powered the header off the right post and in for the equalizer.
“It just felt so amazing,” said Kornieck. “Me and Meggie have an insane connection. She just put a ball up, right in the perfect place for me, and it just felt so incredible to finally get the first goal, break the ice, and it’s just a surreal moment for me.”
That goal was created by two Pride debutants. Dougherty Howard got her first assist with Orlando, while Kornieck scored her first NWSL goal.
Kornieck was the most threatening player for Orlando. She used her physical stature well but was also impressive with her feet. She started a few half-chances and was a focal point to the Pride in the midfield. Defensively she did well to fight to win the ball back.
“I think [Kornieck] was great,” said Skinner. “I think one of the things we’re gonna have to balance is that that some of these stronger challenges where it’s body to body, she’s going to be given fouls against. When really it’s just her strength and inner ability to do that. I thought she was excellent in terms of being some of the right places the right times. There are things that she’s going to have to keep continuing to work on. And she’s only going to get that through experience, but what she did show for the goal was just the quality we know she has. She’s literally undefendable at times when you have that ability, and that timing and that quality. So there’s a lot more to come from Taylor.”
The story of the first half for the Pride was sloppiness in possession. The team struggled to link passes together. They had a decent amount of possession (52%), but the medium-length passes’ accuracy was off. The long passes rarely connected. Louisville threw players forward on the counter, which caused issues for the Pride defense.
Both teams had four shots, but the home side put more on target (2-1). The passing accuracy was similar as well (68%-67% in favor of Louisville). Orlando was likely the happier side to come out of the half tied. Louisville was the better team, and the Pride was on the defensive end much, particularly in the opening 15 minutes. The Pride had 13 clearances, 11 tackles won, and 29 duels won.
The Pride came out of halftime much better. They controlled the ball well and gave up fewer transitional moments. After they lost the ball, Orlando fought to quickly win it back. Plummer and McClernon, who both struggled at times in the first half, made a few key interceptions and settled into the game after the break.
“I’m really proud of them,” Skinner said about his central defense. “First and foremost of all the back line, they’re going to make mistakes as part of all of the growth for tomorrow and not just the here and now. It’s in between birthing players that will give this club longevity over a period of time. They’re young, they will be exposed to decision-making things that they’ve got to draw on the experience of tonight. But their energy commitment to the whole of what we’re asking them to do is excellent.”
The Pride came into injury worries in the second half. Jade Moore picked up an injury in the 63rd minute. There were no replays of what happened, but she was able to jog off the field. Erika Tymrak came on for Moore, making her Pride debut. She moved into the right midfield, and Viggiano dropped to defensive midfield.
Just a few minutes later, Kornieck went down with a leg injury. She was able to stay in the game but was visibly hurting. Orlando had its first corner in the 76th minute. Leroux sent a ball into the box. Kornieck just missed it, but the ball fell to Marta at the top of the box. Marta took a touch. On her touch, Louisville was able to reset and get in a position to defend, blocking her shot and ending the threat. Kornieck made way for Kim after that play.
Jorian Baucom committed a bad foul in the 83rd minute, coming in hard on Riley. The foul earned Baucom a yellow card, and Riley stayed down for a few minutes afterward. Luckily, she was able to stay in the game as the tackle was borderline red.
“I mean it was really scary,” Riley said of the tackle. “I think as a defender, like those moments when you’re really vulnerable and when you clear a ball and someone comes up studs up straight into your leg — that can end your career. So obviously I was really scared. But I just wish the refs would take responsibility. At least say ‘I didn’t see it,’ or something like (that). I know she got the card but don’t say that she stepped on my foot, and then not look at my leg where I have a full cleat on my shin. So that’s just frustrating. Everyone makes mistakes and refs get it wrong, but at least acknowledge that you didn’t see what happened.”
The game seemed destined for a draw, but Kim put on some magic in the 88th minute. Dougherty Howard played a fantastic through ball out wide. Kim made the run into space and put in a perfect shot over Betos. That was Kim’s first NWSL goal.
Louisville was not done yet. Off a free kick, the Pride were unable to clear it. The ball ended up falling right to an unmarked Hendrix inside the box. Hendrix had little trouble finishing it to tie it back up at 2-2.
The Pride out-shot Louisville, 11-8, but struggled to get shots on target (2). Possession was a perfect 50/50 split, and Louisville was slightly better in passing accuracy (71%-69%). Defensively, the Pride dominated the stat sheet and held more duels won (57-41), tackles (22-8), and clearances (19-11).
The Pride have a quick turnaround and are back in action on Wednesday. Orlando hosts Gotham FC on April 14 at 7 p.m.