The Orlando Pride may not be exactly where they want to be just yet, but the team is improving and starting to build momentum. Sunday evening’s 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit was the team’s third consecutive result — a first in the Marc Skinner era — and it was just the second time the Pride avoided a loss in their season opener in their NWSL existence.
That might not seem like a lot, but it’s something to build on. The Pride were the league’s bottom feeders in 2019 and the 2020 season was lost to COVID-19 and player loans to Europe. Skinner and the Pride had to start to turn things around and they are starting to show signs of doing that. Orlando went 1-1-2 in the NWSL Challenge Cup and with a little more fortune late in the first two games, could actually have won the East Division. The team has earned a point or more in the final two Challenge Cup matches and in the NWSL regular season opener.
Oh, and Alex Morgan just scored her first goal for the club since 2018.
That last point cannot be overstated. Morgan’s absence for most of 2019 due to international duty and injury contributed in part to the way the season unfolded. While it’s true that Morgan could again be gone for a big chunk of the season since this is an Olympic year, it’s important that she contributes to the team now while she’s in Orlando — and that she does so again after the Olympics. Now that she’s seen one go in, she’ll hopefully be able to get on a roll.
Pride teams of seasons past might have packed it in after missing several good scoring opportunities before conceding a goal in the final quarter hour. Those teams in recent years might have shipped another goal or two before the final whistle. But the 2021 Pride seem to be fighters. They scrapped all game and managed to get the right ball to the right player at the right time to salvage a point.
We hope you enjoy these images of an exciting opening day match against the Spirit.
Photos: Dan MacDonald
Words: Michael Citro