A late equalizer by Courtney Petersen canceled out a late first-half goal as the Orlando Pride (3-0-3, 12 points) drew NJ/NY Gotham FC (2-1-2, 8 points) 1-1 at Exploria Stadium. It was the sixth straight result to start the season as the Pride stay on top of the NWSL.
The Pride starting lineup was largely what was expected. Head Coach Marc Skinner has stated that he’s looking for consistency and he showed that in his starting XI. Notable was the return of Sydney Leroux. The attacker missed the 1-1 draw with the Washington Spirit due to an injury on June 6. However, Skinner said during his pregame press conference Friday that Leroux was ready and she was inserted back into the lineup this evening.
It was an open game from the beginning with both teams getting plenty of chances. Gotham had the first real opportunity to open the scoring in the seventh minute when Jennifer Cudjoe fired on goal. However, her shot sailed over the crossbar, failing to give Ashlyn Harris much trouble.
The first shot on target was courtesy of Marta. In the 13th minute, the Brazilian weaved her way through the Gotham defense, creating space near the top corner of the six-yard box. She was able to get a shot off on goal, but Kailen Sheridan did well to get down and make the stop.
As the first half continued, the Pride play was mostly on the left, with crosses coming in from Leroux or Courtney Petersen. Despite finding Alex Morgan and Taylor Kornieck on several occasions, the Pride entered first half stoppage time with only one shot on target.
The Pride were punished for their lack of finishing in the 45th minute. After a turnover by Ali Krieger in her own half, Caprice Dydasco found herself with the ball near the corner of the box. So-Dam Lee was making a run toward the far post when Dydasco played a looping ball toward Ashlyn Harris’ net. The Pride goalkeeper reached up but she was too far out and the ball hit the inside of the net for the opening goal.
“I don’t think she meant to shoot that,” Petersen said after the game. “I think it came off her foot wrong. Phoebe got unlucky and she slipped and it was a 3-v-1 against me and I just had to keep them wide. Things like that happen.”
The Gotham strike woke the Pride up as they created several chances as the half wound down. Morgan barely missed wide and Jonsdottir connected with a cross by Petersen but it went high of the target.
The Pride had another run of chances with less than half an hour left. In the 62nd minute, Morgan found Leroux making a run into the box. While Leroux was able to catch up to it and get a shot off, Sheridan had closed down the space enough to make an easy block.
A minute later, a cross from the left found Morgan in front of goal. The USWNT striker attempted a volley as she fell but her shot weakly slid wide of the post.
In the 66th minute, Ali Riley got into the action from the right. Her strong cross into the box was searching for a Pride head but was too close to Sheridan and the goalkeeper was able to collect.
Gotham nearly doubled its lead in the 70th minute. A poor clearance by the Pride back line allowed Lee to find herself with the ball right in front of goal. However, her shot was directly at Harris, allowing the Pride to escape the dangerous situation.
As the clock neared 90 minutes, it seemed as though the Pride had run out of chances. The teams had tired and chances dwindled. But then came the 90th-minute equalizer.
Petersen received a pass from Marta on the left and, in a shot very similar to the goal by Dydasco in the first half, sent in a ball that sailed over Sheridan’s hand and into the goal. It was the first goal for Petersen in her young NWSL career.
“That goal was 100% a team goal,” Petersen said. “Without Erika (Tymrak) tracking back and pressing to win that ball and finding Marta’s feet to attack, the goal would’ve never happened. I was just running up as fast as I could and when I got the ball, I was just trying to place the ball in a dangerous area. I saw Alex and the next thing you know, it’s in the back of the net.”
“Offensively Courtney is a weapon,” Harris said about Petersen. “I mean her left foot, the ability to get so much power and pace on it with one step is, is very incredible and you know it really sets the team up for success, especially with the attacking power we have.”
Gotham held 57.6% possession in the end but that was the only statistic in which the visitors were on top. The Pride out-shot their visitors 16-12 and 6-3 in shots on goal. The home side also won 61.8% of the duels between the two teams.
“Truthfully, I think we had a majority of the game,” Harris said following the game. “I think we had a majority of the chances. You know we struggled to put the game away early, and it comes back and it kind of bites you in the ass sometimes and sometimes football is a cruel sport, and that’s exactly what happened.”
This was largely a game of wasted chances. The Pride had several opportunities to score earlier than they did and take all three points.
“I thought we were the better team,” Skinner said after the game. “I thought the chances we created were much better than the chances they created. I think both goals were crosses but they both flew into the net.
“We created enough chances to win this game two to three times over with the quality of the chances. They’re good at all possession, but we chased, hurried, harassed, and kind of never gave up and that’s the attitude of the Pride.”
The late goal lifted the Pride to their sixth-straight result to open the 2021 NWSL regular season. As the players celebrated the point in front of the Black Swans supporters’ group, chants of “undefeated” rang out around Exploria Stadium, showing what the point meant to the team and its fans.
The Portland Thorns had taken the league lead earlier in the day with a 1-0 win over Kansas City. Tonight’s draw lifted the Pride back into first place.
This is the first of three games for the Pride this week. They’ll now travel west to take on Kansas City Wednesday afternoon.