The Orlando Pride left it late, but a stoppage-time goal by Sydney Leroux lifted Orlando to a 1-1 home draw against expansion Racing Louisville at Exploria Stadium on Friday night. This match has been described by multiple Pride beat writers — as well as Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner — as Orlando’s worst performance of the 2021 season, so to walk away with a point after such a match is important. And, to be fair, most of the performances by the team have been good in 2021. Even the best teams in the world have a dud match every once in a while, so to be able to walk away with a point is a good sign for the 2021 Orlando Pride.
Sydney Leroux scored the clutch goal in stoppage time to lift Orlando to a draw, salvaging something from the game. In soccer, you don’t often see goals that start with service from the goalkeeper in the attacking half, but Ashlyn Harris’ second ball in found its way through to Leroux for the all-important goal. The goal gave the Pride something to show for a much stronger second half in terms of possessing the ball than the team played in the opening 45 minutes.
Orlando will have to scratch and scrape for everything while important players like Alex Morgan, Marta, and Ali Riley are away, and some bodies will need to get healthy, but with players like Leroux (and the form she’s in this season), Taylor Kornieck, Gunny Jonsdottir, and reinforcements in the form of Kylie Strom and Jodie White, this year’s Orlando Pride team is in much better position to withstand those losses than in years past.
With the hot start the Pride had, every point is precious while the international stars are away to keep the team in contention. Orlando has a real shot at not only a playoff position, but also a dark horse opportunity to stun the league and compete for the regular season title. The Pride enter the week tied atop the NWSL standings but with both North Carolina and Portland holding a game in hand. Four teams are lurking just behind those three, so the parity of the league is showing and the Pride must continue to collect points even when the performance isn’t up to the level that the Pride coaches and players expect.
Thanks to Leroux, that was the case on Friday night.
We hope you enjoy these images from a dramatic home draw by the Orlando Pride at Exploria Stadium:
Images: Dan MacDonald
Words: Michael Citro