The Orlando Pride hosted the NWSL-leading Portland Thorns at Exploria Stadium Saturday night and a crowd of 4,209 die-hard fans braved the rain to watch the teams fight to a 1-1 draw. Orlando newcomer Jodie Taylor scored her second goal in as many games early on, but the Thorns battled back on a late header by Simone Charley to split the spoils.
Despite the Thorns missing a number of their starters, the point was a good one as it keeps the momentum going that interim coach Becky Burleigh has been building. The Pride are unbeaten in the three matches since Burleigh took over (1-0-2).
While one point isn’t as good as three — especially at home — and the Pride will feel disappointed in not beating a weakened Thorns side after holding a lead for so long, the visitors always seemed likely to score at least one goal in this match. After Orlando dominated the first quarter of an hour and got its deserved goal through Taylor, the Pride fell into some old, bad habits of giving the ball away cheaply, being indecisive in the final third, and dropping the defensive block deeper than it should on occasion, allowing the guests to feel comfortable in their attacking end.
There seemed to be opportunities to punish the Thorns in transition with Portland fullbacks Meghan Klingenberg and Natalia Kuikka pushing high up the field. But the Pride weren’t often able to spring forward and pressure Bella Bixby’s goal on the counter. Taylor came forward on two potential transition opportunities but took the ball too wide on the first, eliminating an opportunity to play a cross to Sydney Leroux and attempting a chip shot to the back post that she underhit. On the second, she was able to feed Leroux but Kuikka had good coverage and perhaps Taylor would have been better served to use Leroux’s run as a decoy for a shot.
Orlando survived numerous close calls on the defensive end, including a horrible refereeing decision by match official Matthew Franz, who got in the way of Marisa Viggiano’s easy collection with an opportunity for Orlando to counter. Franz should have blown the play dead and given the Pride a drop ball, but he instead allowed Portland to pick up the loose ball and ultimately ring a shot off of Ashlyn Harris’ crossbar. That wasn’t the only decision that had Pride fans upset with Franz. The referee booked five Pride players to just one Thorn despite only a 14-11 difference in fouls committed between the two teams, and saw nothing wrong with what appeared to be a clear foul from behind on Marta just outside the area late in the game.
In the end, the point is an important one as the Pride continue to try to rally back from a six-match winless skid under former coach Marc Skinner that saw the team fall from first to seventh in the table. Orlando is still in a good position to try to earn its first playoff appearance since 2017 if the Pride can finish the season strong under Burleigh.
We hope you enjoy the photos below from a physical 1-1 draw at Exploria Stadium.
Images: Dan MacDonald
Words: Michael Citro