A 49th-minute long-distance goal by Erika Tymrak was the difference as the Orlando Pride (6-5-6, 24 points) beat NJ/NY Gotham FC (5-5-6, 21 points) 1-0 at Red Bull Arena. It was the second win for Becky Burleigh as interim head coach (2-1-2) and was an important win in the playoff race for Orlando.
Ashlyn Harris ended up with the shutout as well as the all-time NWSL career save record in the match as well.
Burleigh made three changes from the team that lost 2-1 to the Washington Spirit last weekend. Phoebe McClernon and Toni Pressley replaced the injured Courtney Petersen (right foot) and Amy Turner (right leg), respectively, while Ali Riley moved from her usual right back position to left back. Additionally, Marisa Viggiano was placed on the bench, replaced in the starting lineup by Tymrak.
Gotham was the better team in the opening minutes, creating multiple opportunities on goal. The Pride midfield and defense provided too much space, but the hosts were unable to take advantage.
The first chance of the game came inside the first 60 seconds through Carli Lloyd. A poor pass by McClernon allowed the former U.S. international to take possession and carry the ball into the box. The Pride defense gave her plenty of space to take a shot, which appeared to be headed for the corner, but Harris made a diving, one-handed save to knock it wide.
Two minutes later, the Pride had their lone chance in the early minutes of the game. Gunny Jonsdottir collected the ball well outside of the box and seemed to be no threat. As the Gotham defenders retreated into the box, Jonsdottir sent her second touch towards goal. It was a strong shot from distance but the ball went just wide of the far post.
In the eighth minute, Lloyd had her second good chance on goal. A pass in between Lloyd and McCall Zerboni created some confusion, but Lloyd decided to take control. Before Zerboni could get to it, the striker had fired off a shot. However, the ball sailed well high of the target.
As the first half went on, the Pride were much better at closing down Gotham in the midfield and in the back. While Lloyd had multiple chances with plenty of space in the opening 15 minutes, the Pride began to close her down, forcing her to pass the ball instead.
In the 18th minute, Lloyd attempted to find space for a shot, but Ali Krieger did well to get in front and force her away from goal. She found Zerboni approaching the top of the box, but the midfielder’s shot was weak, allowing Harris to make the easy save.
The best chance of the first half for the Pride was an individual effort from Marta. Carrying the ball across the top of the box, the Brazilian passed two defenders before finding enough space to take a shot. For the second time of the half, Gotham goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to dive to her left as the ball rolled just wide of the post.
While Gotham had the best chances early in the first half, it was the Pride that broke through. In the 49th minute, Estelle Johnson gave Tymrak plenty of space on the right. After a short touch, the midfielder took an unexpected shot on goal. Sheridan was caught off her line as the ball sailed over her head and into the far side of the net.
The goal was Tymrak’s first as a member of the Pride and her first since coming out of retirement prior to this season.
“It felt really good,” Tymrak said about her goal. “But I think that the past couple months, the team has just been fighting, and we’ve kind of hit a point where we’re starting to find our identity, deciding to play more, and I think players are just falling into that and relaxing and being able to be themselves out there. And yeah, of course, it feels good to score.”
“I’m just really excited for her because I feel like she’s come into to so many games and impacted,” Burleigh said about Tymrak. “And because of that, I felt like she had earned an opportunity to start and be in the game from the beginning. And for her to get that first goal as a Pride player, I was really, really excited.”
After the goal, the Pride seemed happy to sit with 10 players behind the ball. That allowed Gotham to maintain the majority of possession and create chances during the last half hour.
The Pride nearly paid for that decision in the 67th minute. Second-half substitute Brianna Pinto sent a long cross across the box. Lloyd brought it down near the far post and created enough space to take a shot. It was on target, but Harris got low to make the stop, her second big save of the game.
The save on Lloyd was Harris’ 469th of her NWSL career, passing Nicole Barnhart — who was waived by Kansas City earlier this year — for the all-time NWSL lead.
“What a journey this has been,” Harris said about the record. “I feel like I have given my heart and soul to this club for a lot of years, and this is special to me because not everyone gets to say they hold records like this. It just makes me feel like maybe I’m doing something right.
“But it’s an emotional day today. It would have been my grandmother’s 88th birthday. I know that no one would be more proud of me than her, so I felt like she was with me today, and I feel like this moment is for her. And I am very, very grateful to have such incredible people in my corner and (Pride goalkeeping coach) Lloyd Yaxley, who’s been by my side, my goalkeeper coach, since 2013, and I couldn’t have done this without him. And this is something that we can all celebrate — the city of Orlando, the team, the fans, the club.”
Gotham had another excellent chance in the 74th minute when Lloyd made a long run, taking the ball into the box. After avoiding a tackle at the edge of the box, the striker lost control of the ball and it was cleared out for a corner kick.
The ensuing corner was flicked toward the far post where Zerboni was waiting. The midfielder was left unmarked and fired on goal with her first touch. Fortunately for the Pride, the shot was high of the target, allowing the visitors to escape the dangerous situation.
As time wound down, the Pride put everybody behind the ball and attempted to withstand the pressure. While Gotham won a few corner kicks and had some shots, the Pride were able to get in front of anything dangerous, hanging on for the 1-0 win.
“I feel really good about that one,” Burleigh said about the win after the game. “Because I think it was a huge step forward for us mentally and that was really important. It was really important for us to be able to get a lead and hold it, especially on the road.”
It was a gutsy effort by the Pride, who trailed Gotham in nearly every offensive statistical category. This includes shots (16-7), shots on target (3-2), corners (7-2), total passes (499-359), passing accuracy (80.6%-74.1%), and possession (58.4%-41.6%).
Where the Pride did succeed was on the defensive end. They ended the game with more tackles won (15-7), saves (3-1), and clearances (27-8) than Gotham.
“I think it was just determination,” Burleigh said about the team’s defensive effort. “And that was really personified by somebody like Ali Krieger, who had a hell of a game tonight where she was just determined that that match-up with Carli Lloyd was not going to determine the game. And I thought that emanated from her. The whole back line and to everyone going forward in terms of how we defended as a unit.”
The win moves the Pride up to third place in the NWSL standings, even with the Chicago Red Stars and four points behind the North Carolina Courage for second. However, the team still has work to do as the Pride sit just two points ahead of OL Reign for the sixth and final playoff spot.
After a two-game road trip, the Pride will return home next Sunday to take on the Houston Dash at 4 p.m.