It was a dominating performance tonight as the Orlando Pride (7-6-7, 28 points) fell 3-0 to OL Reign (11-7-2, 35 points). Two goals by Eugenie Le Sommer and two assists by Dzsenifer Marozsan led the Reign to the win.
The Pride had three changes from the team’s 3-1 win over Racing Louisville two weeks ago. Courtney Petersen replaced Phoebe McClernon in the back and Alex Morgan re-entered the lineup, replacing Marta. The biggest news was Ashlyn Harris starting after missing the last game with a neck injury.
Here’s the starting Xl for tonight’s match. @orlandohealth | #RGNvORL pic.twitter.com/tL7T42riYm— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) September 26, 2021
The Reign started early, scoring just three minutes into the game. Sofia Huerta sent a lovely ball into the box, finding the head of Bethany Balcer who had gotten behind the Pride defense. The goal was Balcer’s ninth of the season, passing Sydney Leroux for the league lead.
It had to be @bethanybalcer ⚽️ #RGNvORL | https://t.co/iecT7IqtFA | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/kvkUNIOVMp— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) September 26, 2021
Four minutes later, the Reign almost doubled their lead when Balcer sent a cross across the six-yard box. The ball was just over the head of Le Sommer and just beyond the foot of the sliding Jessica Fishlock.
The Reign came close again in the 10th minute when Dzsenifer Marozsan, who was one of the most dangerous players in the first half, sent a ball toward the back post. However, nobody in blue was able to get on the end of it, allowing the Pride to escape with a one-goal deficit.
While the Reign maintained the majority of possession, the Pride were able to keep the dangerous chances at bay for a while after the Marozsan cross. In the meantime, Sydney Leroux and Taylor Kornieck had chances at goal, two of only three shots in the first half. But both of those shots were over the crossbar.
The unrelenting Reign attack continued in the 25th minute when Fishlock set up Marozsan at the top of the box. Fortunately for the Pride, the shot was high of the target.
The Reign finally got their second goal in the 28th minute. After a Pride giveaway, Le Sommer ended up with the ball and took an unexpected shot from distance. The ball caught Harris off her line and into the corner of the goal.
Le Beauty from @ELS_9_FRANCE #RGNvORL | https://t.co/iecT7IqtFA | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/rbV7zgVnMO— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) September 26, 2021
In the 32nd minute. Le Sommer scored her second. Quick passing from Fishlock and Marozsan at the top of the box found Le Sommer right in front of goal. Once again, the Pride defense left a Reign attacker right in front of the net, allowing the French striker to tap in her second goal of the game.
It's Reigning goals in Tacoma ☔️#RGNvORL | https://t.co/iecT7II54a | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/ujoUgB4Fvf— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) September 26, 2021
It’s been common for Harris to be counted on for big saves and her first came in the 41st minute. Fishlock played a quick ball just inside the box for Rose Lavelle, who turned and fired on goal. The ball appeared to be headed toward the far post, but Harris made a diving one-handed block.
Just before the half, the Reign nearly got a fourth and it was Le Sommer again. Another great ball by Fishlock found the striker at the far post. Rather than bringing it down, Le Sommer swung her leg around for a volley, but the ball slammed off the crossbar.
The Pride finally forced Bouhaddi to do some work just before halftime. After winning the ball back in the box, Morgan split the defenders, creating a chance on goal. The left-footed shot was on target, but Bouhaddi was able to make the block.
@alexmorgan13 with the skill, @BouhaddiSarah with the denial #RGNvORL | https://t.co/iecT7II54a | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/07XcpBZ6XS— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) September 26, 2021
At the end of the half, the Reign led in possession (60.9%-39.1%), shots (12-5), shots on goal (6-2), corners (4-0), crosses (11-5), passes (300-195), and passing accuracy (83.3%-73.8%).
“I think in the first half it was a shape issue for us,” Pride interim head coach Becky Burleigh said about the lack of offensive production. “We had talked about trying to push the weak side player in our 4-2-3-1 up higher to make it look like a two front during the week. But in the end, because the numbers in the midfield were overwhelming us, that was difficult for it to occur. So when we played two up top, when we actually changed to a 3-5-2 and kept two up top, it was a little bit more effective for them to actually be able to work with one another.”
“I think their lineup was so fluid, their movement was so fluid, that it made it a bit of a challenge whether we needed to step up higher and absorb one of those players or allow her to take a player running through the middle,” Burleigh said about the first half defense. ”And I think that’s where the confusion lies for us. So credit the Reign for making that difficult, but once we switched shapes, I think that was a much more straightforward match-up and allowed us to match up a little bit better defensively.”
“I think they really dominated us in the first half,” right back Ali Riley added. “It was a bit shocking. I think their midfield, I think is the best midfield in the league and I think they really exposed us, especially when we had a lot of turnovers.”
The Pride came out better in the second half, even creating the first real attack. In the 51st minute, Leroux was sent through and had a one-on-one against Reign center back Alana Cook. With more defenders chasing the play, Leroux decided to shoot, but the shot was blocked by Cook and there were no other Pride players forward to keep the attack alive.
Four minutes later, the Reign had a chance to take a four-goal advantage. Le Sommer beat Riley to the end line and got off a cross to the back post. Balcer was charging in and reached out for the cross, but it was just beyond her reach and went harmlessly out of play.
The Pride had one of their best chances of the game when Morgan and Leroux were finally able to connect. A quick one-two set up a shot by Morgan that was blocked. The ball fell to Leroux who took a second shot that made it through the Reign’s back line. However, it was right at Bouhaddi, allowing the goalkeeper to make the easy stop.
The best chance of the second half came from the Reign in the 83rd minute. Lavelle set up Angelina to the right of goal, but Harris did well to get low and make the save with her foot. After briefly exiting the box, the ball re-entered and ended up at the foot of Balcer. Having gotten up quickly from the first shot, Harris was ready for Balcer’s close-range strike, making an impressive double save.
The Reign ended the game with the statistical lead in nearly every category, including possession (56.1%-43.9%), shots (21-11), shots on goal (8-3), corners (5-2), crosses (23-13), passes (537-428), passing accuracy (80.4%-73.8%), and tackles (11-9). The Pride led the game in duels won (38-31), clearances (25-13), and saves (5-3).
“In the second half we opened with a 3-5-2,” Burleigh said about a better second 45 minutes. “And I really liked that pairing of the three backs of Amy, Kriegs, and Phoebe. That’s been a good three for us in the past. So I think that really helped solidify things.”
“Marisa and Marta coming in, I think, made a big difference,” Riley said about the second half. “We got our act together a little bit in the press, had some chances, but too little too late I guess. So a lot to learn. I think a lot we need to go over with the coaching staff about the formation and when we’re going to make changes and how we have to train during the week to make sure that we can execute. So a lot to work on before Chicago.”
The loss keeps the Pride in fifth in the NWSL standings, just two points above the red line for the final playoff spot.
The Pride will return to action next Saturday night when they take on the Chicago Red Stars in Bridgeview, IL.