The Orlando Pride (6-5-7, 25 points) got a late header from Taylor Kornieck to draw with the Houston Dash (6-7-4, 22 points) 1-1 at Exploria Stadium this afternoon. Kornieck’s goal off a corner kick cancelled out an early strike by Houston’s Rachel Daly, claiming a point for each team.
The Pride only made one change to the starting lineup from last week’s 1-0 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC. After missing the last game with an injury, Amy Turner returned to the lineup, replacing Toni Pressley. Erika Tymrak remained in the lineup after a strong performance in New Jersey that included a stellar long-range goal.
The Dash got off to a fast start, putting the Pride on their back foot. The first chance for the visitors came inside the first minute, when Kristie Mewis received the ball on the left. With space in the box, Mewis fired on goal but her shot was wide of the target.
In the 10th minute, the Dash broke the early deadlock. After doing well to get in front of the defender, Ali Riley either took a heavy touch or tried a short pass to Turner but didn’t get enough on it. Either way, Daly reacted faster than Turner, ran in, and played it past Ashlyn Harris inside the far post for the opening goal.
“It was interesting because I thought we had a good warm up,” interim coach Becky Burleigh said about the slow start. “But I think it was a little bit of confidence. It was a little bit of tempo. It’s definitely something we’re going to go back and evaluate because we just can’t have that kind of start and expect to get good results.”
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is,” Meggie Dougherty Howard added. “But I think we just need to be confident from the first minute and I think it takes us a little bit of time to build that confidence through the game.”
The first chance of the game for the Pride didn’t come until the 27th minute. Marta dribbled through a pair of Dash defenders, before taking a long-distance shot from outside the box. The ball was easily collected by Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell, but it was the first shot for the Pride.
The Dash nearly doubled their lead in the 36th minute. A Mewis corner was headed toward the far corner, but Harris got her hand to it and knocked it away. Unfortunately, the ball went directly to Shea Groom who fired right back on goal. Harris was in a seated position, but was still able to make the save, allowing the Pride to clear.
While the Pride got the ball briefly out of danger, it quickly re-entered the box and was at the feet of Mewis. The dangerous midfielder shot on goal, forcing Harris into another save, keeping the Pride’s deficit at one.
The Pride didn’t have many chances in the first half but did create some near the end. In the 42nd minute, Marta sent a dangerous cross into the box. Jodie Taylor was charging toward goal, but was unable to reach the pass as it sailed harmlessly out of play.
In injury time, the Pride had a pair of opportunities to equalize before the break. First, Gunny Jonsdottir received the ball outside of the box and fired on goal, but Campbell was able to easily catch it. A minute later, Sydney Leroux found space and shot toward the far post. The ball skipped past a diving Campbell, traveling just inches wide of the post.
Similar to the first half, it was the Dash who got the first chance of the second 45 minutes. In the 48th minute, Riley lost the ball to Nichelle Prince in her own third. Prince carried the ball into the box unimpeded, getting a shot on goal. However, Harris was there once again, getting low to make the kick save.
Already down a goal, the Pride suffered a difficult loss in the 60th minute. Jasmyne Spencer got in front of Harris on a Dash corner kick, forcing the Pride goalkeeper to go up and over the former Pride player. Harris dropped the ball, resulting in a scramble in front of goal that saw the ball hit the post.
When the ball was finally cleared, Harris went down in the box. The Pride medical staff attended to her head and neck area, even bringing on a stretcher. Once Harris got up on her own, she was given a concussion test and escorted off the field by the medical staff. Erin McLeod came on for the star goalkeeper, her first appearance for the Pride since June 23 in Kansas City.
“Besides being a little bit sore, I think that we’re out of the woods on that one,” Burleigh said about Harris after the game. “It was more scary at the time. When you have a head or a neck injury, there’s always some concern there.”
In the 79th minute, the Pride created a couple of chances that resulted in the equalizer. It started when Ali Krieger sent a long ball into the box, finding the head of second-half substitute Kornieck. The forward got her header on target, but Campbell was able to tip it over the crossbar.
Dougherty Howard found Kornieck again on the ensuing corner kick. Again, Kornieck put her header on target. Campbell got her hand on the ball, but tipped it against the underside of the crossbar. The Dash tried to clear but the ball snuck over the line for the equalizing goal.
“I’m feeling great,” Kornieck said about scoring her first goal at Exploria Stadium. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m happy for the team to play incredible, and I’m just really happy to get my first goal at Orlando stadium. It meant a lot to me to go in and score, finally, in front of our home crowd, I have no words for it. It just meant the world to me.”
After the Pride had lost one of its most important players earlier in the second half, the Dash nearly lost one of theirs. In the 82nd minute, a dangerous cross into the box found the head of Daly. However, Mewis was also going after the ball and Daly’s head slammed into the midfielder’s shoulder, sending her to the ground. Fortunately for the Dash, their first-half goal scorer was able to resume.
The 95-degree heat showed its impact in the final minutes of the game. The Harris and Daly injuries resulted in 10 minutes of second half injury time, but neither team was able to create a chance and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Pride led many statistical categories in this game, including possession (56%-44%), passing accuracy (78.6%-73.7%), total passes (485-380), and duels (55-43). The difference was in the final third, where the Dash were able to create chances and the Pride struggled. While the Pride were better in the second half, the Dash had more shots (11-8) and shots on target (5-4).
“Looking back on the game, I think we put ourselves in the hole a little bit,” Burleigh said about the performance. “Our start was not what we would hope for, but for the team to battle back and to deal with that adversity and for the people who came into the match, but there were some really strong performances from the reserves. I’d like to shout out Erin McLeod. That’s a tough situation to go into and her composure was incredible. Obviously, Taylor gets a goal coming off the bench. But, Toni Pressley played a big role coming off the bench as well so it’s great to see our reserves making such an impact.”
While the Pride would’ve preferred three points at home, especially having played two more games than multiple teams, it’s a needed point as they look to secure a playoff spot for only the second time in team history. The point keeps the team in fourth in the league, and three points ahead of today’s opponent.
“I think that we’re going to learn from this game,” Dougherty Howard said after the game. “And I think it’s been a little bit of a pain where we’re struggling to start our game strong and today we got punished. So, we were able to fight back and showed a lot of character and getting the result again, but bottom line, we need to start getting better and we know that and I think that’s going to be a real focal point going forward as we make this playoff push. But once we settle in, we show that we can play, and we can be confident on the ball, but we just have to do that from the first minute.”
The Pride will take the field again next Saturday night when they face Racing Louisville FC at Exploria Stadium at 7 p.m.