The Orlando Pride played to a scoreless draw against the Kansas City Current tonight at Exploria Stadium. In the only preseason game open to the public, fans got a look at a squad with several changes from last year’s team.
Amanda Cromwell’s first lineup in front of a crowd was a veteran squad, including eight players from the 2021 Pride, as well as experienced newcomers Megan Montefusco and Darian Jenkins. The only player without NWSL experience to start for the Pride was 2022 MAC Hermann Trophy finalist Mikayla Cluff.
The Pride got the first chance of the game nine minutes in when Marta played the ball across the box from the left. The cross found Jenkins near the far post, and the forward attempted to chip Kansas City goalkeeper AD Franch. The ball was heading in but Jenna Winbrenner cleared it off the line, keeping the game scoreless.
The first chance for the visitors came three minutes later. Receiving the ball near the penalty spot, a Kansas City attacker turned Amy Turner and shot on goal. However, she didn’t get much behind it and it was an easy stop by Erin McLeod.
Kansas City’s best chance of the first half came in the 18th minute through new acquisition Lynn Williams. The U.S. international got behind the Pride defense, creating a one-on-one with McLeod. But the Pride goalkeeper did well to come out and pressure the Current star. Williams attempted to beat McLeod with a shot rather than dribble around her, and sent it wide.
The Pride had another opportunity in the 27th minute through Marta. The Brazilian carried the ball from near the center circle into the Kansas City third of the field. Despite having a teammate streaking down the right, the 36-year-old attacker went at goal herself. Unfortunately, the strike was wide of the target, creating no trouble for Franch.
The last chance of the first half was once again for the Pride. Gunny Jonsdottir beat a couple of defenders on the left and sent a cross into the box for Jenkins. The midfielder put a shot on goal but Franch got a hand to it and knocked it off the post, sending it out for a corner.
The attack continued with a corner kick that found the head of Turner. The center back’s redirect was toward goal but went wide of the near post, allowing the Current to end the threat.
While the Pride played on the front foot in the first half, it was the visitors that got the first chance of the second. Just two minutes in, a Kansas City attacker found herself alone in the box, but she didn’t make good contact with the ball, allowing Carrie Lawrence to clear.
Williams, who was a threat to the Pride defense all night, created her final chance in the 58th minute before being substituted three minutes later. She sent a low cross into the box, looking for a teammate, but McLeod was able to knock it away.
The Pride had made four halftime subs, one of which was Toni Pressley replacing Montefusco. That change nearly had a significant impact on the game in the 59th minute when a bad touch by Pressley gave Kansas City a breakaway on goal. However, McLeod came out to make herself big and was able to catch an attempted chip.
A scary moment for the Pride came in the 64th minute when Jonsdottir was hit with a shot and went down. The medical staff came on to check on the midfielder, who remained down for several minutes. When she finally got up, she didn’t appear to be moving her right arm. Fortunately, Cromwell indicated that the injury isn’t serious.
“She got a good elbow to the sternum,” Cromwell said about Jonsdottir’s status. “So I think it’s more of a sort of bruise, but it was pretty painful.”
The Pride went on the attack in the late minutes through substitutes Thais Reiss and Leah Pruitt as they searched for the winning goal. In the 87th minute, Reiss sent a cross into the box for Pruitt, but the attempt on goal was caught by Kansas City’s substitute goalkeeper, Cassie Miller.
A minute later, Reiss decided to go at goal herself, taking a shot from distance. However, the shot didn’t have much power on it and Miller made the easy save.
Two minutes into injury time, the Pride got their final chance from Pruitt, who took a long-distance shot on goal. Miller once again was able to make the easy catch and the game ended in a scoreless draw.
“I’m actually surprised that it ended 0-0 because I think both teams created some chances,” Cromwell said after the game. “I think we were really pushing at the end for one. Overall effort was very good being in the stadium and kind of having the first run through against another pro team. You’re never sure what to expect and I was happy with the effort and I think we found our way into the game as it went on. In the beginning, we were a little tentative maybe and then our possession could have been better. Better choices on the ball. But we fought really hard and tried to limit their choices. So overall, very, very happy and obviously things to work on.”
“I had no idea what to expect today, to be honest,” McLeod added. “But I was so proud of our team. We showed bravery. We showed connection. We were a tight team. You know, the center backs, it didn’t matter which center back was in, they did a really good job. And overall defensively, we showed that we’ve got the guts and the work ethic. And I think just the ability to listen to one another. And I think that’s tremendously important.”
The draw with Kansas City is the only public preseason game this year as the Pride prepare for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup coming later this month. The preseason will continue as the Pride take on Florida State on Saturday and Flagler College on March 12 before opening the Challenge Cup at home on March 19 against the Washington Spirit.