The Orlando Pride (0-2-1, 1 point) played much better tonight than the loss in North Carolina last weekend but fell 1-0 to NJ/NY Gotham FC (1-1-1, 4 points). Despite several late chances on goal, It was a late Midge Purce goal that was the difference and the Pride still have yet to score a goal this season.
Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell made some significant changes from the team that lost 1-0 to the North Carolina Courage. While Marta is out after suffering a knee injury last weekend, starting defender Carrie Lawrence and goalkeeper Erin McLeod were listed as questionable heading into this game and neither player made the bench. As a result, Anna Moorhouse got her first start in goal for the Pride. Additionally, Kylie Strom and Erika Tymrak made their first starts of the 2022 NWSL campaign.
The game also marked some milestones for two Pride players. It was Tymrak’s 150th NWSL appearance in all competitions and Sydney Leroux’s 125th appearance in all NWSL competitions.
Gotham got the first chance of the game in the second minute. A corner by the visitors landed in the box and a scramble ensued as the Pride desperately tried to clear. Eventually, they were able to send the ball out of play, avoiding a catastrophic start.
The Pride nearly had their first good chance of the game in the ninth minute when a long ball nearly met the foot of Gunny Jonsdottir deep in the Gotham half. However, it was just beyond her reach as the chance went missing.
The Pride’s best chance of the half came in the 19th minute. Jonsdottir found Leroux making a run into the Gotham box. The Pride forward gained control, turned to the inside of the box, and fired on goal. The shot was on target but Ashlyn Harris made a diving save. After nearly 20 minutes of play, it was the first shot on target by either team.
Shortly after the chance for Leroux, the Pride had a couple of opportunities from free kicks. In the 24th minute, Meggie Dougherty Howard’s ball into the box ended up at the foot of Amy Turner but her shot sailed over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, another Dougherty Howard free kick found the head of Jonsdottir in the box. However, the header was off target as the Pride were once again unable to put any pressure on Harris.
The Pride’s inability to finish nearly cost them in the 30th minute when a Paige Monaghan cross was headed down by Caprice Dydasco near the top of the Pride’s six-yard box. Fortunately for the hosts, no Gotham players were there to get on the end of it and the Pride were able to clear.
Arguably the best chance for the visitors came in the 33rd minute. Purce found herself with the ball in front of goal and was able to get off a shot. However, Toni Pressley did well to get in front and make the block.
Monaghan had been a pest on the left by creating chances but had a chance to get the opener herself. In the 40th minute, Kristie Mewis found Monaghan on the far side with no defenders on her. The attacker attempted a one-touch shot on goal but didn’t get enough of the ball as it rolled wide.
As the game entered first half stoppage time, the Pride found some energy and created some chances that nearly resulted in the game’s first goal. It started with Leroux carrying the ball into the box behind the Gotham defense, but her shot was saved by the leg of Harris. Seconds later a cross into the box found the head of Leroux, but she couldn’t redirect it on target as it rolled wide.
Gotham had more possession (51.7%-48.3%), more passes (253-236), and more shots (9-6) than the Pride in the first 45 minutes. However, the Pride’s two shots on target were the only shots on frame in the first half.
Just like the first half, Gotham started the second period on the attack. In the 47th minute, the visitors had another scramble in the box that could’ve resulted in an opening goal. However, the Pride were once again able to clear in what was eerily similar to the start of the game.
The first second-half chance for the Pride came in the 54th minute. A McCall Zerboni foul just outside the box set up a chance for the Pride. However, Pressley’s free kick wasn’t high enough as Monaghan was able to block it out for a corner.
Three minutes later, Dougherty Howard came inches away from giving the Pride the lead. Receiving the ball outside the box, the Pride midfielder decided to take a shot on goal. The hard, low attempt beat the diving Harris but not her post as it rattled the woodwork.
On the other end, Purce spun her defender and sent a ball into the middle of the box. Courtney Petersen attempted to clear but it went right to Mewis who fired on goal. Fortunately, the point-blank shot was right at Moorhouse and she was able to make the stop.
Mewis got another chance in the 63rd minute when Purce sent her towards the end line. The U.S. international outmuscled Angharad James off the ball to create a chance but sent the shot high.
Gotham got another excellent chance in the 67th minute when Monaghan beat Strom to create a one-on-one opportunity against Moorhouse. However, the Pride goalkeeper came up big once again, making a good stop to avoid a deficit.
After the save by Moorhouse, the Pride were able to create some chances of their own. A Pride counter attack ended up with Leroux who was able to get a shot off but it was blocked. Two minutes later, a poor clearance by Gotham wound up at the foot of Tymrak. The experienced midfielder’s shot was just wide of the target, beyond the outstretched arms of Harris.
In the 78th minute, Tymrak found herself with an opportunity from distance. The midfielder was looking to sneak the ball inside the post, but it went just wide.
Six minutes later, James decided to take an ambitious shot from distance. The curling ball moved away from the diving Harris but hit the post. It was the second time the Pride had hit the woodwork in the game.
James took another long-distance shot in the 86th minute. While the first one was inches away from the game’s first goal, she was unable to get over the second attempt, which went over the crossbar.
After the Pride had come inches away from scoring on multiple occasions, it was Gotham that took the lead on the ensuing attack. A chip into the Pride third led to a foot race between Purce and Pressley. The midfielder was much faster than the center back, getting to the ball first. She quickly fired on goal, beating Moorhouse to give the visitors the late lead.
“It was just a quick ball through that, I think we just got caught flat,” Cromwell said about the goal. “So the defenders have to drop off a little sooner reading that. There’s no pressure on the ball.”
“I think it’s a little bit of a lapse in concentration,” Moorhouse said about the goal. “The ball came across the 18 and maybe it really shouldn’t have got that far. And then myself and Toni (Pressley) tried to clean up the situation and it didn’t work.”
The Pride responded with an attacking mindset, mostly resulting in crosses by Petersen. After a couple of blocked cross attempts, Jonsdottir got a shot off on target. It ended up with Pressley in the box, who desperately tried to put a shot on target. After a couple of blocks, it was a sliding attempt that went wide, allowing Gotham to clear and secure the win.
After being thoroughly outplayed over the weekend in North Carolina, the Pride were much better tonight. They ended the game with greater possession (54.2%-45.8%), better passing accuracy (80.1%-77.5%), and more shots (23-14) than Gotham. The primary difference was shots on target as Gotham led that category 3-2.
Despite the loss, this is arguably the best game the Pride have played so far. It’s the first time this season that they had more possession, shots, and better passing accuracy than the opposition.
“Probably the best game so far as far as over a 90-minute period,” Cromwell said after the game. “We’ve had moments in other games that were very good, or halves, but I thought we had a lot of the ball and we created going forward. Unlucky not to score if it wasn’t for this goalkeeper (Harris).”
While the Pride’s defense has been strong in all three games, this was the best performance from the offense, something that Cromwell noted after the game.
“I thought we were very creative,” Cromwell said. “I thought Syd (Leroux) was very dangerous up top, Erika (Tymrak) coming in in a beat. This was her first start. Very creative, really good movement.”
Apart from the game, it was also the return of two Pride legends in Harris and Ali Krieger. Harris was the Pride’s first acquisition in 2016 and Krieger joined her a year later in 2017. The two were traded to Gotham this off-season as a part of the rebuilding process, leaving the club as the two players with the most appearances in club history.
“It was weird,” the Central Florida native Harris said about returning for the first time. “This is my home. This is, like, my people and my city and I love it so much. And it means so much to me. So it was a really tough day.”
The Pride are now in last in the East Division of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. They’ll look to bounce back from the two-game losing streak when they visit the Washington Spirit Sunday afternoon.