The Orlando Pride rallied with two goals just three minutes apart — both deep in stoppage time — to erase a 2-0 deficit and draw the Washington Spirit 2-2 at Exploria Stadium. After 90 minutes of sloppy and sometimes lifeless play, Orlando (2-2-2, 8 points) shocked the Spirit (1-1-3, 6 points) on strikes by Mikayla Cluff and Darian Jenkins in the 95th and 98th minutes, respectively.
The Pride remain winless at home in 2022 (0-2-2 in NWSL play and 0-4-3 in all competitions), but will gladly take the point after struggling to get much going all game long against the defending NWSL champions. Trinity Rodman and Pride killer Ashley Hatch provided the offense for Washington, although the Spirit couldn’t hold the lead.
“I was saying to some of the players, I don’t think I’ve been so happy about a tie in my life,” Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell said after the match. “Equalizing is important. I thought we actually played very well that game for the majority. We had a couple turnovers and they finished really well. Good players are gonna punish you for your mistakes.”
Cromwell’s starting XI featured Erin McLeod in goal behind a back line of Courtney Petersen, Megan Montefusco, Carrie Lawrence, and Celia. Cluff and Viviana Villacorta started in central midfield behind an attacking line of Sydney Leroux, Gunny Jonsdottir, and Darian Jenkins, with Leah Pruitt up top.
The game started as a back-and-forth affair with neither team getting much going in the opening minutes. The Spirit then started to grow into the game. McLeod came off her line to get to a ball played over the top by Washington. However, the Pride goalkeeper slid over the edge of the box while touching the ball, giving the Spirit a dangerous free kick in the eighth minute. The free kick hit the wall and the Spirit sent the rebound high over the bar and out of play.
Things got more dicey for the Pride in the 12th minute. Rodman played a cross in from the right that deflected off two colliding players and fell to Audrey Harding right in front. The Washington midfielder sent her shot just wide of goal, letting Orlando off the hook.
Washington broke the scoreless deadlock in the 19th minute. Rodman found some space well outside the area and smashed a hard shot toward the left post. McLeod looked like she had a good view of the shot but hesitated before scrambling to her right and that hesitation was all that shot needed, as it had enough pace to beat the keeper.
The Pride came within inches of tying the game in the 23rd minute. Pruitt won a corner and the Pride played it short. Petersen sent a good cross into the area, where Montefusco headed it back across to Jenkins, who sent her header off the left post.
Orlando kept the pressure on, looking to find an equalizer and won multiple corners in a row but couldn’t do anything with them.
The game settled down a bit after that spell of pressure and was played mainly between the penalty areas for the rest of the half. The Spirit took their 1-0 lead into the break.
Washington held more possession in the first half (57.8%-42.2%), due in large part to the Pride’s failure to connect passes. The Spirit completed 79.2% of their passes compared to just 66.2% for Orlando. Chances were fairly even, however. Washington had a slim edge in shots (6-5) in the first half, with each team getting one on target. Orlando’s was a weak header from Montefusco that gave Aubrey Kingsbury no trouble. The Pride had a big edge in corner kicks (6-0) but only the header off the post threatened Kingsbury’s net.
“Ball speed is something I was yelling out a couple of times during the game,” Cromwell said in reference to needing the team to play more quickly. “That was the end of a really long stretch. So, we didn’t even have a full week from the Sunday game to a Friday game after a three-game week. So, there was still tired legs on the field with, I think, especially our outside backs or center backs. There was a lot of tired legs. So with with the fatigue comes those mistakes where the ball speed’s not quite where it needs to be.”
The Spirit should have doubled the lead in the 52nd minute. Washington got a corner after a turnover in the Pride’s half gave Washington a 3-v-1 break. The Spirit got a shot off but McLeod blocked it to create the set piece. On the ensuing corner kick, no one on Orlando marked Sam Staab, who was left open for an uncontested header but sent her shot wide of the right post.
Five minutes later, Hatch blew past Celia to the left corner of the box and smashed a shot inches wide of the near post. That shot likely would have beaten McLeod had it been on target, as it reached the outside netting before the goalkeeper got down to cover that corner.
Hatch got her goal anyway shortly afterward. A pass by Montefusco hit Villacorta in the back and started the break for the Spirit. Ashley Sanchez waited for a run by Hatch then slipped a pass to her teammate. Hatch fired past McLeod to make it 2-0 in the 66th minute.
“You know, they scored two goals — really off of our own mistakes,” Jenkins said.
Orlando had a chance to pull a goal right back in the 68th minute. Jenkins made a nice move to shake free of two defenders on the left and got to the end line, then turned into the area with space to pick out a teammate. Unfortunately, she made an inaccurate pass anyway and the Spirit had no trouble clearing.
Substitute Kerry Abello, who came on for Celia in the second half, had an open look from the top of the area in the 75th minute but blasted her effort five or six yards wide of the right post.
Orlando didn’t seem likely to score as normal time wound down. Washington kept the ball well and the Pride struggled to string passes together to move into the attacking third. Rodman fired a shot right at McLeod in the 89th minute, as Washington seemed likelier to score late in regulation than Orlando. The Spirit then should have put the game away early in stoppage time.
Montefusco gave the ball away cheaply again in the 92nd minute, sending the Spirit in on a 3-on-2 break. Sanchez tried to chip McLeod but sent her shot harmlessly over the bar.
Then the game changed completely out of nowhere.
The Pride spoiled the shutout late and it appeared at the time to be just a consolation goal. Cluff sent the ball from the middle out to second-half sub Jordyn Listro on the right. Listro got past a defender and sent in a cross and Cluff flicked it past Kingsbury in the 95th minute to make it 2-1. The goal gave Orlando hope but the end was nearly in sight for the Spirit.
“I knew that there were players that were obviously, you know, hitting the 90-minute mark, and I knew I had fresh legs,” Listro said. “So, those extra runs I thought would be the best for me to do, so I just put myself higher on the field and it worked out.”
It was Listro’s first assist of her NWSL career.
The teams played beyond the six minutes of stoppage time indicated by the fourth official and Orlando made the most of it. Listro got forward on the end of a Villacorta pass and tried to cross but it was deflected. Substitute Julie Doyle picked up the loose ball and sent the ball across the box, where Emily Sonnett got a foot on it for Washington but could only knock it to Jenkins. The Pride forward then slotted it inside the far post to make it 2-2 in the 98th minute, stealing a late point for Orlando.
“I felt like another goal was coming, but was it going to come in time? Because we didn’t have much time left,” Cromwell said. “So, there’s something to be said for this game in earning this point.”
Seconds later, the game was over and Orlando had stolen a point late. The Pride ended up with more possession (51.6%-48.4%) and corners (8-1), while the Spirit fired more shots (11-9) — with each team getting three attempts on target — and passed more accurately (77.9%-74.1%).
“I’m just really proud of my team,” Jenkins said. “I think we’ve overcome a lot and had to persevere through a lot, and even though it’s one point, it’s still a win just because of what we overcame. Hopefully we can just keep building and start games with that same energy we ended with.”
“I just think we never gave up, honestly,” Listro said. “And there’s so many great girls on this team that are going to work for each other, and we didn’t put our heads down. We thought, ‘Okay, there’s still time.’”
There was just enough, as it turned out.
The Pride will hit the road for the entire month of June, starting with a trip to play the Houston Dash on June 3.