The Orlando Pride (2-5-3, 9 points) came back from a two-goal deficit to draw Racing Louisville (2-4-4, 10 point) at Daytona International Speedway as part of the 2022 Daytona SoccerFest event. The visitors took a 2-0 lead by the 51st minute with goals by Emina Ekic and Savannah DeMelo, but the Pride came back with goals by Kylie Strom and Darian Jenkins.
This game was a regular season NWSL match, but was the league’s first game ever played at a superspeedway. As a result, the infield and pit road areas were converted into a full-size soccer field. Prior to the Pride taking the field, a legends game was played and Chance the Rapper performed during the warmup period.
Gunny Jonsdottir missed this unique event as she is away on international duty with Iceland. Additionally, Courtney Petersen started the game on the bench and Angharad James is away with an excused absence. As a result, the lineup looked a bit different for this match. The back line in front of Erin McLeod consisted of Celia, Megan Montefusco, Toni Pressley, and Strom. Jordyn Listro and Meggie Dougherty Howard were the defensive midfielders behind Viviana Villacorta, Erika Tymrak, and Thais Reiss with Jenkins up top.
Your starting ̶g̶r̶i̶d̶ lineup for tonight! ️@orlandohealth | #ORLvLOU pic.twitter.com/AbWPA829FT— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) July 3, 2022
The Pride got off to the better start to the game, holding the majority of possession in the opening 20 minutes. As a result, the hosts got the first chance of the game in the third minute through Dougherty Howard. The midfielder faked two defenders to create space but her shot was saved by Katie Lund.
Another chance came for the Pride in the eighth minute when Jenkins set up Tymrak near the penalty spot. However, the midfielder — making her first start of the regular season —sent the shot well over the crossbar.
Louisville got its first chance of the game in the 10th minute when Freja Olofsson found Kristen Davis in the box. The forward quickly took a shot but missed to the left of the target.
In the 14th minute, Dougherty Howard had another decent chance when Reiss found her with a good ball into the box. However, the Pride midfielder couldn’t get around the ball enough and sent it wide.
Louisville had a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute when a turnover by Strom allowed Jess McDonald to set up Ekic in the box. The forward fired on goal from point-blank range but McLeod did well to close down her angle and block the shot.
BIG chance from @J_Mac1422, BIG save from @erinmcloed18 #ORLvLOU | #AllTheAction pic.twitter.com/JhYJomJsM6— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 4, 2022
A minute later, McLeod saved the Pride again. Lauren Milliet found Ekic in the box and the forward shot on goal. McLeod was able to get her fingertips to the ball, knocking it off the crossbar.
The visitors nearly opened the scoring again in the 32nd minute. Milliet sent McDonald through on goal, but the quick decision making by McLeod allowed her to beat McDonald to the ball and collect it before Louisville’s top scorer could reach it.
Two minutes later, Louisville finally converted. It appeared as though McLeod was going to catch the Louisville cross, but the ball bounced off her hands and right to Ekic. After a brief touch, the Louisville forward shot on goal, sending it between Celia’s legs for the opener.
.@emina_ekic10 has Louisville off to the races at Daytona @RacingLouFC | #RunWithUs pic.twitter.com/O1mnFkuEqD— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 4, 2022
“I told them that one goal doesn’t dictate how well we’re playing right now,” Interim Head Coach Seb Hines said about the first half goal. “You know, you could see that. Once a goal went in we were disheartened. But we have great players who want to continue to do what’s right and try and get the ball and get back into the game. And it was a blip. That was it. It was just one little blip. And like I said, we created opportunities that we could have been up and that’s the final stage that we need to to improve on.”
While the Pride had the better of the early moments in the game, Louisville took over about 20 minutes in. As a result, the Pride had more possession (56.7%-43.3%) but fewer shots (8-6). Meanwhile, the teams had the same number of shots on target (4-4) but Louisville made one of its efforts count.
Unlike the first half, it was Louisville that was the better team at the start of the second 45 minutes. Shortly after kickoff, two Pride players went into the book as Dougherty Howard fouled Olofsson, which resulted in a blocked shot by Davis, in the 47th minute. Three minutes later, Montefusco was booked for a foul on Savannah DeMelo just outside the box.
The foul placed the ball almost touching the edge of the box. Ekic and DeMelo stood over the ball, with the former making the initial run and stepping over the ball. DeMelo then stepped up and put a screamer into the corner, past arms of the diving McLeod, doubling the Louisville lead.
Savannah DeMel-OH @Savannah_DeMelo | @RacingLouFC pic.twitter.com/h500DiS1Ui— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 4, 2022
The Pride responded well, pulling one back in the 59th minute. Substitute Kerry Abello’s cross into the box for Jenkins was punched away, but not far enough as Jenkins gained control. With her back to goal, the forward played it back to Strom, whose second touch curled inside the far post and in. It was Strom’s first goal since joining the Pride last year and her first in the NWSL.
Bend it like Strom— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 4, 2022
Heck of a first career goal!@ORLPride | #PrideOfOrlando pic.twitter.com/zar2XUVjaX
“I almost don’t even still believe that happened,” Strom said about her goal. “But D (Darian Jenkins) I think gave me a great pass back and just saw the opportunity and took it. We’ve always been having a bit of difficulty scoring the past few games. So that’s been a focus these past couple of weeks in training. So it was really nice to get when we were going at them. And yeah, it was nice to go in for sure.”
“It’s a big confidence booster,” Hines added. “You know, when that first goal goes in, can we get another one and then can we control the game after that?”
The goal broke a 329-minute scoring drought for the Pride that dated back to the team’s May 27 game against the Washington Spirit, when Cluff and Jenkins scored two second-half, injury-time goals to equalize. Since scoring that goal, the Pride had been outscored 14-0 in a 5-0 loss to the Houston Dash, a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars, a 6-0 loss to the Portland Thorns, and falling behind 2-0 tonight to Racing Louisville.
After going more than three-and-a-half games between goals before Strom converted, it only took 11 minutes for the Pride to score their next goal. After starting the attack, Jenkins continued her run into the Louisville box. Tymrak received the ball and quickly played it forward. The Louisville defense tried to step up on Jenkins, but Gemma Bonner kept her onside. Jenkins’ first touch with her right foot curled a shot around Lund and in for the equalizing goal.
Tie Game @darian_jenks | @ORLPride pic.twitter.com/Ye4yHKnWau— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 4, 2022
“We said at halftime we knew it was coming,” Strom said about scoring two quick goals. “And once we got one they were gonna keep falling.”
Louisville nearly took the lead back in the 78th minute. Tymrak’s foul on DeMelo just outside the box set up a set piece from a similar distance and angle to the DeMelo goal. This time Ekic was the only one around the ball. The first-half goal scorer’s strike appeared to be headed inside the near post, but McLeod made an excellent diving save, knocking it away.
Two minutes later, the Pride nearly took their first lead of the game. Tymrak played Jenkins through, in a ball similar to the one that resulted in Jenkins’ goal. The forward attempted to play the ball low to the far corner, but Lund did well to get down and make the save with her right foot.
As time wound down, both teams were looking for a winner. Despite having gone down 2-0 in the second half, the Pride felt that they could come away with three points.
“I thought we were gonna get one in the end,” Strom said. “And it would have been nice to get.”
“The last 10 minutes I kept yelling to people like three more minutes, three minutes,” Celia added. “Give me three more minutes, because I really did think that we had it in us and I could taste it.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the final minutes and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Pride ended the game with more possession (54.4%-45.6%) but the game was statistically very even. Louisville had more shots (15-13), but the teams had the same number of shots on goal (8-8), corners (4-4), and crosses (16-16).
“Bittersweet,” Hines said about the result. “I think the team showed a lot of courage to come back from 2-0 down. You know, we’ve been in this position too often. But I felt that we didn’t deserve to lose that game today. I think that players played terrific. They played how we wanted to play. We wanted to control the game with our passing and move in and create goal-scoring opportunities. Obviously we need to work on the last part of that. But I can’t fault their attitude after this week. From one day to the game today has been first class.”
Despite only getting a draw in what was technically a home game, the point ends a three-game losing streak in which the team was outscored 14-0. It also ended a goalless run of 329 consecutive minutes.
The Pride have a short week as they take the field again on Friday night against the Houston Dash at Exploria Stadium. The team will be looking to build off this result to get their first win since May 18 in North Carolina.