The Orlando Pride (4-5-6, 18 points) held onto a one-goal lead for 67 minutes to beat San Diego Wave FC (7-5-4, 25 points), 1-0 at Torero Stadium in the first meeting ever between the two clubs. The hosts hit the woodwork three times, but the lone goal was a Meggie Dougherty Howard penalty conversion in the 23rd minute.
Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines made two changes to the starting lineup that drew Angel City FC 2-2 last weekend. Carrie Lawrence was out due to concussion protocol and was replaced by Megan Montefusco, who returned from a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Additionally, Julie Doyle re-entered the lineup in place of Darian Jenkins.
As a result, the Pride lined up with a back line of Celia, Montefusco, Toni Pressley, and Kylie Strom in front of Erin McLeod. Dougherty Howard, Jordyn Listro, and Viviana Villacorta were in the midfield behind an attacking line of Kerry Abello, Doyle, and Erika Tymrak.
The game got off to a frantic start with the hosts having multiple early chances. Inside the first 30 seconds, Amirah Ali found herself with the ball right in front of goal when Strom’s wayward header fell at her feet. However, McLeod did well to get down and make a huge stop with her right leg. In the third minute, Ali sent a cross into the box looking for Kelsey Turnbow, but the ball was a bit too high for the forward.
“Before the game started, we talked about how they were going to come out and stretch and, especially the first 10 minutes, it was going to be difficult to play,” Dougherty Howard said about the opening minutes. “But we needed to stay committed to our game plan and not get frustrated when the ball would bobble up or we’d have difficulty playing out and just stick with what we wanted to do. And I think things did settle down after that first initial period.”
The Pride got their first chance of the game in the fifth minute when Turnbow fouled Villacorta just outside of the San Diego box. Pressley and Villacorta stood over the ball but it was Dougherty Howard who took it. The Pride midfielder got the ball over the wall but it was just wide of the post. Even if it had been on target, it appeared as though Kailen Sheridan had it covered.
The Wave quickly pushed the other way and had their closest chance of the first half. Former Pride forward Taylor Kornieck sent a long ball for Alex Morgan, who was running alongside Montefusco. Morgan did well to shield the center back, creating a chance on goal. The former Pride star beat McLeod but the shot was off the post, allowing the Pride to escape the danger.
The Wave had another great chance in the ninth minute when the hosts had a three-on-two break. Morgan led the attack and had two teammates across from her, but decided to take the shot herself. It was probably an ill-advised decision as the shot skipped wide of the near post and out of play.
In the 22nd minute, Doyle attempted to cross the ball into the box from the left. Kaleigh Riehl attempted to block the cross, but it hit her outstretched arm. Referee Adorae Monroy didn’t hesitate to point to the spot as Riehl’s arm was clearly extended away from her body
It was only the second penalty this season for the Pride. The first was taken by Pressley after no other Pride players stepped up — something that resulted in Marta chastising her team after that game. This time, Dougherty Howard immediately grabbed the ball and walked to the spot. After a slight hesitation, Sheridan dove the right way, but it was an excellent penalty by Dougherty Howard, on the ground and just inside the post.
“I have kind of been preparing for that,” Dougherty Howard said about taking the penalty. “The last few weeks, if we have a penalty, that I was planning on taking it, so I’ve been training on them. Take some deep breaths, stay calm, and just know if you get it in a good spot, it’s going to be really hard to save. So I’m just trying to find a corner, stay calm, and thankfully it went in.”
It was Dougherty Howard’s second goal in her NWSL career and her first as a member of the Pride.
“If they’re on the field, if they’re feeling it,” Hines said about who would take the penalty. “Meggie was feeling it. She was practicing them yesterday. She stepped up and slotted it home. Can’t ask for more than that really.”
Following the goal, the game settled down and was mostly played in midfield. Both teams had excellent chances up to that point but few opportunities were created throughout the remainder of the first half.
In the 39th minute, Morgan cut back in the box to lose her defender. She should’ve been able to take the shot herself, but lost control for a brief moment and was forced to dump it back to Turnbow. It was a good opportunity for the forward but her shot was over the goal.
The Pride had a dangerous moment two minutes into injury time when a San Diego free kick sailed into the Pride box. Montefusco attempted to head it out but it glanced off the top and went right to Celia. The right back attempted to clear it but sent it towards her own goal. Morgan was on the chase but couldn’t get to it before the ball went out of play for a corner kick.
In the opening minutes, it looked like San Diego would dominate the game. However, the first half ended quite even. San Diego had more possession (53.3%-46.7%), shots (5-4), corner kicks (2-0), and crosses (10-3), but the teams had the same number of shots on goal (2-2). More importantly, the Pride had an attempt from the spot and took a one-goal advantage into the break.
San Diego players felt that they should’ve had a penalty five minutes into the second half. After Tymrak beat Turnbow, the Wave forward quickly won it back and sent the ball in for Morgan. Both Morgan and Montefusco went for the ball and it appeared as though Montefusco kicked the back of the striker. However, Monroy determined that there wasn’t enough contact for a foul.
The Pride nearly made a costly mistake in the 53rd minute when Katie Johnson sent the ball into the box. McLeod was too close to the near post, creating an open goal. Johnson was aiming for McNabb but Celia did well to cover the open space and clear it away.
In the 57th minute, a Kornieck shot created a little more chaos in the Pride box. Pressley tried to clear the ball, but her attempted clearance rolled back across the six-yard box. Fortunately, McLeod was in the right position this time and was able to jump on the ball.
In the 59th minute, Listro fouled Morgan as she was entering the box. It was close to being a penalty, but the contact was made just outside of the area. The ensuing free kick setup consisted of Turnbow and Emily van Egmond standing next to the ball as Morgan was just behind. Turnbow and van Egmond tapped it, allowing Morgan to run up and fire towards goal.
The ball slammed on the far post — the second time in the game that Morgan hit the woodwork — and went right to Kornieck in front of goal. The forward tried to put the rebound in, but Montefusco was there to block it out of play. The following corner found the head of Kornieck but her shot was wide and the Pride were able to clear.
In the 66th minute, Turnbow sent a cross into the box looking for Kornieck at the far post. Kornieck tried to lift her foot high enough to redirect it in. Had she knocked it down or directly ahead, it would’ve been an equalizer. However, the ball went straight up and over the crossbar.
Kornieck had a pair of chances in the 70th and 73rd minutes from Westphal corner kicks. The first one was right into the arms of McLeod and the second was just wide of the near post.
As time wound down, San Diego had the majority of the chances. In the 84th minute, a van Egmond cross found Morgan but her header wasn’t very strong, allowing the Pride to clear. In the 88th minute, Sofia Jakobsson stormed into the box. After fighting off Celia, she had contact with Jenkins. Both players went down and Jakobsson thought she earned a penalty, but a goal kick was awarded.
In the 89th minute, a van Egmond ball into the box was flicked on by Kornieck for Kristen McNabb. The defender headed it toward goal but couldn’t get it down enough as it bounced off the top of the crossbar. It was the third time in the game that San Diego had hit the woodwork.
“The post was one of our best players as well,” Hines said after the game. “But there’s been other games where we’ve not won games and we’ve dominated, so we probably deserved that luck today.”
Four minutes into injury time, McLeod was called upon for one more big save. A nice run by substitute Marleen Schimmer created a shot just outside the box. It was a hard, low shot on target but McLeod did well to get down and make the stop without allowing a rebound.
San Diego led most statistical categories, with more possession (55.8%-44.2%), shots (19-8), shots on target (6-2), corners (5-1), and crosses (22-8). However, the Wave hit the post twice and the crossbar once, allowing the Pride to hold on to win.
“This one was, I mean, it was massive,” Hines said about the win. “We’re running out of games as we’re coming towards the end of the season. You know, I’ve said from the start, we are reaching to get to playoffs and it’s really important that we start picking up wins and three points and what better way to do it with a 1-0 win away from home. So I’ll keep saying that we have to keep this momentum going. We have to look at the next game. Obviously enjoy the moment right now. But again, we’re looking forward, you know, to Gotham and then trying to get three points away from home again.”
“This team has been through a lot this year,” Montefusco added. “And to come out here and win like we did tonight. We played football, and we played great soccer tonight. And I’m just so proud of this team. It’s emotional honestly.”
The win extends the Pride’s unbeaten run to six games (2-0-4) dating back to the team’s 2-2 draw with Racing Louisville FC on July 3. Three of the team’s four wins have now come away from home.
“Honestly, I think it’s just we changed our mentality,” Montefusco said about winning the second game in this unbeaten run. “We know we’re the underdog but now we know we have it in us that we can do it. And we train so hard every single day. We train with that underdog mentality. And we put in so much work and, like I said, we’ve been through a lot, so I think we’ve had to have these hard conversations with each other which has brought us extremely close.”
The Pride are now even on points with Angel City FC for seventh in the NWSL. The Los Angeles-based club has two games in hand, but the Pride are only three points behind OL Reign for the final playoff spot, with both teams having played 15 games. Orlando will visit Gotham next Saturday.