A second-half, injury-time goal saw OL Reign (7-4-6, 27 points) defeat the Orlando Pride (5-6-6, 21 points) 2-1 at Exploria Stadium, putting an end to Orlando’s seven-match unbeaten run. The Pride took the lead in the 37th minute when Meggie Dougherty Howard took advantage of a mistake in the back, but second-half goals by Bethany Balcer and Megan Rapinoe lifted the visitors to the win.
Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines only made one change to the team that beat San Diego Wave FC 1-0 and NJ/NY Gotham FC 2-1 last weekend. Toni Pressley was unavailable for selection due to being in COVID protocol and was replaced by Carrie Lawrence. As a result, the back four in front of Erin McLeod was Celia, Megan Montefusco, Lawrence, and Kylie Strom. Dougherty Howard and Jordyn Listro were the defensive midfielders behind Erika Tymrak, Viviana Villacorta, and Kerry Abello, with Julie Doyle starting up top.
OL Reign dominated this game from the start. The Pride were unable to get the ball out of the back, repeatedly turning the ball over in their own end. It was 37 minutes before the Pride got their first real chance of the game. However, they stayed in the game because of some blocked shots by Lawrence and Montefusco, as well as the Reign only putting five of their 15 shots on target.
Rose Lavelle got a shot off for the game’s first chance in the fifth minute and Rapinoe took one in the sixth minute, but both were blocked away. They had another chance in the 11th minute when Celia conceded a corner. Rapinoe sent it to the near post but Alana Cook flicked it over the crossbar.
In the 13th minute, a Pride turnover gave Lavelle the opportunity to fire on goal from the top of the box. The ball beat McLeod but was off the crossbar, the closest chance of the opening minutes.
Two minutes later, Jess Fishlock sent a cross into the box that found the foot of Jordyn Huitema near the six-yard box. The forward volleyed the ball towards goal but it was right at McLeod, who made the catch.
In the 21st minute, Villacorta reached out for a ball near the sideline and appeared to roll onto her left ankle. The midfielder went down and required treatment. She tested her ankle on the sideline while the Pride played with 10, but ultimately wasn’t able to continue and was replaced by Mikayla Cluff.
“I’m not sure. Hopefully, fingers crossed, it’s nothing too serious,” Hines said about Villacorta’s injury. “We have to remember that this is her first season back from an ACL. So the way that she’s progressed and she’s been such an important part of our success.”
In the 34th minute, Strom tripped up Huitema as she attempted to beat her about 30 yards from goal. The ensuing free kick was taken by Rapinoe, who sent a bending ball into the box. The ball skipped past several players on its way through, without anyone being able to get a touch on it.
After 36 minutes of play, the game had been dominated by OL Reign. The visitors led in every statistic, recording seven shots and 13 crosses. Conversely, the Pride hadn’t created any chances, recording no shots, corner kicks, or crosses. But somehow they managed to score first.
In the 37th minute, the visitors attempted to play the ball out of the back. The Pride were pressing Sam Hiatt but she played the ball right to Dougherty Howard. The midfielder took a long shot at goal — the team’s first of the game — which deflected off Cook and went past Phallon Tullis-Joyce to give the Pride a very unexpected 1-0 lead.
Here's how @MeggieDH fired the @ORLPride in front #ORLvRGN | #PrideOfOrlando pic.twitter.com/zCXshmSGZJ— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) August 27, 2022
The visitors nearly equalized a minute into first-half injury time. An OL Reign cross was tipped by the sliding foot of Lawrence and met the head of Balcer at the back post. However, McLeod showed quick reflexes to get to the ball before it got past her and pushed it away.
At halftime, OL Reign had more shots (8-2), shots on goal (3-1), corners (1-0), crosses (14-0) and passing accuracy (84.8%-77.4%). The Pride had slightly more possession (50.1%-49.9%) but were absolutely dominated in the first 45 minutes. However, the mistake by OL Reign allowed the hosts to go into the locker room with a one-goal lead.
“I thought we started the game slow and scared,” Hines said about the first half. “That was our message at halftime was do what we’ve been doing well to get to this point.”
“I think the first half, the last 20 minutes we dominated and we stuck to our principles and we were calm,” Tymrak said about the team’s mindset at halftime. “We were urgent going forward, were confident in how we wanted to play, and at halftime we said we have to keep that going and we play like that. We have this game.”
OL Reign started the second half as they’d played in the first. In the 53rd minute, Fishlock sent a ball towards the back post that was directed for Balcer. However, it was a little too far for the forward and Strom was able to see it out of play.
Following the chance for OL Reign, the Pride made their first second-half substitution. As he’s done in previous games, Hines took off Doyle minutes into the start of the half and brought on Ally Watt. It was Watt’s second appearance for her new team and her first in front of her new hometown fans.
In the 56th minute, the visitors found the equalizer. It started on a headed clearance by Lawrence that didn’t go very far. Tymrak was immediately on Rapinoe, who had collected the ball, but Rapinoe flicked it over Tymrak’s head, creating enough room for a cross. The ball landed on the head of Balcer who was charging into the six-yard box. McLeod got a hand on it but it wasn’t enough and it went into the bottom corner of the goal to even the game at 1-1.
.@mPinoe ➡️ @bethanybalcer ‼️@OLReign are back level!#ORLvRGN | #BoldTogether pic.twitter.com/DRCkTWQr26— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) August 27, 2022
The Reign nearly scored a second just a minute later when a quick throw-in by Rapinoe allowed Huitema to send in a cross at the end line. The cross reached Lavelle right in front of goal but she put it over the crossbar.
The Pride got their first second-half chance in the 67th minute, when Tymrak sent the ball forward for Watt, one of the league’s fastest players. Watt beat the Reign defenders to the ball and was able to get a shot off, but it was over the crossbar.
Following the Pride’s chance, the Reign went back on the attack. Fishlock found Rapinoe overlapping on the left in the 69th minute, allowing the latter to get off a cross. It was just out of reach for McLeod and glanced off the crossbar but none of her teammates were there to get on the end of it.
The Pride nearly had a second chance of the half in the 70th minute when Tymrak sent a low ball into the box. It was behind Dougherty Howard, but the first-half goal scorer managed to flick it on with her heel. Unfortunately, Tullis-Joyce got to it before any Pride attackers could.
Lavelle sent a ball towards the back post in the 73rd minute to set up another opportunity. Sofia Huerta beat her defender to the ball, allowing a chance with McLeod closer to the near post. However, it was a poor attempt and instead of redirecting it on goal, she hit it out of play for a goal kick.
Hines made two more subs in the 76th minute — one offensive and one defensive. On the attacking side, Gunny Jonsdottir came on for Abello. Defensively, Haley Hanson came on for her second appearance for the Pride, replacing Celia.
With time winding down, the visitors continued to push for a winner. In the 90th minute, Fishlock received a short clearance just outside the box. She quickly fired towards goal but hit it wide.
Two minutes into second-half stoppage time, the Reign got their second goal. Huerta sent a great ball towards the back post where Rapinoe was making a run. The forward slid in, getting her foot to the ball and knocking it in to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??? @mPinoe with a stoppage time stunner for @OLReign!#ORLvRGN | #BoldTogether pic.twitter.com/cVp1s0CJnd— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) August 27, 2022
“We knew they were good at whipping balls in the box, and they definitely executed on that,” Montefusco said about the second Reign goal. “So we have to give it to them.”
The Pride got one more chance a minute later through Tymrak. The midfielder took a shot from the top of the box that appeared to be heading just inside the post but Tullis-Joyce was able to make her way across the goal and catch it. That was the last action of the game.
In the end, the Pride had more possession (51.9%-48.1%), but OL Reign had more shots (15-8), shots on goal (5-3), crosses (25-6), and more accurate passes (81.2%-78.5%). Additionally, both teams had two corner kicks.
“I felt the second half was better,” Hines said after the game. “It’s a sucker punch at the end because I felt like we were starting to get momentum and we looked like the team that was going to get the winning goal. But, you know, football’s a cruel game at times. And it’s a learning moment for all of us.”
“It’s tough. I’m not gonna lie,” Montefusco said after the game. “You know, I thought our team has been building something really special. Obviously, you can see that out in the field. We put everything out there. It’s just really defeating to go down at the very end like that.”
The Pride will now have two weeks to reflect on this defeat before returning to action on Sept. 9 when they welcome the Portland Thorns to Exploria Stadium.