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Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave FC: Final Score 2-2 as Pride Blow Two-Goal Lead in Home Finale

The Pride were moments away from just their second home win of the season but conceded late to throw away two points.

NWSL: San Diego Wave FC at Orlando Pride Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride (5-9-7, 22 points) took a 2-0 lead over San Diego Wave FC (10-6-5, 35 points) but two late goals saw the teams draw 2-2. Meggie Dougherty Howard and Gunny Jonsdottir scored first two goals for the hosts while Makenzy Doniak and Taylor Kornieck scored for the visitors.

Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines made four changes from the team that lost 3-0 to the North Carolina Courage Wednesday night. Toni Pressley, Courtney Petersen, Dougherty Howard, and Thais Reiss entered the lineup for Ally Watt, Kylie Strom, Jordyn Listro, and Kerry Abello.

The back four in front of Erin McLeod consisted of Celia, Pressley, Carrie Lawrence, and Petersen. For the first time, the Pride lineup had two sixes in Montefusco and Haley Hanson. Dougherty Howard, Jonsdottir, and Reiss were in the attacking midfield with Leah Pruitt up top.

With a unique lineup and a unique formation for this team, it was expected that San Diego would jump all over the Pride. However, Orlando played well for most of the game, taking a 1-0 lead into halftime. They got a second in the second half and looked to be on their way to all three points. But a common problem occurred as they conceded two late goals to claim only one point.

The Pride jumped out to a fast start in this game, creating a pair of corners inside the first three minutes. After the first corner was cleared, the Pride had the game’s first chance when quick passing between Dougherty Howard and Hanson allowed the latter to play Reiss in behind the Wave defense. Reiss got inside the six but Wave goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan closed her down and blocked the shot out of play with her leg. The ensuing corner was quickly cleared by San Diego.

The visitors’ first chance came in the eighth minute when former Pride midfielder Emily van Egmond won control of the ball on the Pride half of the field. The Australian international played it forward for Sofia Jakobsson, who found enough space for a shot at the top of the box. Jakobsson was looking to sneak the ball inside the far post but it rolled just wide.

The Pride had another good opportunity in the 17th minute off a Wave mistake. Naomi Girma attempted to play the ball outside for Christen Westphal but it was a weak pass and easily intercepted by Dougherty Howard. The Pride midfielder got into the box and took a shot on goal but it was right at Sheridan.

In the 25th minute, Kornieck almost made it through the Pride’s back line to get a chance on goal. After receiving the ball from Girma, Jodie Taylor’s first touch sent Kornieck through. She had a step on Montefusco but the defensive midfielder caught up to the former Pride attacker, tipping the ball and allowing Lawrence to clear it out of play.

The Wave had another good chance in the 31st minute when Petersen got caught too far inside. Jakobsson was left with plenty of space on the right and Jaedyn Shaw found her. Jakobsson carried the ball into the box and tried to chip McLeod, but it was over the crossbar.

The visitors paid for those misses in the 33rd minute. After receiving the ball from Hanson near the corner of the box, Pruitt sent a low cross to the top of the six. Sheridan came out in an attempt to clear the ball, but Dougherty Howard beat her to it. The Pride midfielder tapped it past the Wave goalkeeper to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.

“Obviously a goal helps to have a little bit of a cushion,” Dougherty Howard said about her goal. “But I think it was the work that led up to that goal that produced the opportunity for us to just build off that.”

In addition to being Dougherty Howard’s third goal of the season, the goal broke Orlando’s 356-minute scoring drought dating back to Aug. 26 against OL Reign. Coincidentally, Dougherty Howard scored that goal as well, which came in the 37th minute of a 2-1 loss. The midfielder also scored the only goal in the Pride’s 1-0 win over the Wave in San Diego on Aug. 13, with that goal coming via penalty.

The Wave nearly got that goal back in the 36th minute when Taylor found Kaitlyn Johnson at the top of the box. The midfielder had enough space to shoot from the top of the box and the ball was headed for the far corner but McLeod made a diving stop.

That was the last good chance of the first half as the Pride took a 1-0 lead into the break. After 45 minutes of play, San Diego had more possession (55.5%-44.5%) and shots (6-4). However, the Pride had more shots on target (3-1), crosses (8-4), and, most importantly, scored the half’s lone goal.

“To be honest, I think we kind of let our foot off the gas last bit of the first half. So that was something we touched on in the second half,” Dougherty Howard about the team’s halftime thoughts. “In the past, we have been complacent once we score and that was something we talked about going into the start the second half, that we wanted to get back to the way we started the game, kind of clean slate, not dwell on the fact that we were up 1-0 because that’s dangerous to just get comfortable in that league.”

The Wave got off to the better attacking start in the second half. The visitors won the first corner of the second period of play when Carrie Lawrence cleared a ball out of play. The ensuing corner ended up with Westphal at the top of the box but her weak shot was easily cleared. They had another chance in the 54th minute when Westphal sent a cross into the six-yard box for a charging Kornieck. The attacker went up for the ball, but McLeod beat her to it and the Pride were able to clear.

The Wave made three changes before the hour mark, but the Pride soon followed. Instead of making defensive changes to hold onto the 1-0 lead, Hines brought on Ally Watt and Haley Bugeja in the 62nd minute for Pruitt and Reiss. The team’s third change came in the 67th minute when Kylie Strom entered for Celia.

Despite the attacking moves, San Diego continued to pressure. In the 64th minute, a van Egmond cross found the head of Kornieck. The forward redirected the ball towards goal but it was right at McLeod.

A minute later, a turnover by Celia in her own end created another chance for San Diego. Doniak took control of the poor pass and dribbled towards the end line. The midfielder sent a cross to the top of the box that found Kelsey Turnbow, but the shot was blocked by Pressley.

Once again, the missed opportunities by San Diego cost the visitors as the Pride doubled their lead. In the 68th minute, Petersen sent a cross into the San Diego box. Jonsdottir got her head to the ball, sending it low and towards goal. Sheridan got down in an attempt to block it but was too late and the Pride increased their lead to 2-0.

“We were able to, in the second half, get the ball down, play, get into a really good spot for Courtney Petersen to deliver a really good ball,” Hines said about the second Pride goal. “And a commitment from Gunny to get there and get a good head on it.”

Following the goal, San Diego continued to attack, looking to get back into the game. Jakobsson’s shot in the 71st minute was blocked and Kristen McNabb missed the target in the 75th minute. But the Wave finally got one in the 76th minute.

Turnbow sent a cross from the right into the box where Doniak was charging in. The second-half substitute barely got her head to the ball, but enough to send it just over the fingertips of McLeod and into the far corner, cutting the Pride lead to 2-1.

Until that goal, the Pride had attempted to keep their foot on the pedal. The substitutions were more like-for-like and attacking. However, with only a one-goal lead, a change in shape was necessary.

“Once we were 2-1, we felt like we had to change shape so we went to a five back,” Hines said about the move. “We dropped Megan (Montefusco) in. We had 5-4-1. Anytime a team is down and you play a direct team, they’re gonna even be more direct.”

In the 78th minute, Bugeja switched the ball to Petersen on the left side, allowing the defender to get a shot off. However, it was from distance and a poor angle, allowing Sheridan to easily catch it.

A minute later, a Jakobsson cross reached McNabb on the far side. The defender fired on goal but got under the ball and it sailed over the crossbar.

The Wave found their long-awaited equalizer in the 87th minute. It started with a free kick after Jonsdottir fouled Doniak. McNabb sent the free kick to the top of the six where it was softly cleared out to Kornieck in the middle of the box. The former Pride player didn’t miss this opportunity, slamming it past McLeod to make it 2-2.

“It’s the second phase and it lands to her feet,” Hines said about San Diego’s second goal. “You know, if it’s a foot away from Kornieck, Abello gets it. It’s just one of the things that happens.”

“I think we just, in these games, can’t lose focus, even if we’re 2-0 up,” Jonsdottir said about conceding the two late goals. “We need to just be turned on and then we switched off for a second there and they’re a good team. So they punish us and that’s how it is.”

The Pride tried to find a late winner in the 90th minute when Lawrence received the ball from about 40 yards out off a clearance. The center back took her chance and fired on goal. It looked as though it might’ve been dipping under the crossbar, so Sheridan tipped it over.

The Pride had one more chance in the final minute of injury time when Watt chipped a ball towards the far post. Madison Pogarch got the final touch, providing the Pride with a corner kick. The ensuing corner by Jonsdottir was the final ball into either team’s box but it was cleared away by San Diego.

San Diego finished the game with more possession (58.1%-41.9%), shots (15-6), and crosses (21-20). The Pride did end the game with more shots on target (5-4) but it wasn’t enough as they blew a two-goal lead in their final home game of the season.

“I’m really proud of the players,” Hines said about the game. “It’s been tough the last four games — injuries, three-game week. And you can see today they went above and beyond to try and get results and the effort and the commitment and players coming into the lineup and playing their part and players coming off the bench and playing their part and we took it all the way to the final whistle. So, I’m really proud of the players and everything that they’ve put into this week to get a result today.”

“We’ve been through a bit of a rough patch. So today’s game was all about character,” Jonsdottir added. “That’s what the team showed today. And I’m so proud of them. It kind of feels like a loss because I thought we were good in this game. That’s a tough one to take. But as I said, I’m so proud of the team.”

The Pride will end the season with a home record of 1-5-5. The fans also showed up for this game as 6,466 were in attendance. That’s the second-highest home attendance of the year and the highest this season at Exploria Stadium. The team drew 7,573 when it faced Racing Louisville on July 3 at Daytona International Speedway.

“Great crowd tonight,” Dougherty Howard said about the support. “It makes a difference when we’re on the field, just giving that extra energy, and I felt like hopefully (we) made the fans proud and we put out a performance that represents who we want to be.”

The draw has an impact on both teams. While the Wave clinched a playoff spot, the Pride remain in ninth in the league with one game remaining in the season. The team can’t finish any lower than 10th and can only be caught by the Washington Spirit. It’s a situation that most people didn’t expect from the team during a rebuilding year.

The Pride will now travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on OL Reign next Saturday night in the season finale.