The Orlando Pride (5-7-6, 21 points) dropped their second consecutive game, falling to the Portland Thorns (8-3-7, 31 points) 2-0 at Exploria Stadium. Yazmeen Ryan opened the scoring in the 31st minute and Hina Sugita doubled the visitors’ lead in the 65th minute.
This was the second time that these two teams met during the 2022 NWSL season. The first meeting was a dominant 6-0 win by Portland at Providence Park. While the Pride weren’t beaten as badly in this one, it was just as dominant of a performance by the Thorns.
The first half was almost all Portland as the Pride didn’t even get a shot off until the 36th minute. They were much more competitive in the second half, but the best chances were still created by the visitors.
Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines made three changes to the team that lost 2-1 to OL Reign two weeks ago. Erin McLeod was in concussion protocol, giving backup Anna Moorhouse the opportunity to start for the first time since the NWSL Challenge Cup. Toni Pressley re-entered the lineup for Carrie Lawrence and Mikayla Cluff took the place of Viviana Villacorta, who had season-ending ankle surgery after sustaining an injury against OL Reign.
The back four in front of Moorhouse for this game was Celia, Megan Montefusco, Pressley, and Kylie Strom. Jordyn Listro and Meggie Dougherty Howard were in the defensive midfield behind Cluff, Erika Tymrak, and Kerry Abello, with Julie Doyle up top.
The first chance of the game was in the fourth minute when Natalia Kuikka sent a long ball for Sophia Smith. However, Montefusco played it well and was able to knock it out of play. The ensuing corner by Sam Coffey found the head of Morgan Weaver but the header was wide.
The second chance of the game came in the 11th minute when Kuikka sent a cross in from the left, again looking for Smith. The U.S. international appeared to have a chance at goal but Montefusco did well again to step in front and knock it out of play. The corner by Ryan was turned on goal by Kelli Hubly but was over the crossbar.
In the 18th minute, Portland had its third chance of the game off of a Pride turnover. Attempting to work the ball out of the back, a poor pass by Listro for Cluff resulted in the latter tipping the ball to Sugita. The turnover allowed Sugita space to shoot from the top of the box but it was right to Moorhouse.
The first multiple-shot attack of the game came in the 24th minute. A shot by Smith from the left side of the box was blocked away by Moorhouse but the Thorns maintained possession. Smith received the ball back and made a nice turn to beat her defender and get into the box. But the ball got a bit too far from her and Pressley cleared it out of play for a corner kick. The ensuing corner by Coffey was caught by Moorhouse.
After dominating the possession and chances, the Thorns finally broke through in the 31st minute. It started in the back when Becky Sauerbrunn played Meghan Klingenberg to the left. She found Weaver making a run towards the corner and the forward quickly sent the ball into the box. Ryan was there to get on the end of the cross and put it past Moorhouse for the game’s opening goal.
The Pride finally got their first chance at goal in the 36th minute. A hard challenge by Ryan on Strom gave the Pride a free kick outside the top left corner of the box. Dougherty Howard sent the cross in for Cluff, who turned and shot, but a defender got a foot to it and Portland cleared.
The Pride got their best chance of the first half in the 40th minute when Olivia Moultrie fouled Tymrak just outside of the box. Pressley stepped up to the ball, looking to smash it towards goal, but the free kick was off the wall and out for a corner kick.
The ensuing corner by Tymrak found the head of Cluff near the top of the six-yard box. The young midfielder attempted to send the ball inside the far post but it went just wide for a Thorns goal kick.
A minute later, Dougherty Howard sent Abello down the left side of the field. Hubly stepped up to defend, but Abello played it around her, beating Hubly with her speed. It looked like Abello would have a good shot on goal, but the defender recovered, knocking her off balance. As a result, the shot was wide of the near post.
“It’s hot here. It gets humid,” Hines said about the team getting better chances at the end of the first half. “It’s a difficult environment to play in. And that’s where we’ve ended games — first halves and second halves — better because we adapted to the environment. We’ve pushed the players extremely hard and fitness levels and, you know, we just need to get that reward at the end of the day.”
The first 45 minutes were dominated by the visitors. Portland led the first half in possession (55.8%-44.2%), shots (10-4), shots on target (5-0), corners (3-1), crosses (8-2), and passing accuracy (87.1%-74.5%).
“The last few games we’ve started a little bit flat, you know, been timid,” Cluff said about the first half. “I don’t know if that’s because of who we know we’re playing. It’s a better opponent than the last games before that.”
The second half started similarly to how most of the first half went. In the 47th minute, a Smith shot was blocked out of play by Pressley for a corner. It didn’t result in a shot, but the Pride were unable to clear. Courtney Petersen, who came on for Erika Tymrak at the half, won the ball and tried to play it across the field but sent it directly to a Thorns player.
The Thorns continued to maintain possession and had a great chance to double their lead in the 49th minute. Quick passing allowed Klingenberg to find Ryan near the penalty spot. The first-half goal scorer fired with no defenders near her but hit it well high of the target.
In the first half, the Pride weren’t able to get a shot off until the 36th minute. However, they got off to a better attacking start in the second 45 minutes. In the 52nd minute, Petersen drew two defenders near the end line and found Dougherty Howard at the top corner of the box. The midfielder attempted to curl the ball inside the far post but missed wide.
Two minutes later, an aggressive takedown of Strom by Kuikka gave the Pride a free kick. Dougherty Howard sent the ball into the box where it landed at the foot of Listro. She quickly fired towards goal but her shot was blocked, allowing Portland to clear.
The visitors had another good chance to double their lead in the 57th minute when Kuikka sent a long ball towards the back post. Weaver was charging in but the ball tailed toward the goal line. Moorhouse did well to tip the ball away or it either would have snuck just inside the far post or would’ve been met by Weaver. Instead, it was a corner kick.
Portland doubled its lead in the 65th minute after picking up possession by taking it from Dougherty Howard near midfield. Moultrie carried the ball inside the box but was turned back away from goal. Instead of looking for her own shot, she played it back to Sugita outside of the box. Since no Pride defenders stepped up, Sugita decided to have a go at goal. The shot didn’t initially look very dangerous, but Moorhouse didn’t seem to see it until the last second and it went off the inside of the far post and in to increase the Portland lead to 2-0.
“I thought it was going wide,” Moorhouse said about conceding the goal. “I got my bearings just a little bit off. But, to be fair, she put it in off the post so it was right in the corner. So I’m going to have to come up with something special to even keep that out.”
Portland had a great chance for a third from the team’s leading goal scorer in the 74th minute. The Thorns had a transition opportunity and Weaver found Smith in the box with no defenders around her. Moorhouse decided to stay on her line instead of coming out to cut down her angle, but Smith’s shot was well over the goal.
As time wound down, the Pride created some chances, trying to get back into the game. This included a long-distance shot by Cluff, a free kick into the box by substitute Thais Reiss, and a header towards goal by Montefusco off a corner. But none of these chances were on target and Portland went home with a 2-0 win.
In the end, Portland led the Pride in every meaningful statistical category. The Thorns had more possession (60.6%-39.4%), shots (19-10), shots on target (8-1), corners (7-6), crosses (16-13), and passing accuracy (86.8%-75.1%).
“A tough one. Portland are a top team,” Hines said about the performance. “They’re obviously high on the table. It’s another good test for us and a good test to see where we’re at in terms of our progression. And, you know, I felt like we were a little bit off today, a little bit off of our passing. There was moments where we won the ball. We didn’t really threaten them behind. We’re all showing to feet, which encouraged their press even more. And, you know, we didn’t do our principles to the fullest.”
“I think what Seb said in the huddle after the game, we just need to keep going as a team and being together,” Moorhouse added. “We’ve just played two tough teams and we’ve done in most parts well against them. I think we need to stick to our principles a little bit more against the tough teams and keep playing our game and not give them too much respect to come here especially and play that game. So we need to disrupt the bigger teams a little bit more from their own game.”
Prior to the OL Reign game two weeks ago, two of the last three games were against teams currently out of a playoff spot. Facing better teams, they’ve now lost two in a row. The next two games are against teams out of the playoffs so the Pride have an opportunity to claim points.
The loss keeps the Pride in eighth in the NWSL standings with just four games remaining in the season. They’ll look to break their current losing streak next Friday night when they take on Racing Louisville in Kentucky.