Back-and-forth hustle play by both teams ended in only one of the many goal-scoring opportunities successfully being netted. In Toyota Park, the Chicago Red Stars finished off the Orlando Pride 1-0 Sunday night.
U.S. women’s national team player Christen Press scored the lone goal of the match in the 65th minute. A foul by the Pride set up a free kick at midfield. The following long ball found a streaking Press, who penetrated Orlando’s back line into the middle of the box, took one touch and shot it above goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Harris had but this one blemish on her stat sheet. As is consistent with the rest of her play this inaugural NWSL season, Harris made more spectacular saves.
In the 13th minute, Pride defender Laura Alleway attempted a pass back to Monica Hickmann Alves, but it was intercepted by Chicago’s Sofia Huerta, who found Press in the middle for an open shot that was blocked by Harris. In the 56th minute, Harris followed suit as she deflected a low, rocketed shot by 51st-minute substitute Amanda Da Costa. Lastly, in the 89th minute, Harris dove to her right with an outstretched arm to deflect a headed shot by Chicago’s Casey Short.
“[The match was] frustrating, to be honest,” Pride head coach Tom Sermanni said. “I thought, particularly first half, we dominated large parts of play, but didn’t get anything for it and probably didn’t create enough chances for the possession that we had. I thought the effort from the players was fantastic and the players kept going right until the end and almost gave ourselves a chance to equalize.
“But, I thought, today our execution at critical times sort of let us down. Some of our decision-making let us down and some of the quality of what we did let us down a little bit. But we had enough possession and we had enough chances to probably win.”
With no time left in regulation, late-match substitute Jasmyne Spencer supplied the Pride with one last opportunity at an equalizer. Kristen Edmonds gathered the ball just outside the top of Chicago’s box and sent a through ball to Spencer, whose speeding, low grounder appeared to barely skim the left goal post.
The Pride’s last opportunity at an equalizer came in extra time as Alleway set up for a free kick set up by a foul on Spencer. Alleway, who banged a ball off the top of the crossbar in the first match of the season against the Portland Thorns off of a free kick in a similar spot, launched a shot too high over the top of the goal, effectively ending the game.
The Red Stars (2-1-0, 6 points) visit the Boston Breakers on Saturday.
As for the Pride (1-2-0, 3 points), they welcome the Seattle Reign at Camping World Stadium on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Pride player of the match
Without a doubt, Harris deserves this honor for the evening. Her stalwart play in goal gave her teammates every opportunity to equalize and/or win the match.
The 30-year-old’s performance made up for several back-line mistakes, including errant passes and allowing the opposition’s offense to penetrate for easy looks.
Spencer did not start
Interestingly enough, Spencer, perennial Pride starter (for what it’s worth), did not start her third match in a row in the Pride’s inaugural season in the NWSL. Instead, 26-year-old Sarah Hagen and 28-year-old Lianne Sanderson got starting nods.
Throughout the first half of the match, it was obvious the Pride wanted to play an aggressive, active press with their forwards and attacking midfielders. With possession, it appeared as if the Pride was trying to utilize the size of Alex Morgan, Sanderson and Hagen inside the box.
Each play seemed to be initiated by Josée Bélanger as she blasted cross after cross from the right side for Pride players crowding inside. That same strategy wasn’t used much for the rest of the match, if at all.
Orlando City starting XI (4-3-3): Harris; Catley, Alves, Alleway, Bélanger; Evans, Kaylyn Kyle, Kristen Edmonds; Morgan, Sanderson, Hagen
Chicago Red Stars starting XI (N/A): N/A
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