Orlando Pride head coach Marc Skinner said he was expecting the challenge that came with his NWSL debut heading into Sunday’s season-opening game against the Portland Thorns.
A challenge is what he got.
Behind a flurry of attacks from the 2018 NWSL championship finalists, goals from Caitlin Foord and Tobin Heath lifted the Thorns past the Pride 2-0 Sunday. 7,189 were in attendance at Orlando City Stadium for week one of the 2019 NWSL season.
“The thing I’m disappointed with most was what did they really have to do [in the] first half? We allowed them to do it and there’s a difference,” Skinner said following the game. “We’re going to turn this place into a fortress in the future, but I’m learning fast and fast and fast on what our players do or don’t know already. And that for me, it’s nothing about the players, again, it’s not personal. It’s about understanding, educating.”
“I don’t think that Portland had to really earn it,” he added. “They didn’t do anything to earn their victory. I think we gave them the victory today and that’s the disappointing part [that] I’ll fix very quickly.”
Portland dominated the first half, stringing several attacking opportunities as early as the fourth minute when Christine Sinclair rifled a shot at goal, forcing Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to make a finger-tip save.
The attacking threats from Portland continued in the 21st minute when Sinclair’s shot hit off the right post. In the 27th minute, Lindsey Horan’s attempt nearly gave the Thorns the opening goal, but her shot was denied by Harris.
Portland outshot Orlando in the first half 16-5.
The Thorns eventually broke the deadlock before halftime when a back pass from Shelina Zadorsky to Harris forced the goalkeeper under pressure. Her clearance went to Sinclair, who connected with Tobin Heath, who eventually backheeled the ball to Caitlin Foord, who struck the dead ball from close to give the Thorns the 1-0 lead in the 45th minute.
Mark Parson’s side doubled the lead early in the second half when Heath finished off a pass from Foord, slotting the ball past Harris to give the Thorns the 2-0 advantage over the Pride.
“It’s frustrating, it could have been 5-or-6 nothing in the first half,” said Harris. “We were lucky to go into the locker room with only one goal… which should never happen. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but what can I say? Am I pissed? Yeah, of course, I’m pissed, but I have to be the best version of myself every day for this team.”
With Sunday’s loss, the Pride are 0-3-1 in season-opening games since joining the NWSL since 2016.
Australians Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond also missed Sunday’s opener for Orlando due to illness. Center back Toni Pressley also did not play due to a hamstring injury she suffered a week ago during practice.
Alex Morgan almost scored twice for the Pride, once in the 58th minute, when a ball from Marta hit off the crossbar. The second chance came from a strike outside the box in the 66th minute, hitting the bottom-left post.
The Pride had a final chance to find the back of the net in stoppage time, when a ball from Ali Krieger looked to connect with Morgan, but Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made a critical block, which eventually found Kristen Edmonds, who hit the rebound high over the crossbar.
Up next for Orlando
At North Carolina Courage on Wednesday, April 17 at 7 p.m. ET at WakeMed Soccer Park.
45′ POR- Caitlin Foord; (Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair)
50′ POR-Tobin Heath; (Caitlin Foord)
How the Pride lined up
Orlando Pride XI: Ashlyn Harris (c); Ali Krieger, Joanna Boyles, Shelina Zadorsky, Carson Pickett; Bridget Callahan, Dani Weatherholt, Chioma, Ubogagu, Rachel Hill; Marta, Alex Morgan
Orlando Pride Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Kristen Edmonds, Camila, Erin Greening, Morgan Reid, Abby Elinsky, Marisa Viggiano.
NWSL Week 1 Scores
Washington Spirit 2, Sky Blue FC 0
North Carolina Courage 1, Chicago Red Stars 1
Houston Dash 1, Seattle Reign 1
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