Following Saturday’s game against Sky Blue FC, the Orlando Pride completed a feat not done this season: conceding a goal.
Orlando (3-9-2, 11 points) outshot its opponents from New Jersey 21-10, but it was the first shot on target of the game from rookie midfielder Marisa Viggiano that lifted the Pride to a 1-0 victory in front of an announced crowd of 9,415 at Exploria Stadium.
“What I just reiterated to them that you don’t come here and go away with an easy game,” said Orlando coach Marc Skinner after Saturday’s game. “[We] want to build that mentality that you don’t come here, it’s going to be the hardest game that you play all year. Once we have that, you’ll see more clean sheets and more goals. Tonight was about building the mentality and it’s like breaking a wall for the mentality.”
Viggiano scored the go-ahead goal in the 23rd minute after receiving a ball from Chioma Ubogagu. The rookie made a run down the left flank, cutting inside before striking the ball from the top of the 18-yard-box towards the top-left corner of the net. The ball flew past Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and into the back of the net for her first professional goal.
“Chi pulling out and kind of into the midfield, opened up that lane for me,” said Viggiano on her goal. “So, I was able to get the ball and face forward and just drive up into the defenders and just took a touch. Honestly, it kinda just happened, and I shot and it went in.”
Saturday’s result was Orlando’s first clean sheet of the season and first shutout win since June 23, 2018, during a 1-0 win on the road against the Washington Spirit.
Ubogagu could have doubled the lead in the 30th minute, when she made a run down the field, beating a defender before striking the ball wide of the goal.
Orlando’s scoring chances continued in the second half when Marta played a through ball, connecting with Rachel Hill who eventually had her shot saved by Sheridan in the 60th minute.
Scottish international Claire Emslie made her Orlando Pride debut, entering in the 64th minute for Rachel Hill. Emslie’s first touch of the ball went on target but was punched out by Sheridan.
In the 69th minute, Emslie’s cross found Marta, but the Brazilian sent the ball wide of the goal.
Alex Morgan missed Saturday’s game due to a right-knee injury she’s recovering from after arriving from World Cup duty with the United States women’s national team. Carli Lloyd missed the game for Sky Blue due to an excused absence.
For Skinner, however, he was pleased with the Pride’s defensive performance.
“I think we limited them to very few opportunities,” said Skinner. “I don’t recall Ashlyn making a real save. But that’s a testament to the setup, to the structure, to the way that they communicate because if you’re in the right lines, then you defend earlier.”
Up next for Orlando
The Pride take on the Houston Dash on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Exploria Stadium.
23′ – Marisa Viggiano, assisted by Chioma Ubogagu (Orlando)
How the Pride lined up
Orlando Pride XI: Ashlyn Harris (c); Shelina Zadorsky, Erin Greening, Toni Pressley, Ali Kreiger; Alanna Kennedy, Joanna Boyles, Marisa Viggiano (Emily van Egmond, 70′); Chioma Ubogagu (Carson Pickett, 82′), Rachel Hill (Claire Emslie, 64′) Marta.
Orlando Pride Bench: Haley Kopmeyer, Abby Elinsky, Camila, Dani Weatherholt.