For the second straight match, it was a tale of two halves for the Orlando Pride, but unlike their game against Houston, this match had a flair for the dramatic.
The North Carolina Courage dominated the attack in the the first half, scoring three goals and looking to run away with the match, but the Pride battled back, scoring three times, including the game-tying goal in stoppage time, and coming away with a 3-3 draw on Saturday at Exploria Stadium to finish out the NWSL Fall Series
“I’m immensely proud,” head coach Marc Skinner said after the match. “It’s a roller coaster again, we’ve left it to the second half to be impactful in the way that we know we could. Again, those are good games to be on the end of if you are obviously the one that’s coming back, but I’m so proud of the effort and the energy and commitment to every individual that has come in has given their efforts and time and commitment to what we’re asking them to do, and they deserve that. They absolutely deserve that. For the second half performance alone. I think that weren’t particularly too bad. Couple of defending moments that we could do better on. But apart from that I thought that they just were tremendous and I’m really, really proud of every single one of them.”
Through the first 45 minutes, the Pride were on the back foot for almost the full duration of the half. The Courage counter attack was relentless and clinical, carving up the Pride backline for all three goals.
Debinha was the first to get on the scoresheet for the Courage after a turnover in the midfield sprung the forward through the defense, finishing the play with a clinical strike past Ashlyn Harris to take a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
Then at the end of the half, the pressure compounded for the Pride, conceding back to back goals in first-half stoppage time through Lynn Williams and Debinha again. Both goals coming off midfield turnovers and though balls in behind the defense.
“North Carolina did exactly what we knew they would do because their shape is that and the personnel is the same. So, the players know it, and then they happily go into the game fully prepared for what we expect,” Skinner said of the Courage, “But when you have players that have a little bit less experience than your senior players, they take a feeling out period and this this league is super harsh on counter attacks and it destroys you if you give the board away. The second goal for example, we give the ball away, but we are in a position of power. We should be moving in better angles and then you don’t have to defend that. It wasn’t an overly dangerous situation.”
Skinner continued: “I think that just comes from playing together. I think they were feeling it out. I think the new players were feeling it out, what it’s like to play, connecting to other players that might join when they know that they can they can position themselves better. So, it’s just the lack of cohesion and understanding from lack of time playing together. But that simply it wasn’t lack of effort.”
The second half saw Orlando work themselves back into the match. In the 54th minute, Marta found Sydney Leroux on a well worked combination play, ending with Leroux firing towards goal. Katelyn Rowland spilled the ball in front of goal, allowing Marisa Viggiano to swoop in and clean up the save, poking it home to notch her second goal in the tournament.
Less than 20 minutes later, Orlando found their second. Carrie Lawrence, who missed much of the last game due to an injury mid-match, flicked on a ball to Kristen Edmonds, who took a curling shot with her left foot from outside the area, beating Rowland and notching her first goal since 2018.
Only down one, the Pride continued to claw back into the match, and creating chances on the attack, but it took until the 92nd minute to finally complete the comeback.
After Kristen Edmonds was fouled heading towards goal, Marta stood over the ball 35 yards away from goal and proceeded to put in a pinpoint cross for Ally Haran to head home. This was Haran’s second appearance for the Pride, but her first goal with an NWSL team.
“I was told to go to the back post and Marta played just the perfect ball, then I was able to break through,” Haran said. “I had fresh legs and was able to get a good hit on the ball and able to put it in the back of the net.”
With the Fall Series finished, the Pride front office will now turn to the impending expansion draft next month, with exit meetings for the players set to begin next week.
19′ – Debinha, assisted by Lauren Milliet (NCC)
45’+5 – Lynn Williams, assisted by Debinha (NCC)
45’+6 – Debinha, assisted by Merideth Speck (NCC)
54′ – Marissa Viggiano (ORL)
71′ – Kristen Edmonds, assisted by Carrie Lawrence (ORL)
90’+2: Ally Haran, assisted by Marta (ORL)
How the Pride lined up
Orlando Pride XI: Ashlyn Harris; Kristen Edmonds, Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley (c), Courtney Petersen; Marisa Viggiano, Jordyn Listro (Ally Haran, 85′), Deneisha Blackwood (Carrie Lawrence, 60′); Abby Elinsky (Chelsee Washington, 72′), Sydney Leroux, Marta.
Pride Bench: Brittany Wilson, Savannah Uveges, Konya Plummer, Kate Howarth
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