Alex Morgan scores as Orlando Pride play to 1-1 draw against Washington Spirit in season opener

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In their first game of the NWSL regular season, the Orlando Pride battled back after going down in the final 15 minutes of the match to pull out a 1-1 result against the Washington Spirit on Sunday at Exploria Stadium with Alex Morgan scoring her first league goal in 996 days.

“It was always going to be tight against Washington,” Head Coach Marc Skinner said following the match. “They’re very good and have lots and lots of talent coming through as well, so to come back in the way that we did was very very pleasing. It’s the consistency, it’s the message of once you go down, you’re not beaten anymore and that team has come around and done that.”

The chances for both sides started early in the match. Just five minutes into the match, the Spirit’s Trinity Rodman got through the defense and got a shot away, but Ashlyn Harris was equal to it to keep the Pride from going down early.

Just a few minutes later, Orlando had a chance of their own. In almost like-for-like chances to her goal versus Washington in the NWSL Challenge Cup, Sydney Leroux got a perfect ball in from Taylor Kornieck through the defense, but the striker pulled her shot just wide of the far post.

Orlando controlled most of the first half possession, but ceded a bit as the first half came to a close, but it was enough to be able to build upon heading into the final 45 minutes of the match.

Just five minutes into the half, Marta fired a long ball overtop the defense, finding Leroux in on goal. The forward chipped Spirit keeper Aubrey Bledsoe, but the ball just trickled wide of goal and out of play.

That was the story of most of the match for Orlando. Chances were created all match, with 10 shots taken all match and six taken in the second half alone, but only three of those shots were on target.

These missed chances would come back to hurt the Pride in the 76th minute. Ashley Hatch found herself in good position in the box and with Tori Huester delivering the cross, Hatch out jumped Ali Krieger to fire home the header to give the visitors the lead.

Just eight minutes later, as Orlando continued to push forward, it was another long ball that created a scoring chance for the Pride. Phoebe McClernon, who was excellent in the back all match, stepped into the midfield and fired a long ball over the defense, finding the in stride Alex Morgan. Morgan chipped the ball over Bledsoe, with this one finding the back of the net to tie the match at 1-1.

“We were down 1-0 and I felt like we were pushing for a goal,” Morgan said of the goal. “We needed to push for a goal and so Phoebe was coming up and they have a really high back line and we kind of worked on that in training. It was really route one, direct ball but it works with a high back line.”

“A pretty big part of our game plan was exploiting the fact that they play a pretty aggressive backline, which is something that I, in the last game, wasn’t as keen to exploit,” McClernon said. “So, I just wanted to make sure that I was giving us opportunities with those long balls and behind and I looked up and I saw Alex on sides and I know she’s always willing to make that run and it bounced well, and I was just elated. It was really spectacular.”

Up next 

The Pride travel to North Carolina on Saturday May 22 at 7 p.m for their first away match of the season. Both teams played to a scoreless draw in the final match of the Challenge Cup just weeks prior.

Here’s how the Pride lined up

Orlando Pride XI: Ashlyn Harris; Courtney Petersen, Phoebe McClernon, Ali Krieger, Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir; Meggie Dougherty Howard (Chelsee Washington, 72′), , Marisa Viggiano (Crystal Thomas, 83′), , Marta; Taylor Kornieck, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux 

Substitutes: Brittany Wilson, Erin McLeod, Carrie Lawrence, Toni Pressley, Konya Plummer, Ally Haran, Abi Kim.


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