Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage: Final Score 2-1 as Pride Get First Road Win of the Season
The Orlando Pride earned their first win of the season defeating the North Carolina Courage 2-1 on the road at Sahlen’s Stadium. Sydney Leroux scored the first goal of the match, and Alex Morgan got the eventual game winner. The Pride (1-0-1, 4 points) weathered the normally potent offense of the Courage (0-1-1, 1 point) thanks in part to a great performance from backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
The win puts the Pride in second place in the NWSL and snapped a nine-match winless streak against the Courage in all competitions.
The Pride played a very good defensive match to preserve their lead, only giving back one goal on Jessica McDonald’s shot in the 89th minute. Still, a win on the road is nothing to sneeze at.
“It’s a marker on progress. It’s a marker on our development,” Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said.
Given the fact the Pride had not defeated North Carolina since 2017, it’s fair to say he is correct.
One big change to the starting XI was McLeod getting her first start in goal in place of Ashlyn Harris. Skinner made sure to let everyone know that Harris is fine, but he wanted to get McLeod some minutes. The back line consisted of Ali Krieger and Pheobe McClernon at center back, Ali Riley on the right, and Courtney Petersen on the left. In the midfield, Gunny Jónsdóttir, Marta, and Meggie Dougherty-Howard got the start. Up top, Alex Morgan was joined by Sydney Leroux and Taylor Kornieck.
The starting Xl for tonight’s match against the @TheNCCourage. @orlandohealth | #NCvORL pic.twitter.com/FapIxwa7Uk
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) May 22, 2021
The Pride came into the match with a game plan of defending as a team, pushing the Courage wide, and playing the ball over the top to Morgan and Leroux. It turned out to be an effective strategy, as North Carolina wasn’t able to get many good looks on goal.
Morgan ended the match with a few offside calls, as per usual, but in the 14th minute she almost broke though for the Pride. Casey Murphy made an excellent save on the shot to deny her.
"Nope, not happening." – @CaseyMurph 🙅♀️#NCvORL | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/f7jfQlltx4
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) May 22, 2021
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, but it seemed like it might not be the Pride’s night when the Courage had a cross sneak through everyone in the box to find Debinha all alone on the left side with all of the goal in front of her. Amazingly, Debinha missed a shot she makes 99 out of 100 times.
The Pride finally got on the scoreboard when North Carolina made a bad pass in their defensive end. Leroux intercepted the ball, pushed into the box, put the ball on her left foot, and buried the ball in the lower left corner of the goal.
Stolen by Syd, scored by Syd ✅#NCvORL | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/DsSqTlCBE8
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) May 22, 2021
In the defensive half, McLeod and the back line stayed compact and made it difficult for the Courage to get any kind of good look at goal. The Pride ended the first half with a 7-4 advantage in shots. Orlando had two on target while Carolina only managed one. However, the Courage did have the lion’s share of the possession (61%-39%). The Courage also led on corners (4-2).
The Pride came out to start the second half pressing forward just a bit more, and getting the occasional bit of magic from Marta.
Marta the magician 🪄#NCvORL | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/HiWqqqey9M
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) May 23, 2021
Once the teams settled back in, the Pride went back to their game plan, and continued to bend but not break against the Courage attack. McLeod came up big in the 67th minute, and put herself in contention for the Ashlyn Harris Save of the Week award.
Whether it's @Ashlyn_Harris or @erinmcleod18, @ORLPride are serving Save of the Week nominees on the regular 🚀#NCvORL | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/6ItE71Au29
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) May 23, 2021
North Carolina kept up the pressure and almost pulled even in the 67th minute, but once again McLeod came up big with what amounted to a double save.
🤯 how did @erinmcleod18 punch that away 🤯#NCvORL | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/MIUXOgMJBB
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) May 23, 2021
Orlando continued to absorb North Carolina’s pressure, and once again was able to quickly transfer to the attack. This time, Morgan was onside, and did what she does best. Morgan worked her way around a defender, into the box, and made a clinical finish to give the Pride an insurance goal in the 79th minute.
When you can't help but feel inspired by @TedLasso for the celly 🤣🤣 https://t.co/hKOUtpfdNy
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) May 23, 2021
Once again, the Pride were fortunate when Debinha missed another shot you would expect she’d make, when her header in the box went wide in the 84th minute. Unfortunately, the Courage finally broke through in the 89th minute whe McDonald made a good turn in the box to pull one back.
🗣 Hey Siri, play "Return of J-Mac"#NCvORL | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/6pQrtAstfm
— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) May 23, 2021
McLeod made some more saves, and the Pride saw out five minutes of stoppage time that was in reality closer to eight minutes. It was a team effort on defense, with some big saves from McLeod and two big goals from the Pride’s goal scorers.
North Carolina finished the match with more shots (16-11), and shots on target (5-3). The Courage also held 60% possession, but Orlando executed Skinner’s game plan, and it resulted in a big three points for the Pride.
“It’s tough to play against them,” North Carolina Head Coach Paul Riley said. “They’re direct and can play directly over our midfield, over our press. They’ve changed their philosophy completely from two years ago, when they were trying to play out from the back all the time.”
“That is a monumental win for us,” Skinner said. I think if you look at the statistics, 23 unbeaten at home [for North Carolina] and we’ve come here and taken the three points with an epic fight, commitment. What we were asking for was to play for the badge, play for what we’re asking, and then obviously with the qualities that we have to hurt the opponent.
“That was a little bit of justification for the commitment that the players and staff give every single day. It means we’re building step-by-step to what we have asked and I can’t ask anymore of anyone in that room tonight. They were magnificent and they should be applauded for what they have done tonight.”
Orlando is back in action next Wednesday, when the Portland Thorns come to town. The Pride will also host Kansas City four days later on Sunday, May 30.
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash: Final Score 2-0 as Pride Drop Second Straight
The Houston press was too much for the Pride as they drop their second straight game.
The Orlando Pride (3-6-1, 10 points) fell for the second consecutive game, losing to the Houston Dash (4-3-3, 15 points) 2-0 in Texas. Sophie Hirst gave the hosts the lead in the sixth minute and Michelle Alozie doubled the advantage shortly before halftime. They held onto that lead for the entire second half, sending the Pride home with an 0-2-0 road trip.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the team that fell 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars last weekend. Regular starter Viviana Villacorta returned to the lineup after a game off, replacing Marta. The back four in front of Anna Moorhouse remained the same, with Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Villacorta joined Mikalya Cluff, Adriana, Erika Tymrak, and Kerry Abello in the midfield, and Messiah Bright started up top.
Coming off a game where the Pride dominated and just couldn’t find the back of the net, they were never really in this one. The Houston press created headaches in the first half with the Pride giving up the ball up in their own third on multiple occasions. They also couldn’t create much offensively, failing to challenge Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell.
The Pride got off to a poor start, conceding in the sixth minute. The hosts got a corner kick when Madril cleared the ball out of play and a second when Abello blocked the first corner out. The ensuing set piece was into the arms of Moorhouse, but the goalkeeper spilled it right in front of goal. Hirst was the first player to the ball, flicking it with the outside of her foot past Moorhouse and in to give the Dash an early 1-0 lead.
They nearly doubled their advantage in the ninth minute when Sophie Schmidt sent Diana Ordonez behind the Pride back line. It was a foot race between Ordonez and Moorhouse to the ball, with the Pride goalkeeper reaching it just before the attacker outside of the box.
A minute later, the Pride had their first good chance of the game. Adriana was sent down the right and towards the end line. She reached the ball before it went out of play, sending it to the penalty spot where Bright was waiting. The striker had her back to the goal, but did well to turn and get off a first-touch shot. Unfortunately, she got under the ball and sent it over the target.
The Dash had a great chance in the 17th minute when Madril gave the ball away to the pressuring Alozie. The forward had Ordonez wide open in the middle of the box, but decided to take it herself. Montefusco did well to close down the attacker, deflecting the shot into the hands of Moorhouse.
The Pride almost had a chance in the 20th minute when Montefusco made a good run into the midfield, breaking the Houston press. She found Tymrak in the center circle, who played it forward for Adriana. However, the Brazilian lost the ball at the top of the box before she could get a shot off.
The Dash appeared to have a great opportunity in the 28th minute when Villacorta gave the ball up in her own third to Joelle Anderson. The midfielder played to Maria Sanchez on the left, who continued it forward to Ordonez. Moorhouse did well to come out and challenge the forward, but the flag went up for offside anyway.
In the 39th minute, Abello was sent down the left by Tymrak. Her deflected cross was punched away by Campbell, but went right to Adriana. The Brazilian flicked it over for Bright, who played it right back to Adriana, but her shot was blocked. Abello ended up with the ball again and beat her defender to find enough space for a shot, but it was deflected into the side of the net.
The second Pride corner of that attack went all the way through for a throw in and the Dash took advantage. Anderson sent a long, low ball forward for Alozie making a run behind the Pride defense. Madril got her foot to it, but not enough to keep it from finding the forward. Strom caught up to her in the box, but Alozie cut back for space and sent it past Moorhouse to give Houston a commanding 2-0 lead.
The hosts had one last first-half opportunity in the 43rd minute when Alozie found Ordonez at the top of the box. The Mexican international was between the two Pride center backs and found enough space to take a shot, but Moorhouse did well to get down and make the stop, keeping the halftime deficit at two goals.
The Pride had more first-half possession (57.2%-42.8%), corners (6-4), crosses (16-10), and passing accuracy (71.8%-67.4%), but the Dash had more shots (6-4) and shots on target (3-0). Most importantly, the hosts had a two-goal lead.
“I told them at halftime that we need to be better on the ball. We were a little bit sloppy, a little bit lackadaisical in our passing details,” Hines said about his halftime speech. “I like to control the game. I don’t mind teams pressing us, because the more they press, the more they commit, the more space that they leave. So, we have to clean that up.”
Hines made one halftime change trying to get his team back into the game, bringing on Marta for Villacorta. The change saw Adriana move outside to her usual position and Abello back alongside Cluff. It was Marta’s 82nd NWSL regular-season appearance with the Pride, passing Ashlyn Harris and Toni Pressley for the most in team history.
The Dash had a chance for their third goal less than a minute into the second half when Ordonez found Anderson in the box. The attacker turned to shoot on goal, but didn’t get much on the attempt and Moorhouse made a relatively easy save.
The Pride should’ve gotten a goal back in the 48th minute when Caprice Dydasco fouled Abello. Adriana’s free kick found the head of Strom wide open and just a few feet in front of goal at the near post. But her header somehow went wide, squandering a golden opportunity to get back into the game.
After making an attacking change at halftime, Hines made a like-for-like substitution in the 57th minute as Julie Doyle came on for Bright.
In the 62nd minute, Sanchez sent Marisa Viggiano towards the end line on the left. Viggiano got a cross off into the box and found the head of Ordonez, who tried to send it towards the far post. But she couldn’t get enough of it and Moorhouse easily collected it.
Montefusco fouled Schmidt in the 64th minute, creating another good chance for the hosts. It looked like Moorhouse had Sanchez’s ball, but she didn’t come out as aggressively as she should’ve, only sending it to the top of the box. It ended up with Hirst at the penalty spot, but her shot was right at Moorhouse.
Immediately after that chance, the Pride made two more changes, bringing on Celia and Ally Watt for Tymrak and Cluff.
It didn’t take long for Watt to get involved as she was sent behind the Dash defense in the 68th minute. The striker’s shot was right to Campbell, but the ball slipped under her arm and rolled towards the goal. The roll was slow enough for Campbell to jump on the ball before it reached the goal line.
In the 71st minute, Adriana made a good run to the top of the Houston box, drawing the defenders and finding Watt wide open on the right. The forward took her second shot of the game, but Campbell made a good stop, pushing it away and the Dash cleared the danger.
Two minutes later, Adriana found Strom on the left and the left back sent a good ball into the box, finding the head of Marta. The Brazilian headed the ball towards the far post, but missed wide.
In the 76th minute, the Pride had a chance when the Dash had trouble clearing the ball out of their box. They briefly got it out, but McCutcheon sent it right back in. Dydasco was the first player to the ball, but her clearance attempt went behind her and into the path of Doyle for a header on goal. It was a strong header, but too close to Campbell.
The Pride made their final change in the 79th minute, when Summer Yates entered the game for Abello.
The Dash seemed fine holding onto their two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes and neither team was able to create solid opportunities. Marta took a shot in the 80th minute, and second-half substitute Ebony Salmon found space for a shot in the 86th minute, but both were right at the goalkeepers.
The Pride had a good chance in the 88th minute when Adriana made a strong run into the box and sent it to Doyle near the penalty spot. The striker slipped as she attempted to shoot, but still put the ball on target. However, Campbell did well to block it away, keeping the deficit at two goals.
As the game entered injury time, the fourth official showed eight minutes, a welcome sight for the Pride. It was mostly due to an injury to Natalie Jacobs, who had to go through a concussion test late in the half before she could be removed from the field and the game could continue.
Despite the eight minutes, the Pride weren’t able to create any good chances. McCutcheon played Celia through four minutes into stoppage time, but it was too far and went out for a goal kick. In the final minute, Adriana attempted a shot from long distance, but it wasn’t any trouble for Campbell, and the Dash held on for a 2-0 win.
Statistically, the game was quite close. The Pride had more possession (55.4%-44.6%), corners (8-4), crosses (27-16), and passing accuracy (69.5%-62.1%). Both teams had 13 shots and Houston put more on target (7-6). But the Pride shots didn’t cause Campbell much trouble, with the team failing to score for the second consecutive game and the third time in four games.
“Today we weren’t the better team, Houston was the better team,” Hines said after the game. “They made it difficult for us, they pressed us really hard, and we looked like we weren’t prepared for that. And that’s the most disappointing thing. You know, we want to play the way that we want to play. We have to dictate the game. We have to control the tempo of the game, and we didn’t do that. And even though we didn’t do the fundamentals, the basics right, we still created chances to score. We’ve gone two games now without scoring and that has to change.”
“It’s not one person’s fault tonight,” Montefusco added. “It was a collective. You know, we can’t point fingers at anybody. We’re a group, we’re a team, and we’ve got to lift each other. We’ve shown what we can do and we have to lean into that. We have to find a way. These games on the road are tough and we know that. And I think going forward, we’re just gonna stick together as a group.”
The Pride will stay on road for the Challenge Cup, taking on NJ/NY Gotham FC Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena. Then they’ll return home for regular-season action, welcoming the league-leading Portland Thorns to Exploria Stadium.
Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and MoreOrlando Pride vs. Houston Dash:
The Pride end their two-game road trip in Texas as they take on the Houston Dash.
Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (3-5-1, 10 points) take on the Houston Dash (3-3-3, 12 points) tonight in Texas (8:30 p.m., Paramount+). This is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season, with the second scheduled for Oct. 15 in Orlando.
Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.
The Pride and Dash have played 18 times since the Pride joined the NWSL in 2016. Orlando has a 6-8-2 record against the Dash in regular-season play and a 2-5-1 record in regular-season games in Houston. Additionally, the teams played two Fall Series games in 2020, both of which were won by the Dash.
The most recent matchup between the two teams was on July 8, 2022 in Orlando. Ally Prisock’s own goal was the only scoring as the Pride took the 1-0 win, the second result in a seven-game unbeaten run. They previously played on June 3 in Houston. The hosts were led by a Nichelle Prince hat trick, while Rachel Daly and Michelle Alozie added goals in a 5-0 Dash win. It was the last game the Pride played before Head Coach Amanda Cromwell was placed on administrative leave.
The Pride and Dash played twice during the 2021 season. The first game was on June 26 in Houston. Maria Sanchez and Veronica Latsko gave the hosts a 2-0 lead. Gunny Jonsdottir got one back, but it wasn’t enough as the Dash won 2-1. The second meeting came on Sept. 5 at Exploria Stadium. The Dash took an early lead through Daly. However, Taylor Kornieck equalized late, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
The 2020 NWSL season was canceled due to COVID but these two teams were matched up in the Fall Series. On Sept. 26, 2020 in Houston, Prince put the Dash ahead, but Marisa Viggiano responded just before halftime. Sophie Schmidt gave the hosts another lead and Shea Groom put the game away as Houston took a 3-1 win. The two teams played again on Oct. 9 at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee — the only time the Pride have played at the venue. Groom opened the scoring early and Latsko soon made it 2-0. Sydney Leroux got one back for the hosts, but Houston held on for a 2-1 win.
The Pride and Dash played three times in 2019, with the Pride going 0-2-1. During the first game in Houston on May 5, the Pride only recorded one shot on target. However, Houston only got one goal through Kealia Ohai in a 1-0 win. The second game on June 15 was also in Houston. Joanna Boyles scored her first professional goal to give the Pride the lead, but the Dash scored twice to take the advantage. A Danica Evans conversion allowed the Pride to escape the Oven with a 2-2 draw.
The third and final meeting in 2019 occurred on Aug. 10 in Orlando. The Pride ended the game with nine players as Julie King was sent off in the 61st minute, and Marta was sent off in the 85th minute. However, the Dash were only able to convert once — a late penalty by Daly — and won 1-0.
The teams played three times during the 2018 season. The first game was on April 22 in Orlando. Chioma Ubogagu scored the lone goal, leading the Pride to a 1-0 win. They met again in Orlando on June 27. Alex Morgan opened the scoring and the Pride held that lead at the break. But the second half was all Houston, as Ohai and Sofia Huerta scored, resulting in a 2-1 Houston win. The final meeting that season was on July 11 in Houston, where Daly’s brace led the Dash to a 3-1 win.
The Pride and Dash played twice during the 2017 season and the visiting team won both games. The first was on June 17 in Houston. Camila and Alanna Kennedy added to a Marta brace as the Pride took a commanding 4-0 lead. The Dash tried to come back with goals by Poliana and Prince, but the Pride took home a 4-2 win. A week later in Orlando, Carli Lloyd and Daly scored in a 2-0 Houston win.
The teams met four times during the 2016 season — the Pride’s first in existence. The first meeting was the Pride’s first-ever regular-season home game on April 23. An Andressa own goal gave the Pride the lead just after the half before Lianne Sanderson and Morgan made it 3-0 for the hosts. Andressa scored one for her own team, but that was it for Houston as the Pride won 3-1 in front of a then-NWSL record 23,403 fans.
The second meeting was in Houston on May 20. Kristen Edmonds scored the only goal in the 81st minute as the Pride won 1-0. The third meeting that year came on June 23 in Orlando. Jasmyne Spencer broke the scoreless deadlock in second-half injury time as the Pride won 1-0. The fourth and final meeting came on Sept. 3 in Houston. The Dash took a 3-0 lead with goals by Janine Beckie, Poliana, and Ohai. Morgan and Edmonds got the Pride back into the game, but Ohai put it away with her second in a 4-2 Dash win.
The Pride are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars last weekend, breaking a four-game unbeaten run (3-0-1). Despite the result, the Pride dominated every statistical category except the final score, as they were unable to find the back of the net. The performance was another step forward for a young team that continues to develop and improve.
The Dash haven’t been much better than the Pride this season, sitting just two points ahead of their opponents. They started the season with a four-game unbeaten run (1-0-3), but only earned six points in those four games. They followed up that streak by losing three out of four, but beat the league-leading Portland Thorns, 2-1 on May 12. Two of those losses were against OL Reign and the San Diego Wave, two of the best teams in the league. They bounced back last weekend with a 2-0 win over the Kansas City Current at Children’s Mercy Park and will look to build on that tonight.
The Dash are led offensively by Mexican internationals Sanchez and Diana Ordonez, who both have two goals. While Sanchez has spent the last two seasons with the Dash, Ordonez was previously with the North Carolina Courage. Sanchez also leads the team in assists, with two.
Defensively, Jane Campbell is still the starting goalkeeper and has been since she was drafted in 2017. Natalie Jacobs, Katie Lind, and Prisock have all three have spent time at center back, but Allysha Chapman and Caprice Dydasco have been the regular outside backs.
The strength of the Dash has definitely been their defense this season. They’ve only scored seven goals, tied with the Pride for fewest in the NWSL this season, but they’ve only conceded nine, one more than the league-leading NJ/NY Gotham FC and Washington Spirit. The Pride’s back line has been much better in recent games and has a chance for a third clean sheet, but Marta and Adriana will have to find ways to break down that back line and create chances for Messiah Bright.
“(The Dash) have been inconsistent this season,” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said ahead of the match. “You know, they’ve won games, they’ve lost games, I know that coming off the back of a positive result, you go into that environment, it’s always difficult. But the players are hungry. They’re not too disappointed. They want this next game to come around quickly and that’s why we want them to be looking forward to it. It’ll be a tough physical game, but we’re more than ready for it.”
Carrie Lawrence (knee) is still the only Pride player out injured and Amanda Allen is on international duty with the Canadian U-20 team. Kaylie Collins (hand) and Jordyn Listro (thigh) are listed as questionable for tonight’s game.
The Dash have several players out, including Prince (calf), Ella Dederick (knee), Emily Curran (knee), Makame Gomera-Stevens (knee), Annika Schmidt (knee), Devon Kerr (excused absence), Prisock (thigh), and Groom (knee).
Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.
Defenders: Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, Haley McCutcheon.
Defensive Midfielders: Mikayla Cluff, Viviana Villacorta.
Midfielders: Adriana, Kerry Abello, Erika Tymrak.
Forwards: Messiah Bright.
Bench: Carly Nelson, Celia, Caitlin Cosme, Tori Hansen, Brianna Martinez, Marta, Summer Yates, Julie Doyle, Ally Watt.
Houston Dash (3-4-3
Goalkeeper: Jane Campbell.
Defenders: Allysha Chapman, Natalie Jacobs, Katie Lind.
Midfielders: Maria Sanchez, Sophie Schmidt, Sophie Hirst, Caprice Dydasco.
Forwards: Diana Ordonez, Joelle Anderson, Michelle Alozie.
Bench: Emily Alvarado, Madelyn Desiano, Ryan Gareis, Courtney Petersen, Ebony Salmon, Havana Solaun, Cameron Tucker, Marisa Viggiano.
REF: Adam Kilpatrick.
AR1: Art Arustamyan.
AR2: Melissa Beck.
4TH: Emily Gomez.
VAR: Christopher Spivey.
AVAR: Kaili Terry.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8:30 p.m.
Venue: Shell Energy Stadium — Houston, TX.
Streaming: Paramount+ (U.S.), NWSLsoccer.com (International).
Twitter: For live updates and rapid reaction, follow @ManeLandSean and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).
Enjoy the match. Go Pride!
Orlando Pride Take Step Forward in Chicago Loss
The Pride took a step forward Saturday night with a dominant performance in Chicago.
The Orlando Pride ended their four-game unbeaten run Saturday night, falling 1-0 to the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, IL. Despite the final score, the Pride dominated the entire 90 minutes, putting the opposition under constant pressure. Better finishing likely would’ve seen the Orlando-based side win by multiple goals.
It might seem like a step back, losing to the team at the bottom of the standings a week after beating the league-leading Washington Spirit. However, the performance was something Pride fans haven’t seen much of for years — a game that the team controlled.
The Red Stars got the first shot of the game from a tight angle that went right to Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse. In the 22nd minute, they scored when Megan Montefusco lost Yuki Nagasato at the back post and Casey Krueger found her with a cross. Those were the only two shots Chicago had the entire game. The Pride had out-shot the Red Stars 4-2 at that point and ended up out-shooting the hosts, 19-2.
More impressive was how the Pride approached the second half. They had eight first-half shots and took 11 attempts in the second 45 minutes. Two of their second-half shots hit the crossbar and Alyssa Naeher made her best save of the season in the 49th minute, when Mikayla Cluff’s attempt off the crossbar fell to Marta. In addition to taking 17 more shots, the Pride had nine more corner kicks, 25 more crosses, more possession, and better passing accuracy.
The Pride won three of their previous four games before the loss to Chicago. But of those games, only the match against Gotham FC — a 0-0 road draw — approached the way the Pride dominated the Red Stars Saturday night. They were out-shot and out-possessed by the San Diego Wave in a 3-1 win and Racing Louisville in a 1-0 victory. They were better in last weekend’s 2-1 win over the Spirit, but still conceded more possession. They also haven’t had anything close to their 19-shot performance in Illinois.
The fact that the Pride dominated the game wasn’t a surprise. The young team has been getting better and healthier during its four-game unbeaten run, and Chicago hadn’t won in six games. The Red Stars had only claimed one point in their previous five games and were coming off back-to-back performances that saw them lose by a combined score of 7-0.
The scorelines and problems the Red Stars have had this season, especially without their best player, Mallory Swanson, might make it seem as though they scored and parked the bus. However, this wasn’t the case. Chicago attempted to play the ball out of the back but had trouble because of the Pride’s effective press. Messiah Bright, Adriana, and Marta were on the defenders before they received the ball from Naeher and won it back immediately on multiple occasions.
Chicago only had sustained possession twice in the second half, spending some time in the Pride’s third of the field. But didn’t get any shots off in either of those moments. They felt they should’ve had a penalty in the 84th minute when Cook was played into the Pride box and challenged by Marta. Cook went down when Marta lowered her shoulder, but it wasn’t enough contact to deserve a penalty.
Meanwhile, the Pride continued to create chances and near-chances on the other end of the field. Whether it was out of fatigue or frustration, the Pride weren’t as accurate in the second half. They put four of their eight first-half shots on target and only two of their 11 second-half chances on frame. They had some other opportunities, primarily on crosses that just missed connecting with teammates in the box.
The Pride likely would’ve come back to win in the second half had they hit the target like they did in the first half. It’s something that Pride Head Coach Seb Hines spoke about during his postgame press conference.
“It’s frustrating, of course, because we’re not just talking about half chances. We’re talking about clear-cut opportunities,” Hines said. “There was some really good deliveries in the box, some opportunities from distance, and I think Naeher had probably the game of her season so far.”
“We had a lot of the ball,” Cluff added. “We had plenty of opportunities and we just had to finish our chances when we had them.”
The 2023 NWSL season was always going to be one of steps. The Pride are one of the youngest teams in the NWSL with a very experienced starting lineup. While the lineup often features veterans like Montefusco, Marta, and Erika Tymrak, they also have five players who were drafted in the last three years. That’s not including Julie Doyle, who was drafted in 2022 and started at the beginning of the season, but missed the last six games with an ankle injury suffered on April 2.
The first step for this young team was putting results together, which they did during their four-game unbeaten run. They even secured back-to-back wins against San Diego and Louisville. Saturday night showed that the team can put together a full performance for 90 minutes, something that Hines said he’s been looking for in his team.
The next step for the Pride is to convert their chances and put away teams they should beat. According to Hines, that’s the difference between a team struggling to climb into a playoff position and competing with the league’s top teams.
“If we want to be a top team, competing in obviously the playoffs, we have to win games like this,” Hines said. “It’s a reminder that we can’t take the foot off the gas.”
A big question going into this past weekend was whether the Pride would be motivated facing the team at the bottom of the standings after beating the team at the top. Despite the result, they definitely outplayed their opponent Saturday night. Now the question will be whether they can rebound after a disappointing result and get back on track. That will be something to watch when the Pride take on the Houston Dash in Texas Saturday night.
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