The Orlando Pride (3-5-3, 12 points) found a second-half goal to beat the Houston Dash (4-4-3, 15 points) 1-0 at Exploria Stadium, ending a six-game winless streak. It was also the Pride’s first win at home in 2022. The difference was a deflected ball off the head of Kylie Strom in the 79th minute that bounced in off defender Ally Prisock.
Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines made two changes from the team that drew Racing Louisville 2-2 last weekend in Daytona. Kerry Abello joined the starting lineup in place of Thais Reiss, who moved to the bench. Carrie Lawrence also came into the starting lineup, replacing Toni Pressley at center back. It was Lawrence’s first start since May 27 against the Washington Spirit.
The back line in front of goalkeeper Erin McLeod consisted of Celia, Megan Montefusco, Lawrence, and Strom. Viviana Villacorta and Jordyn Listro were in the midfield behind Meggie Dougherty Howard, Erika Tymrak, and Abello, with Darian Jenkins up top.
Houston came into this game missing 10 players. Elizabeth Eddy was out injured and seven players were on international duty at the Concacaf W Championship and Euro 2022.
The Dash created the first chance of the game off the kickoff. Former Pride player Marisa Viggiano drew a foul by Dougherty Howard, and Emily Ogle sent the free kick into the box looking for Ebony Salmon. However, the forward hit it poorly and the shot went wide of the target.
The first opportunity for the Pride came in the ninth minute when Dougherty Howard looked for Jenkins in the box. However, Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell did well to come out and collect the ball before Jenkins could get to it. A minute later, Dougherty Howard blocked a Dash pass and it went right to Jenkins. The striker was able to find enough space to take a shot, but it was blocked.
The best first-half chance for the Pride came in the 17th minute. Abello found Jenkins on the right side. The forward quickly took a shot on that skipped past the defender and the diving Campbell. However, it drifted just wide of the far post.
In the 21st minute, Tymrak found Jenkins on the left. The forward had Strom outside, which would’ve been the safer ball, but carried it inside instead. She found enough space for a shot but it was from distance and right at Campbell.
The Pride had another great chance in the 35th minute when Strom found Abello on the left side of the box. The midfielder beat her defender to create a shot, but it was from a tight angle and right at Campbell, who made the catch.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 8, 2022
The Pride continued to press forward, creating shots by Jenkins and Dougherty Howard. But these shots were from distance and right at Campbell, creating no trouble for the Houston goalkeeper.
Similarly, the Dash had a pair of late shots by Bri Visalli and Haley Hanson, but they were from distance and right at McLeod.
At halftime, the Pride had more possession (50.8%-49.2%), shots (8-3), shots on target (5-2), corners (3-1), and crosses (3-1). But most of their attempts were right at Campbell, allowing Houston to get out of the first half even.
“We talked before the game about starting fast, putting the emphasis on Houston, making it uncomfortable early on,” Hines said after the game. “And I thought we did that. We created some good opportunities but not clear-cut opportunities. I think we could have been a little bit more patient in the attacking third rather than just going straight towards goal. We hit some out-of-range shots, which a player like Jane Campbell, she’s going to deal with them pretty easily.”
“I think we were really positive,” Jenkins said about the first half. “I think we had Houston facing their own goal most of the half. I think our mindset going into the second half was just to keep building on those opportunities. Keep taking those shots, one’s bound to go in, follow up on the ball. The more you shoot, the more you’re likely to score. So we just kept that going and then we got the goal.”
It appeared as though the Pride had a breakaway in the 53rd minute when Villacorta sent Jenkins through in the Dash half. However, after a brief hesitation, the assistant referee raised the flag signaling offside, which appeared on the replay to be the wrong decision.
Jenkins had another chance in the 63rd minute, when she received the ball from Celia near the top of the box. The forward took aim but got under the ball and it sailed well over the target and into the upper level of the stands.
Good, quick passing through the midfield by Strom and substitute Courtney Petersen set up Jenkins for a cross in the 73rd minute. She had Mikayla Cluff, who came on for Dougherty Howard at halftime, in the box, but the cross was over her head and the substitute had no chance of reaching it.
The Pride finally broke through in the 79th minute. Lawrence played a long ball into the box, which found the head of Strom. The defender attempted to flick the ball on for Cluff, who was closer to goal, but it went off the leg of Prisock and in for the game’s first goal.
We have liftoff 🚀
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 9, 2022
The goal was initially credited to Strom, but was later changed officially to a Prisock own goal.
It was the first time that the Pride had taken the lead in seven games. The last time the Pride scored first in a game was on May 18 against the North Carolina Courage in Cary, NC. Sydney Leroux opened the scoring in the fourth minute of that game, which was also the Pride’s most recent win.
Following the goal, Houston went on the attack and put pressure on the Pride. It started with a shot by Salmon that was blocked by Celia. Listro had a chance to clear, but it went right to Ryan Gareis, who sent the shot wide.
Despite Orlando having a goal kick, Houston quickly regained possession of the ball. Viggiano found Salmon for another shot, but she sent that one well above the target.
“You’re always most vulnerable after you score and we switched off,” Hines said. “So that’s something that we’re going to talk about in review is that, as soon as we all cross that halfway line, we’re ready to go. And we were disorganized after we scored. It was like a moment of relief that we scored, but now we have to switch on straightaway.”
The hosts should’ve doubled their lead in the 82nd minute. Petersen sent a cross in from the left that was blocked by Prisock. However, the clearance attempt went right to Chelsee Washington with plenty of space. The second-half substitute should’ve gone for the far post, where there was plenty of space, but shot it right at Campbell, who made the stop at the near post.
With time winding down, the Dash pushed forward in an attempt to score an equalizer. Three minutes into injury time, Hanson sent a ball into the box for Gareis. The latter went down in the box after a collision but the referee waved play on. It was the best opportunity the Dash had in the second half.
The Pride ended the game with more possession (52.2%-47.8%), shots (11-7), shots on target (7-2), corners (5-1), and crosses (16-6) in what was arguably their best performance of the year. However, the most important fact was that they came away with a 1-0 win
“I think the players understand today that winning is hard. It’s hard work,” Hines said. “It’s a collective effort. They had a real grit and determination on and off the ball. And, you know, Houston causes some problems. So we had to try and figure it out. They clogged the middle — the areas that we like to exploit — so we had to get some thinking at halftime on how we’re going to create more goal-scoring opportunities. We deserve a goal. It was a lucky goal, but we deserved it. We deserved the win last week. We deserved the win this week. So that little bit of luck on our side.”
“It’s just a big, huge win for us,” Jenkins added. “It shows that all of our hard work really paid off. I think we’ve definitely dealt with some trials and tribulations up until this point, and it just shows how resilient we are as players, and our coaching staff, and being able to work through all of this. And really, like I’ve said before, you can really see the results of us just working through this new identity that we’re developing with this club and us as players. So, it’s amazing to feel all that hard work pay off and finally get the winning result.”
The win broke a six-game winless streak that dated back to May 18 and was the team’s first home win of the season, including the NWSL Challenge Cup. The most recent home win prior to tonight’s game was on Sept. 11, 2021, a 3-1 win over Racing Louisville.
After a short week, the Pride now have a bit of a break and will look to build on this result when they travel to take on the Washington Spirit next Sunday afternoon.