Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave FC: Final Score 3-1 as Pride Claim First Win of 2023

Goals by Mikayla Cluff, Haley McCutcheon, and Adriana lift the Pride to their first win of the year.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (1-4-0, 3 points) pulled off a shocking result tonight, defeating San Diego Wave FC (3-2-0, 9 points) 3-1 at Snapdragon Stadium in Southern California. The hosts took an early lead through Jaedyn Shaw and it looked like it would be a long night for the Pride. But Mikayla Cluff equalized and Haley McCutcheon gave the Pride the lead just before halftime. Adriana scored her long-awaited first goal in the second half and the Pride got their first points of the 2023 NWSL regular season.

With the win, Orlando remains unbeaten in the series, improving to 2-0-1 in three meetings with San Diego.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made several changes to tonight’s lineup. Anna Moorhouse returned as starting goalkeeper for the first time since April 2 against Angel City. Caitlin Cosme, Jordyn Listro, and Ally Watt all started in the 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Current last weekend but were on the bench for this one. They were replaced by Cluff, Erika Tymrak, and Messiah Bright.

The back line in front of Moorhouse in this game consisted of McCutcheon, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Kylie Strom. Viviana Villacorta and Cluff were the defensive midfielders behind Marta, Tymrak, and Adriana, with Bright alone up top.

San Diego looked like one of the best teams in the league early in this game. The Pride tried continuously to get the ball out of their own end, but the Wave’s high press forced multiple turnovers in the Pride’s own third of the field.

Despite their early struggles, it was the Pride that got the first chance in the second minute. Strom played the ball back for Cluff on the left and the midfielder lifted the ball into the box for Bright. The rookie striker had a pair of San Diego defenders around her, but got her head to the ball. Unfortunately, her header was wide of the far post.

The Wave got their first chance in the fifth minute from a Pride turnover. After dribbling through two defenders, Madril played a simple pass back for Cluff. But the pass was well wide of Cluff’s reach, allowing Shaw to take over. The attacker dribbled towards the Pride box and Cluff did well to recover. The challenge forced Shaw into an off-balance shot that went right to Moorhouse.

The Pride had a second opportunity in the sixth minute when Bright carried the ball to the end line and attempted a cross, but Kaleigh Riehl stayed close and deflected it out for a corner kick. The ensuing corner by Adriana was into the box, but San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was able to catch it.

Following that chance by the Pride, the hosts began to take over. In the 11th minute, It was another turnover, this time by Tymrak on San Diego’s half of the field, that started a chance for the Wave. The home side broke the other way in numbers, led by Danielle Colaprico, who played it wide for Sofia Jakobsson. McCutcheon was on the midfielder in the box and Montefusco joined for support. However, that left Shaw wide open near the penalty spot. Her first touch was too strong, but the ball went right to Jakobsson, who continued her run towards goal. The Swedish international shot, but Moorhouse got low to block it and Strom headed the ball away.

San Diego opened the scoring a minute later when Christen Westphal found Colaprico in the middle of the field. She sent Makenzy Doniak to the end line, whose first touch was towards the near post. Shaw beat Montefusco to the ball and Moorhouse to her near post with a great finish from the top of the six-yard box.

In the 16th minute, another good break down field by San Diego nearly doubled the Wave’s lead. Kristen McNabb found Shaw near midfield and the forward did well to shield Montefusco, spinning around the defender to continue the attack. After Belle Briede received the ball behind the Pride defense, she beat an oncoming Moorhouse and shot on goal. Fortunately, Madril was there to block it out for a corner and the Pride avoided a two-goal deficit.

The Pride were on their back foot for the better part of 20 minutes, but took advantage of a San Diego mistake. In the 25th minute, Naomi Girma played a bad pass back for Sheridan who tried to keep it in play, knocking it out for a corner. Adriana took the set piece, sending it to the back post, where Cluff got her head to it and put it past Sheridan for the equalizer. It was Cluff’s first goal of the season.

“We worked through corners, obviously, leading up to this game,” Cluff said about her goal. “Our target was the back post and it was actually, the play was designed for Kylie to get onto it. But it wasn’t really flowing the way we had expected. And so me and Kylie kind of made an adjustment right before and luckily it fell where we wanted it to.”

“Set pieces can be turning points, whether you’re going up in the game or coming back in the game,” Hines said about the goal’s impact. “You could see the confidence after that goal went in with the players. We performed much better, we worked for each other, and, you know me, I love a good set piece headed goal.”

The goal was only the Pride’s second of the NWSL regular season and their first away from Exploria Stadium in all competitions.

The Wave tried to regain the lead in the 31st minute when former Pride forward Rachel Hill dribbled into the box and shot, but Montefusco blocked it out of play. The ensuing corner by Shaw found the head of Riehl with Cluff challenging her. The ball bounced off both heads, ending up at the feet of Doniak, who shot from close distance and over the crossbar.

Getting to halftime at 1-1 would’ve been an accomplishment for the Pride, but they did one better by taking their first lead of the regular season in the 42nd minute. It began when Marta played Villacorta in the middle of the field. A great ball into the Wave box found McCutcheon, who snuck into the space created by Bright’s run and sent a looping header over Sheridan, who was defending her near post. The goalkeeper dove for the ball, but it was too far behind her and found the inside the far post to give the Pride a 2-1 lead. It was the first goal in a Pride uniform for McCutcheon, who joined Orlando midseason last year.

At halftime, the Pride had more possession (52%-48%), but San Diego had more shots (8-5), shots on target (3-2), and corners (5-4). The key to the scoreline was that the Pride scored on both of their accurate attempts.

The Pride continued their late first-half momentum, creating the first chance of the second half. In the 47th minute, Adriana dribbled into the Wave box and used a nice cut to beat Westphal, hitting Riehl with her shot. The Pride players appealed for a handball, but referee Brad Jensen said it was clean and VAR felt the initial call was correct.

Two minutes later, the Pride nearly had a second chance when Strom played a long pass for Marta, streaking behind the Wave defense. If she had bent it a little, the Brazilian might’ve caught up to it, but it was direct and went out of play for a goal kick.

Similar to the beginning of the game, it took five minutes for San Diego to get their first chance of the half. In the 50th minute, Jakobsson used a nice turn to beat McCutcheon and sent a cross to the near post for Shaw. The forward was again the first player to the pass and her first-touch shot was almost identical to her first-half goal. But this time she missed just wide of Moorhouse’s near post.

The Wave had another opportunity in the 53rd minute when Cluff fouled Briede just outside of the Pride box. Shaw stepped up to take the kick, bending it towards the back post. It looked like it would be an easy catch for Moorhouse, but she spilled it to her left where McNabb was charging in. The defender shot towards goal and hit the side netting, allowing the Pride to maintain their one-goal advantage.

Two minutes later, the Pride had a chance from nearly the same spot when Villacorta was fouled by Briede. Marta and Adriana stood over the ball, with the elder Brazilian taking the kick. This one wasn’t as close, with her shot deflecting off of the wall.

Looking for her first goal as a member of the Pride, Adriana shot from long distance in the 61st minute. The shot was deflected by Riehl, sending it towards the corner of the goal. The deflection forced Sheridan to dive as it looked to be heading just inside the post. Regardless of its accuracy, the Canadian international collected it.

In the 64th minute, good passing by Briede and Shaw created a chance for Amirah Ali, who came on two minutes earlier for Hill. She had space and time, but probably rushed her shot a little too much and it went wide.

San Diego’s missed chances came back to haunt the hosts in the 69th minute, when the Pride scored their third goal of the game. A long run by Tymrak to the top of the Wave box allowed her to find Adriana on the right. Girma was on the attacker, but Adriana’s shot went through her legs. Sheridan dove for the ball, but it went under her hand, bounced off the far post, and went in to give the Pride a surprising 3-1 lead.

“I think she really needed that. I think all forwards, they feel good when they come off the field with a goal,” Hines said about Adriana getting her first goal for the Pride. “We had spoke to her about being more selfish, taking on players, getting more shots off. She has a terrific shot. And it’s getting her to use it more often. It’s a brilliant goal, just a half yard and a snap shot, I don’t think any goalkeeper in the world would’ve saved that.”

In addition to being Adriana’s first goal for her new team, it was also the first time the Pride have scored three goals in a game. It was a welcome sight for a team that has struggled offensively prior to this game.

This game also saw some league history in the 71st minute when Melanie Barcenas replaced Briede, becoming the youngest player to appear in the NWSL. The 15-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Wave on March 21 and broke the record previously held by Olivia Moultrie of the Portland Thorns.

The Pride made their first change in the 73rd minute when Ally Watt came on for Cluff. The substitution was a bit of a surprise as it was an attacking change. Additionally, Marta had yet to play more than an hour this season as she returns from a torn ACL, so some expected the Brazilian to come off.

Seven minutes after coming on, Barcenas made her first impact on the game. After receiving the ball from Ali, some nifty footwork provided enough time for Ali to run behind her. Barcenas played it back to Ali who shot towards goal, but the attempt was high.

The Pride made their second change in the 79th minute. This time it was a defensive change, which made sense with a two-goal lead, as defensive midfielder Jordyn Listro replaced the more attacking Tymrak.

The Wave continued to apply pressure as time wound down. In the 84th minute, a corner was cleared by Montefusco, but Girma sent the ball back into the Pride box. Ali won the ball, heading it back for Shaw, but her shot was over the goal.

It looked like the hosts got one back in the 89th minute when Colaprico sent Ali behind the Pride defense. The forward did well to reach the ball before it crossed the end line and cut back to beat Strom. Her shot was off Madril’s foot and past Moorhouse, but the assistant’s flag went up for offside on Colaprico’s long pass.

As the game entered second-half injury time, the Wave pushed for a goal and the Pride tried to kill the clock. Adriana did well on multiple occasions to take the ball to the corner, even when Marta wanted to be sent into the San Diego box. Additionally, the Pride did well to stay compact defensively, providing few paths through the defense.

The only real chance in the final minutes came two minutes into stoppage time when Shaw sent Ali through. However, this pass was a bit too far, allowing Moorhouse to collect it near the top of the box.

San Diego led most statistical categories at the end, including possession (52.2%-47.5%), shots (17-14), corners (7-4), and crosses (21-12). But the Pride had more shots on target (6-4) and passed more accurately (85.3%-81.4%), leading to their 3-1 win.

“Obviously delighted with the win. It was a great team performance. From all the players, the intensity of in possession and out of possession was terrific and to come to a place like this and come away with three points is really impressive,” Hines said after the game. “Trusting the players because we’ve had glimpses of what we can do in previous games, but today was probably the most, overall, complete performance that we’ve put together. So I’m really happy for the players and all the staff to come away with three points.” 

“We’ve been battling every game for it so it’s nice to finally get that result,” Cluff added. “We’ve been super close every game so it’s nice that we finally had a positive finish.”

The Pride had a tough start to the season, losing their first four league games and three at home. They’ve been close to claiming points in each of their home games and Hines said this result could be a turning point.

“I was really pleased that we controlled the game with possession and found the little pockets and played through the lines and still looked threatening in the attack,” he said after the game. “Because we got end product. We managed to get shots. We managed to get through balls, even set pieces. So it’s starting to come together.

“We have to look forward to the next game back at home and do the same at home as well in front of our own fans. That’s important to me and the rest of the staff, that we start putting these performances together in front of our fans as well.”

The Pride will look to do that next Saturday night when they welcome Racing Louisville to Exploria Stadium.


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