The Orlando Pride (2-4-0, 6 points) won their first home game of the year and their second consecutive match, defeating Racing Louisville FC (0-2-4, 4 points) 1-0 at Exploria Stadium. Messiah Bright scored her second goal of the season in the 21st minute and the Pride held onto the lead for 69 minutes to claim all three points.
Pride Head Coach Seb Hines started the same lineup as last weekend’s win over San Diego Wave FC — the first time the Pride have had the same back-to-back lineups this season. Anna Moorhouse started in goal in front of a back line of Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Mikayla Cluff and Viviana Villacorta were in the defensive midfield behind Marta, Erika Tymrak, and Adriana. As has become the norm, Bright started up top.
Louisville had the better of the possession early, ultimately resulting in a shot by Uchenna Kanu that missed the target. Other than that, the early possession didn’t result in much as Moorhouse took care of everything near her six-yard box.
The first attack for the Pride came in the fourth minute when Marta won the ball near midfield from Carson Pickett. She had space moving forward, but Jaelin Howell caught up and knocked it out of play for the game’s first corner kick.
Marta took the ensuing corner and curled it towards goal. It looked to be heading in, but Louisville goalkeeper Katie Lund tipped it over the crossbar. The Pride didn’t get another shot during that attacking sequence.
In the 10th minute, the Pride thought they should’ve had a penalty when Adriana played the ball back for Bright in the box. The forward shot and the ball hit the hand of Howell. Despite her arm being away from her body, neither referee Jeremy Scheer, nor video assistant referee Kevin Broadley, felt it was enough to award a spot kick.
The Pride had a good chance on a counterattack in the 18th minute. Tymrak found Adriana to her left and played the Brazilian forward. Bright was making a run into the box, but Adriana decided to take the shot herself from just outside of the box, sending it right into the hands of Lund.
Three minutes later, the Pride took the lead through their rookie striker. It started when Adriana’s shot was blocked out of play by Abby Erceg for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece went all the way through the box, ending up with Strom on the far side. The left back sent a cross into the box, finding the head of Bright. Lund got her hand on the ball, but didn’t get enough of it and it got behind her to give the Pride the 1-0 lead.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on set plays. Paul, our goalkeeper coach, talks a lot about how the game is won between the two boxes. And so that’s been a huge focus for us,” Strom said about the goal off a corner kick. “And you can see from the last two games, we’ve gotten results off of set pieces. So yeah, you just gotta put it in the mixer and ‘Messi’ (Bright) had a great header to get on the end of it. And it was just a desire and willingness to get in the box and score a goal.”
“I’m really happy for her. I’m happy that she got another goal as well,” Hines said about Bright. “I think it always helps as a forward. You know, I want her to be more ruthless as well. I want her to start really believing in her ability and be a little bit selfish as well at times. Like, you take a shot. It’s okay. You’re a forward. It’s fine to shoot.”
Bright almost had her second goal in the 30th minute when she made a strong run, beating Lauren Milliet and shielding Julia Lester to get space for a shot to the near post. Lund did well to block the attempt, sending it off the post. It went back to the striker, who sent her second attempt towards the far post. However, Lund responded quickly and stopped that one as well, keeping her team’s deficit at one goal.
Moorhouse was called into action in the 35th minute when a poor clearance attempt by Montefusco provided a one-touch shot for Ary Borges. The midfielder’s shot was on target, but Moorhouse reacted quickly, knocking it out of play with her right hand.
Louisville had a late first-half chance when Kayla Fischer created enough space on the right to take a shot. But Strom got in front of the attempt and knocked it out for a corner kick. The ensuing corner was caught by Moorhouse at her back post, ending the threat.
In the final minute of first-half injury time, the Pride almost got a second when they sprinted towards the Louisville goal. Receiving the ball from Tymrak, Adriana cut it to her left foot and shot. Lund dove to her left to make an excellent one-handed save. The ball reached Pickett behind the goalkeeper and rolled towards the goal line, but Pickett was able to recover and clear it before it went over.
The Pride had the better chances in the first half and probably should’ve had a three-goal lead. However, Lund had some key saves for the visitors, enabling them to remain within one goal.
At the end of the first half, Louisville had more possession (52.9%-47.1%) and passing accuracy (82.1%-80.6%), but the Pride had more shots (9-8), shots on target (4-3), corners (8-2), and crosses (13-9).
Louisville got off to the better start in the second half, putting pressure on the Pride and creating chances. Borges took a low shot in the 47th minute that was right to Moorhouse and Wang Shuang fired from the top corner of the box in the 52nd minute that was well wide of the goal.
Despite conceding a large amount of possession in the opening minutes of the second half, it was the Pride that nearly scored. Adriana made a long run in the 56th minute, shielding off defenders to enter the box. Instead of shooting herself, she found Marta arriving at the top of the 18. The Brazilian’s first touch was a hard shot on goal, but Lund tipped it over the crossbar.
A poor pass by Marta to Villacorta in the 61st minute gave Louisville a good chance to get back even. The ball was behind the midfielder, allowing halftime substitute Kristen Davis to take over. Madril and Montefusco closed her down at the top of the box, but she took a shot before they could arrive. Fortunately, Moorhouse was able to get down to gather the ball, ending the threat.
In the 65th minute, Pickett created a chance for herself near the top of the Pride box. Dribbling in from the left, she found space for a shot, but Moorhouse did well to get down and block it away. However, the flag went up because Davis was in an offside position and obstructing the view of Moorhouse, so it wouldn’t have counted anyway.
Louisville forced Moorhouse into another save in the 74th minute when second-half substitute Alex Chidiac played the ball forward for Davis. The forward turned Montefusco nicely, getting past the center back for a shot on goal. Her attempt was from the left and inside the six-yard box, but Moorhouse did well to get down and block it out of play with her right hand.
It looked like the Pride had a good chance to double their lead in the 76th minute when Marta took over possession near midfield and charged the other way. After entering the box, she cut inside to lose Erceg, but tripped and was unable to take a shot.
In the 80th minute, quick passing between Marta and Cluff created a chance for Kerry Abello, who came on for Tymrak in the 68th minute. But Lund blocked it away.
Seconds later, Adriana forced Lund into another good save from the left. This time the ball went right to McCutcheon right in front of goal, but she sent the second attempt over the crossbar from close distance.
As the Pride looked to see off their second consecutive win, Hines made two more changes. Ally Watt came on for Cluff in the 81st minute and Amanda Allen made her Pride debut, replacing Bright in the 86th minute.
Despite Louisville needing a goal, the Pride held a fair amount of possession as time wound down. The visitors did have a chance in the 82nd minute when a corner kick fell to the foot of Howell, but her shot fell right into the arms of Moorhouse.
The Pride had one last chance for a second goal a minute into second-half injury time when Marta skillfully flicked the ball over the defense for Allen. The rookie took the ball down well and shot, but Lester got in the way.
As the score would suggest, the game was quite even. Louisville had more possession (52.2%-47.8%), shots (17-16), crosses (12-14), and passing accuracy (80.2%-76.4%). The Pride had more corners (9-7) and duels won (49-47). Both teams put seven of their shots on target.
“It’s a nice feeling,” Hines said about the win. “I thought in this game, it was a moment, an opportunity to really show how far we’ve come from the start of the season. You know, it’s nice to get a clean sheet, but I think that it could have been a three or four-nil game and that’s why we need to be better. I think we need to be more ruthless in front of goal. And that’s something that we’ll talk about after the game with the players. But I’m really happy for them. I’m really pleased for them. It was a nail biter at the end and you start thinking about the previous games and how they’ve ended. But, you know, we saw it out and we’ll take a lot of confidence on how we finished the game.”
“It felt amazing to finally get a clean sheet,” Montefusco added. “We’ve been working towards that for a long time. So it felt right to finally get that tonight.”
The Pride have had good performances at Exploria Stadium this season, but have conceded late goals that saw them drop several points. This is the second straight game that the Pride have been able to see out the win and the first time this year at home.
“We sat in a locker room after a game really late one night. The coaches didn’t even come and talk to us after. It was just our team. We had to look each other in the eye and really get down to it. We were like, what is holding us back here? What is going on? We gotta figure this out,” Montefusco said about seeing out games. “And we just said it is how it is and now it’s ingrained in us that that is not something that we want. That’s not a part of our team identity. We have to close out games, we have to manage them better, and the focus is for 90-plus minutes. I mean, it takes 100 and whatever minutes. We have to play all the way through and I think because we’ve talked about it so much, because it happened, you live and you learn and that experience is now showing and we’re not going to do that again.”
“We’ve been in situations where you’re hanging on to a 1-0 lead, trying to manage the game,” Hines added. “And we spoke heavily about previous games, about managing games, how to take the ball into the corner, run the clock, being a little bit more direct, and you see the rewards by getting three points at the end.”
After starting at the bottom of the league, the back-to-back wins have moved the Pride up to ninth, jumping Racing Louisville, the Chicago Red Stars, and Angel City FC.
The Pride will look to carry this momentum into the Challenge Cup Wednesday night when they face the Washington Spirit at Audi Field.