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.