Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Final Score 3-0 as Pride Suffer Third Straight Road Shutout Loss

The North Carolina Courage dominated the Pride, handing them their fifth loss in seven road games.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (4-7-1, 13 points) were dominated by the North Carolina Courage (6-4-2, 20 points) tonight in Cary, NC, falling 3-0. Kerolin opened the scoring in the first half and Meredith Speck doubled the lead after the break. A late own goal by Haley McCutcheon in the 83rd minute put the game away as the Pride lost for the fifth time in seven games away from Exploria Stadium and the third straight without scoring a goal.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the team that beat the Portland Thorns 3-1 last weekend. Marta was unavailable due to a thigh injury, replaced by Messiah Bright. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse remained the same, with Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and McCutcheon. Mikayla Cluff and Viviana Villacorta were in the defensive midfield behind Julie Doyle, Adriana, and Ally Watt. Bright returned to the starting lineup after starting on the bench last weekend as the lone striker.

The Pride had the first attack of the game inside the first minute through Bright on the left, but her cross sailed out of play. Two minutes later, Adriana intercepted a poor pass by Kaleigh Kurtz. The Brazilian found Watt to her right, but her shot was deflected out by Malia Berkely for a corner kick. Unfortunately, the ensuing set piece was cleared away at the near post.

Watt had a second chance in the fifth minute with a long run down the right. The speedy attacker got into the box, but her shot was weak, from a poor angle, and right at Casey Murphy, allowing the goalkeeper to make an easy save.

The Courage got their first chance in the sixth minute when Narumi Miura carried the ball into the Pride box. She cut back to beat Montefusco and create a shot, but it was always going wide of the far post.

It looked like North Carolina would open the scoring in the seventh minute when Narumi played a long ball over the top of the Pride back line for Kerolin to run onto. She beat Madril to the ball, but the center back did well to catch up. Meanwhile, Moorhouse came off her line to clear the ball and Kerolin wasn’t able to get off a shot.

In the 12th minute, Berkely sent Tess Boade behind the Pride defense. Madril went in to challenge the attacker, but Boade came away with the ball and only Moorhouse to beat. The Pride goalkeeper came off her line to cut down Boade’s angle and made a great save to keep the game scoreless.

The Pride nearly created something in the 20th minute when Watt made a strong run through the midfield and played it long for Doyle. The second-year attacker almost reached it near the top of the box, but Murphy got there just before Doyle to clear it away.

Adriana created an opportunity in the 28th minute after McCutcheon won the ball from Mille Gejl near the North Carolina box. The Brazilian sent a low cross into the box that was flicked on by Watt for Doyle making a run behind. But Doyle couldn’t get to the ball and it went harmlessly through.

In the 32nd minute, North Carolina broke through. It started with a great ball forward by Gejl for Boade behind the Pride defense. Boade’s first touch didn’t allow for a shot, but she laid it off for Kerolin, who put it past Moorhouse and in off the post to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

A long ball by Montefusco for Doyle in the 42nd minute created a chance for the Pride. Doyle caught up to the ball before it crossed the end line and sent it in for Watt. The ball was cleared, but only to Bright near the top of the box. The striker attempted to create space to shoot, but couldn’t get around Berkely, who blocked it.

That was the last decent chance of the half as the Pride went into the break down, 1-0. At halftime, North Carolina had more possession (70.8%-29.2%), shots (6-4), shots on target (3-1), and crosses (8-5), and passed more accurately (90.3%-68.1%). Both teams had two corner kicks and the Pride didn’t lead in any meaningful statistical categories.

“We had a good talk in the locker room,” Watt said about the team’s mood at halftime. “We need to get our energy up. We need to fix our press. And we did. And it was working in the second half.”

The Courage had a golden opportunity to double their lead in the 48th minute when Emily Fox made a run into the Pride box behind Villacorta. Kerolin spotted the run and played it forward, sending Fox in on goal. Moorhouse came off her line to challenge Fox, staying on her feet and blocking the shot to keep the deficit at one.

The Pride felt they should’ve had a free kick in a dangerous position in the 49th minute, when Cluff found Doyle making a run behind Ryan Williams. Murphy came out to the top of the box to challenge the attacker. Doyle went down and the ball was caught between Murphy’s legs. The Courage goalkeeper scooted back inside the box to pick up the ball. It seemed as though Doyle wanted a penalty, but referee Calin Radosav allowed play to continue.

Hines made his first change of the game in the 53rd minute, bringing Kerry Abello in for Bright. It was a forgetful night for the rookie striker, who was rarely in possession of the ball and only threatened the Courage back line once in the first half.

The Pride were given a great opportunity in the 56th minute when Denise O’Sullivan fouled Watt at the edge of the North Carolina box and directly in front of the goal. Adriana stepped up to take the set piece, but sent it directly into the wall. It went to Villacorata, who took a shot, but it was blocked. Eventually, the ball ended in the arms of Murphy and North Carolina was able to clear.

In the 63rd minute, it appeared as though the Courage found their second goal when Kerolin lifted a ball towards the back post for Boade. McCutchen challenged the attacker, but was behind her, allowing Boade to get to the ball first. The attacker fell forward, knocking the ball off Moorhouse and inside the far post.

Immediately following the goal, the assistant’s flag went up for offside. Radosav put his hand to his ear as the video assistant referee checked to see if Boade was in an offside position when the ball was played. While she was behind McCutchen, Madril, and Montefusco, it was much closer with Strom at the opposite post. However, the call was upheld and the Pride stayed within a goal.

The Pride had conceded a significant amount of possession without hitting the Courage on transition. They made a change in the 72nd minute, replacing Doyle with veteran midfielder Erika Tymrak.

In the 73rd minute, an Adriana corner kick was punched out by Murphy. It ended up with Montefusco, who laid it off for McCutcheon, but the pass was too soft and North Carolina sprinted the other way with an advantage in numbers. Fortunately, Villacorta got back to put pressure on the cross and McCutcheon cleared it out of play.

The Courage finally doubled their lead in the 78th minute when second-half substitute Olivia Wingate played the ball into the box for fellow substitute Speck. The midfielder used a good first touch to beat Montefusco and create enough space for a shot. Moorhouse got down to get a hand on the ball, but she didn’t get enough of it. The ball rolled just inside the post to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

North Carolina struck again in the 83rd minute when a long ball from the back found Kerolin sprinting down the right. Madril tried to catch up, but Kerolin reached the ball first and sent a cross into the box. Montefusco intercepted the cross, but a bad touch gave it back to Kerolin. The Brazilian redirected the ball towards goal, but it went off the post. McCutcheon tried to clear it, but sent it off Montefusco and in for an own goal and a 3-0 lead for the Courage.

Hines made two final changes in the 86th minute. With the game out of hand, Amanda Allen and Summer Yates entered for Cluff and Watt.

Despite the result being beyond doubt, the Pride did their best to avoid being shut out. They created three consecutive corner kicks in second-half injury time. Strom was charging in on the second, but the cross was headed away just before it reached her. The other two were cleared much easier, maintaining the clean sheet.

In the end, the Courage ended up with more possessions (67%-33%), shots (16-11), shots on target (6-1), and passing accuracy (86.9%-69.7%). The Pride had more corner kicks (6-4) and crosses (14-13), but couldn’t break through the North Carolina defense.

“We weren’t at it today,” Hines said about the performance. “Every second ball of North Carolina was there. They pressed effectively, (we) didn’t have that sharpness, and it’s becoming a theme away from home. And that was the message after the game. We’ve got to figure this out away from home, we need to start picking up points away from home. You know, we can’t always rely on our home form.”

“Energy,” Watt said about the difference between the Portland win last weekend and tonight’s loss. “We just had to want it more. We were just a little passive and just wasn’t getting it done right.”

The Pride’s game plan was clear from the outset. They’d give up plenty of possession in the game and hit the hosts on the transition. For this reason, the Courage had 70% of the ball in the first half and 67% at full time, leaving the Pride defending for the majority of the game.

“The game plan was to be threatening in transition,” Hines said after the game. “I felt early on we caused them problems. They weren’t able to play through the lines as often as they’re probably used to in previous games. And there was moments where we could have been threatening in transition and we just weren’t threatening in transition.”

Statistically, North Carolina dominated the game. They consistently sent long balls behind the back line for Kerolin to run onto, creating trouble for the Pride defense. Two of those passes resulted in goals. It looked as though Madril and Montefusco weren’t ready for those balls, but Hines said they’ve worked on those plays.

“One thing North Carolina did more than Portland was they played a lot more longer balls in behind the back line,” Hines said. “And we work on that quite often, dealing with long balls, making sure that we’re race ready, dealing with the space behind. You know, it looked like today we just weren’t prepared for that.”

The game had a significant impact on the crowded NWSL standings. The three points for North Carolina saw them jump from sixth to first. Meanwhile, the Pride remain in eighth, three points behind the Houston Dash and five points behind NJ/NY Gotham FC for the final playoff spot.

The Pride will look for a better performance next Saturday night when they face the Kansas City Current. While they lost to the Current earlier this season, they’ll be returning to the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium against the last-place team in the league.


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