Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit: Final Score 3-0 as Pride Dominate the Spirit On the Road

The Orlando Pride went on the road and took all three points against the Washington Spirit thanks to a brace from Julie Doyle.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (5-8-1, 16 points) returned to their winning ways by going on the road and winning 3-0 against the Washington Spirit (6-3-5, 23 points) at Audi Field. Julie Doyle bagged the first brace of her young career by scoring twice early on. An own goal caused by a cross from Ally Watt in the second half gave the Pride their third goal and the defense held on for its third shutout of the year.

The Pride have now swept the Spirit in regular season play — an impressive feat as the Spirit have spent most of the season near the top of the table.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made a few changes to the starting lineup he used in the 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Current last weekend. Marta and Adriana are with Brazil in preparation for the Women’s World Cup this month and were replaced in the attack by Messiah Bright and Doyle. Erika Tymrak also started, with Jordyn Listro back on the bench.

The Pride played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Anna Moorhouse in goal behind a back line of Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff served as the team’s defensive midfielders, with Doyle, Tymrak, and Kelly Abello creating chances for Bright up top. This was McCutcheon’s 100th regular-season appearance in the NWSL, and she served as the team’s captain.

A lengthy weather delay before kickoff didn’t stop the Pride from starting the game with plenty of energy. They found success early on, especially when attacking through the left wing. It only took eight minutes for the Pride to take the lead. After earning a throw-in, Bright did well to hold off her defender and get the ball to Strom, who made a nice cross that bounced in front of goal and found McCutcheon’s head right in front of goal. Spirit goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart came up with a save, but the Spirit couldn’t cleanly clear away the danger. The ball fell to Doyle in the box and she buried it on the half-volley for her first goal of this season.

“The way that we started the game was brilliant,” Hines said regarding the team’s hot start despite the weather delay. “Going after them full of energy and creating momentum, and actually scoring with that momentum that we haven’t seen in the past couple of games, that was a real focal point for us.”

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 13th minute when Bright got a powerful header on the end of a corner kick from Abello. The striker’s shot ended up in the back of the net, but the referee blew the whistle for interference that prevented Barnhart from making a play on the cross.

But it didn’t take long for the Pride to find that second goal, as Doyle continued to find room to work her magic on the left. After a nice move to get some separation from her defender, she whipped in a nice cross. Although Cluff wasn’t able to get her head to it in front of goal, her run was enough to force Barnhart into anticipating a shot and the ball curled into the inside netting. Tymrak was credited with the assist, her 20th in her professional career.

“What you saw today is her with a real intent to go after defenders,” Hines said about Doyle’s performance. “Be threatening in the attack and transition, be decisive with her decisions, driving at defenders, getting shots off, being clinical. That’s what we want from all the forwards. You’ve got an opportunity, you must take it, and she took it tonight.”

Doyle missed a majority of the season due to injury and has been easing her way back into action.

“It felt so good,” she said about her first brace. “We needed that. I needed that. There’s been a lot of pressure on getting an end product and so, to finally get three goals, to get a shutout, you definitely saw a team performance tonight and I’m so proud of everyone.

“It doesn’t stop after one goal. I made a small goal tonight to at least get two. Losing Marta and Adriana is a huge loss for us, so I think everyone realized that and knew that we all had to step it up and I think that’s what we did tonight.”

In need of goals themselves, the Spirit went on the attack. With many of their attacking players away with the United States, the Spirit relied on getting long balls over Orlando’s back line to reach Ashley Hatch. The American forward had a good opportunity in the 21st minute by driving in a low cross to Lena Silano, but Silano couldn’t get a piece of it.

Although the Spirit were starting to more effectively impose themselves on the match, the Pride still found chances to extend their lead. In the 29th minute, pressure from Bright in the box caused a poor clearance from Tara McKeown and Abello was there to intercept it in the box. The midfielder put her first shot of the match on frame and Barnhart had to tip it over the bar for a corner kick.

The Spirit’s first shot of the match didn’t come until the 32nd minute. Hatch laid the ball off for Ines Juarena to have a go from distance, and the French midfielder’s shot skipped wide of goal.

Abello had another chance in the 34th after Bright used some skill and speed to get downfield and find her at the top of the box. This time, Abello’s shot wasn’t on target and went well over the crossbar.

The Pride didn’t slow down their push to score and Doyle had a chance for a hat trick in the 40th minute by driving a headed shot towards goal that went inches wide of the post.

Both teams had chances after the referee indicated there would be three minutes of stoppage time before halftime. Hatch continued to facilitate things for the Spirit and played a nice ball in for Nicole Douglas on the right side, but the cross harmlessly went out for a goal kick.

A minute later and the Pride were on the attack once again. Doyle blocked a clearance, chased down the ball before it could go out of play, and then raced down the wing. Bright made a good decision to find a pocket of space away from the mouth of goal instead of continuing her run, and Doyle found her wide open. Her shot was on target, but deflected out for a corner, which the Pride couldn’t capitalize on before the halftime whistle blew. Doyle and the rest of the Pride offense were electric throughout the first half, playing with the same energy no matter what the score was.

“The best defense is a good offense, so if we can keep the ball in our attacking half then we’ll make everyone’s life easier,” Doyle said following the match. “I think that we know that we can do that and if we’re going at them, why let off?” 

Although the Pride had less possession (45.5%-54.5), they bossed the Spirit for a majority of the first half. They finished the first half with nine shots, putting four of the on target, while none of the Spirit’s three shots were on target. The Pride had a clear advantage on the wings and funneled their attack out wide often, leading the Spirit in crosses (14-2) and taking more corners (5-1). Orlando also had better passing accuracy (76.4%-74.4%).

The Spirit made a pair of changes at halftime, bringing in attackers Chloe Ricketts and Civana Kuhlmann for Douglas and Amber Brooks. Ricketts made her presence felt quickly, surging down the wing until taken down by a challenge from Abello that earned her the first yellow card of the match.

Madril misplayed a pass back to Moorhouse that had nowhere near enough power behind it, giving Hatch a golden opportunity in the 57th minute. Montefusco’s rush to close down on Hatch didn’t stop the Spirit forward from easing around her slide tackle, but it gave Madril enough time to recover and Hatch’s shot was sent sailing into the stands.

Doyle came off for Ally Watt before the ensuing goal kick took place and it didn’t take long for the substitute to make an impact. Abello found Watt in space and the forward used her speed to get down the wing and serve up a low cross that deflected off of McKeown and into her own net. It’ll ultimately go down as an own goal, but Watt did well to put the ball in a dangerous area.

“There were a couple times where we were pinned back,” Hines said, “but there was a lot of good concentration and focus on the task. A two-goal lead is always difficult, that next goal is the most important. I’m glad in the second hald we got that next goal and from there we seemed pretty focused and comfortable.”

The Pride made their second change in the 64th minute, with Celia replacing Bright as the Pride aimed to close the game out. Bright performed well in this match, particularly when holding up play for other players to get involved in the attack.

A long ball from McKeown found Hatch in the Pride’s half and Hatch beat Montefusco to go on the attack. Although the Pride had players behind the ball, Montefusco brought Hatch down and received a yellow card. It was a strange foul to commit considering Hatch was alone with Pride players ready to defend. The Pride didn’t pay the price for it though as they were able to handle the ensuing free kick.

The Spirit had another dangerous free kick in the 70th minute after a flurry of attacks and they created yet another opportunity for Hatch. Sam Staab curled in a venomous cross and a diving header from Hatch certainly had enough power behind it, but it went wide of goal.

The Pride then had a chance of their own from a set piece of their own soon after. A long ball into the box from Montefusco in the center circle found Watt, who headed it down for Cluff right in front of goal. Cuff took her shot quickly, but Staab did well to deflect it. The rebound went to Watt, who sent her shot over the goal.

Madril then got some redemption for her miscue earlier by putting herself between a long ball over the top and Hatch. The defender showed plenty of strength to hold off the veteran attacker, who received a yellow card for bringing Madril down.

The Pride refused to stay on the back foot against the Spirit. Watt and Cluff continued to attack out wide, but Barnhart and the rest of the Spirit defense prevented them from widening the lead any further. A cross from Cluff was snuffed out by Barnhart and a nice cutback pass from Watt didn’t wind up with a shot taken.

Moorhouse started to get more involved in things as the Spirit got more desperate to score. Hatch slipped a through ball to Camryn Biegalski, but Moorhouse closed down the angle and Biegalski dribbled it out of play trying to work around the goalkeeper. Moorhouse then came up with a save against Kuhlmann in the 82nd minute, jumping to parry the ball over the crossbar and out for a corner. The goalkeeper punched away the first corner for another, which ended up as a goal kick after a missed shot.

The Pride had a few more chances to truly put the game to rest. Watt had a decent opportunity in space, but sent her shot well off target from a tough angle. Abello was a bit closer with her shot from a free kick a minute later, not missing the top right corner of the goal by much.

Hines made his final changes in stoppage time, with Amanda Allen and Brianna Martinez coming on for Tymrak and Abello.

Moorhouse secured her clean sheet with a save against Hatch and the Pride were able to hold on for the 3-0 victory.

At full time, the Pride had less possession (44%-56%) but did much more with the ball. They finished the game with more shots (12-9), putting four of them on target while the Spirit put just two on frame. The Spirit created more chances in the second half than the first, but the Pride still had more crosses (27-9) and both teams had five corner kicks. The Spirit also had better passing accuracy (81.7%-79.9%), but the Pride dominated in the one stat that matters most in the 3-0 win.

“Seb [Hines] said from the beginning that he was just going to expect more out of us, ” Cluff said after the win. “We know what we’re capable of. We’ve shown it in spurts throughout the season and we can play such quality soccer and beat the best of the best. But it just kind of comes down to our determination and our desire when we step on the field every single game, no matter who we’re playing. So that was kind of the message going into this game and I think that we obviously accomplished that tonight.

This was just the Pride’s second win away from Exploria Stadium this season and snapped a two-game losing skid after defeats to the North Carolina Courage and Kansas City Current. Hines spoke on how the Pride took all three points on the road against one of the league’s best teams.

“[Tonight} was more about ourselves. We needed to have a reaction after the last two defeats. Recently, we haven’t been ourselves and going to an environment like Washington, it’s difficult, of course. But, we wanted to come here with loads of energy, loads of desire, commitment, and put a real good performance together for our fans, because they deserve it. The players know it, as well, we haven’t been ourselves. Go back to our identity and when we show what we’re capable of doing, that’s where you get your success. So I was really pleased with, the not just the goals, but their overall performance and their attitude leading into this game.”

The Pride will turn their attention to Friday’s match against OL Reign at Exploria Stadium before the break in regular-season action for the World Cup. Following that match, the Pride will play four consecutive NWSL Challenge Cup matches from July 23 to Aug. 9.


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