Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. OL Reign: Final Score 1-0 as the Pride Win Their Second Straight

Messiah Bright’s 16th-minute header was the difference as the Pride beat OL Reign at Exploria Stadium.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride (6-8-1, 19 points) won their second straight game, beating OL Reign (7-5-3, 24 points) 1-0 at Exploria Stadium tonight. Messiah Bright’s 16th-minute header from a perfect Julie Doyle cross was the difference in the contest.

It was just Orlando’s second win ever against OL Reign in the all-time series (2-6-7).

The Pride came out with the same 4-3-3 starting lineup from last weekend’s 3-0 win over the Washington Spirit. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was the usual of Kylie Strom, Emily Madril, Megan Montefusco, and Haley McCutcheon. Kerry Abello, Viviana Villacorta, and Mikayla Cluff were in the midfield behind a front line of Doyle, Bright, and Erika Tymrak.

The Reign were missing nine players in this game, which was noticeable as the Pride dominated the entire 90 minutes. The visitors had a brief attack right after kickoff, but they didn’t challenge Moorhouse and the Pride controlled the rest of the game. Even when the Pride brought on defensive substitutions late in an attempt to see the game out, the Reign couldn’t create opportunities in the final third.

OL Reign kicked off and quickly created the first chance of the game. Bethany Balcer and Elyse Bennett used some quick passing to create a shot for the latter, but Moorhouse got down to block it wide and out for a corner kick. The ensuing set piece was headed out by Sam Hiatt for a goal kick, ending the early threat.

The Pride got their first chance shortly after on the other end, when former Pride center back Phoebe McClernon attempted to shield the ball from Doyle. But she was the last to touch it, giving the Pride a corner kick. The ensuing kick ended up with McCutcheon, but her shot was blocked out of play by Olivia Athens. She had a second chance from a second Villacorta corner kick, but this one went high and wide left.

The Pride nearly took the lead in the fourth minute with an own goal. Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce came out to collect the corner, but Ryanne Brown got to it first. The collision sent the ball back towards goal, where it bounced off the post, allowing the visitors to clear it.

Tymrak had a chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Abello found her on the left side of the box. The veteran midfielder attempted to beat Tullis-Joyce from a tough angle, but the Reign goalkeeper did well to get down and make the stop.

In the 16th minute, the Pride did take the lead from a fantastic individual effort by Doyle. The attacker received the ball on the left and beat Brown one-on-one, before sending a beautiful ball to the top of the six-yard-box. Bright beat Lauren Barnes to the spot and powered her header past Tullis-Joyce to give the Pride an early 1-0 lead.

“I really was just trying to make sure that I stayed within the frame of the goal and just making sure I was in areas to put myself in a position and my team in a position to get the finish. And it worked out really perfectly,” Bright said about her goal. “The buildup was perfect coming from each individual, so I was just happy to get on the frame with it.”

“You see Julie’s intent to take the fullback on and Messiah times her run perfect and it’s some bullet header. It’s brilliant. I love headed goals,” Hines added. “So, I was excited for her and, you know, it’s great for Messiah to get that other goal because she’s deserved it. All the work ethic and what she puts into the game. The harsh reality as a forward, you’re always gonna get judged on goals. So now you’ve seen her put herself in good positions to score goals and the execution was perfect.”

Already down a goal, things got worse for the visitors in the 20th minute when Jess Fishlock went down away from the ball. The midfielder received treatment on the field for a few minutes before coming off for Nikki Stanton.

The Reign were unable to clear the ball in the 28th minute, creating another opportunity for the Pride. Bright got to the ball before Stanton, knocking it back to Abello. The midfielder was far from goal, but attempted an ambitious shot anyway. It was difficult to tell if it was on target, but Tullis-Joyce palmed it away to be sure.

Bright had a chance for a brace in the 34th minute when Tymrak sent her behind Hiatt. The striker dribbled deep into the box and got a shot off, but Tullis-Joyce came out to cut down the angle, blocking it out of play.

Abello created a chance in the 39th minute when she cut inside to beat McClernon and sent a low shot towards goal. Unfortunately, the ball rolled just wide of the far post. Tymrak was making a back-post run, but couldn’t get there in time to redirect the ball on target and the Reign survived the scare.

In the 44th minute, McCutcheon played a long ball for Tymrak who just stayed onside. The midfielder played it across for Bright, but it was a little too far for a one-touch shot. The rookie forward did well to hold the ball up, shielding and eventually turning Brown to get off a shot. But it was right to Tullis-Joyce, who made the stop.

Both teams put one shot on target in stoppage time. McClernon found Bennett in the box for the first, but her header was right to Moorhouse. On the other end, McCutcheon found Bright, but she couldn’t get much on the header and Tullis-Joyce made an easy stop.

The Reign had more possession in the first 45 minutes (52.6%-47.4%), but the Pride had more shots (12-3), shots on target (6-2), corners (6-2), and crosses (12-7). The visitors had two shots during their first attack, but didn’t find another shot until first-half stoppage time and the Pride took a 1-0 lead into the break.

The Pride got the first shot of the second half in the 50th minute when Abello sent an ill-advised shot towards goal from the left that went right into the arms of Tullis-Joyce. A better attempt came on the other end when Veronica Latsko sent a dangerous ball through the box. It went over the head of a ducking Bethany Balcer and just out of the reach of Olivia Van der Jagt and Olivia Athens, going harmlessly out of play.

In the 54th minute, Cluff and Tymrak used a nice give-and-go to beat Van der Jagt, opening up a shot for Cluff at the top of the box. The midfielder attempted to chip Tullis-Joyce, but sent the ball over the crossbar.

The Pride made their first change in the 62nd minute, as Ally Watt entered the game for Doyle. It was a like-for-like change, as Watt and Doyle are arguably the two fastest players on the team. Watt took over Doyle’s position and the Pride remained in the same formation.

Watt didn’t take long to make her presence felt. In the 64th minute, she took the ball from Van der Jagt after Cluff applied pressure. Carrying the ball to the top of the box, the speedster attempted to play Bright behind the defense, but the pass was a bit too far in front.

The Pride made their second change in the 67th minute, resulting in some shifting of positions but keeping the same formation. Celia came on and took over at right back, replacing defensive midfielder Abello. McCutcheon moved from right back into the defensive midfield.

In the 72nd minute, second-half substitute McKenzie Weinert was sent behind the Pride defense by fellow substitute Alyssa Malonson. Moorhouse came off her line to block the attempt, but it went to Balcer, whose shot was blocked by Celia. It didn’t matter anyway as the assistant’s flag went up for offside on the initial ball forward.

A scary moment occurred for the Pride in the 76th minute when Barnes sent Bennett into the Pride box with a long aerial ball. Moorhouse came out to collect it and Bennett slammed into the Pride’s starting goalkeeper. Moorhouse went down hard and had to receive attention from the Pride medical staff, but was able to continue. Meanwhile, Bennett was issued a yellow card for the challenge.

The Pride continued to look for a second goal to put the game away and Bright had multiple chances as the clock neared 90 minutes. In the 84th minute, Tymrak played the ball wide for Watt and the substitute sent a low cross into the box for the striker. Bright collected it and turned, but hit the ball well over the crossbar.

In the 86th minute, Bright made a great run into the box, using some slick moves to beat McClernon and Barnes. She created enough space for a shot, but hit the outside of the near post.

After Bright’s second miss, the Pride made their two final changes, looking to see out the three points. Defensive players Jordyn Listro and Brianna Martinez came into the game for attackers Bright and Tymrak.

Due to some extended stoppages where players required medical attention, the fourth official displayed nine minutes of injury time, a large number the Pride weren’t wanting to see. While the Reign won a pair of free kicks in the opposing half, they weren’t able to get any shots off and the Pride held on for the 1-0 win.

The Reign ended the game with more possession (51.3%-48.7%), but the Pride led the other statistical categories. The hosts had more shots (16-5), shots on target (7-2), corners (6-2), and crosses (15-12), and better passing accuracy (72.7%-67.3%).

“It was exciting. Especially when the fourth put nine minutes up at the end,” Hines said about the game. “But now listen, the players put a lot of work into that performance today and they got the reward for it. They started the game really fast. The front four put Seattle under pressure straight from kickoff, got an early goal, probably could have scored a couple more if the ball just dropped inside the frame of the goal, but you know they were brilliant from start to finish and that’s what it takes to win a game of football in this league.”

This is the second clean sheet for the Pride in as many games after keeping the Spirit scoreless last weekend. Also notable is that the Pride hung onto their lead late with nine minutes of added time. Seeing out games was something the team struggled with earlier this season, but they were able to see this one out to claim all three points.

“I think that was almost the best thing that could have happened to us because we’ve learned through experience and learned the hard way,” Montefusco said about conceding late goals earlier this season. “Not always the way you want to do it, but honestly, I look back and I’m thankful for it. Because you see it tonight. We’re so focused, we’re so tuned in and locked in those moments. The nerves are there and you just don’t want it to happen again. So you do anything you can to see the game out and the look on everyone’s face was just so motivated to finish out the game because we just wanted to end it and show the crowd and everyone here tonight that we deserve that win and we’re not going to let it slide.”

“Early on, we learned the hard way. It was obviously disappointing because we dropped points early on in the season,” Hines added. “You’ve seen the progression of the players have made, the team’s made since that moment. So now we’re holding the ball in the corner seeing it out. We have that determination to not concede and that’s brilliant, managing games much better.”

This was the last game before the Pride head into the World Cup break that lasts until late August. The next NWSL regular season game for the team will take place on Aug. 20 when they welcome the Chicago Red Stars to Exploria Stadium.

The Pride enter the break on a two-game winning streak with two clean sheets. It’s a great way to enter the extended time off, but Hines said that he has mixed feelings about the momentum heading into the down period.

“You can go two ways, right? Because, you know, you have good momentum, we’ve got six points the last two games, two clean sheets, four goals. You know, you want the next game to come around quickly, but I think the players deserve this time off now,” Hines said. “It’s important for them to reset the batteries and go again for the last push at the end of the season. Because you know there’s still a lot of points left on the table.”

The three points gained tonight don’t move the Pride far up the table, but it keeps them within touching distance of the sixth and final playoff spot. They’re currently on 19 points, tied with Racing Louisville for seventh in the league, and jumped the Houston Dash, who fell to the Red Stars tonight. They’re one point out of sixth place behind San Diego Wave FC, who play tomorrow.

While the Pride have over six weeks between league games, they’ll have four Challenge Cup games in that time. That stretch begins on July 23 when they welcome NJ/NY Gotham FC to Exploria Stadium.


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