The Orlando Pride (7-9-1, 22 points) saw their three-game winning streak come to an end, as they fell 2-1 to San Diego Wave FC (8-6-3, 27 points) at Exploria Stadium. Abby Dahlkemper opened the scoring in the seventh minute and Adriana equalized just before halftime. Substitute Kyra Carusa netted the winner off a corner kick in the 75th minute, and the Pride were unable to climb into a playoff spot with five games remaining in the season.
After the Pride’s 5-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars Sunday night, Head Coach Seb Hines used the same lineup for this matchup against the Wave. Anna Moorhouse started in goal behind a back line of Kylie Strom, Rafaelle, Emily Mardril, and Haley McCutcheon. Viviana Villacorta and Kerry Abello were the defensive midfielders behind an attacking midfield of Adriana, Marta, and Julie Doyle. Messiah Bright started up top after scoring her first career brace.
San Diego was happy to sit back in this game and hit the Pride on the counter attack. As a result, the Pride led in every meaningful statistical category. The Pride had chances in the first half through some poor passing by the Wave, but were unable to take advantage, and San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made some good saves to keep the game at 1-1. The downfall for the Pride was on set pieces, conceding on both of the Wave’s corner kicks — both of which were conceded unnecessarily.
The Pride had the first chance of the game in the second minute when Marta shielded the ball at midfield and sent Doyle behind the back line. Dribbling into the box from the left, Doyle attempted to beat Sheridan to her near side, but the ball bounced off the post.
The Wave almost opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Alex Morgan pressured Moorhouse’s pass to Madril. The center back sent a poor pass to either Moorhouse or Rafaelle, sending it into open space, where Rachel Hill picked it up. The forward quickly shot on goal, and should have scored, but it was too close to Moorhouse, who did well to knock it wide with her left foot.
The ensuing corner ended up at the foot of Danielle Colaprico, who shot on goal. McCutcheon got in front to block the attempt, but could only clear it as far as Dahlkemper near the penalty spot. The center back’s shot was over Moorhouse and off the bottom of the crossbar with enough momentum to get over the line, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Adding salt to the wound, it was Dahlkemper’s first NWSL regular-season goal since 2016.
In the 15th minute, pressure by Doyle on the sideline forced Hill into a bad pass back for Dahlkemper. Bright intercepted it and, after faking herself out with a stepover, played it across for Abello. Adriana ended up with the ball and enough space for a long-range attempt. The shot was dipping towards the bottom corner, but from that far out, it was comfortable for Sheridan to track it and make the stop.
The Pride had another chance in the 20th minute from another bad San Diego pass. Christen Westphal attempted to play the ball back for Meggie Dougherty Howard, but Marta picked it off and carried the ball into the Wave box. Naomi Girma challenged the Brazilian, but she got the shot off. Unfortunately, it was straight at Sheridan.
Adriana took her second shot from distance in the 26th minute. This attempt was more towards the center of the field, but she didn’t get much on the shot. Sheridan dove to her right to make the stop, but the dive was because of her positioning further towards the opposite post.
The Wave had a chance for a second in the 29th minute, when Morgan played the ball to the top of the box for Kaleigh Riehl. She laid the ball back for Dougherty Howard, who shot towards the far post, forcing Moorhouse into a diving stop.
A minute later, Dougherty Howard sent Hill behind the Pride defense. The attacker shot from the top of the box and Moorhouse got her hand to the ball, tipping over the crossbar. But the assistant’s flag was up on the initial pass, as Hill couldn’t hold her run, negating the chance.
In the 41st minute, Marta collided with Colaprico near the Pride box and referee Matthew Thompson called a foul. Colaprico hit her head on the ground, resulting in a brief delay in the action. Morgan took the free kick, but sent it over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, the Pride found the equalizer. Doyle sent Marta down the right towards the end line where she was defended by Dougherty Howard. The Brazilian used some nifty footwork to lose her defender and send the ball into the box. The cross was just over the head of four defenders and reached the head of an unmarked Adriana, who put it in for her fourth goal of the season.
“It was a brilliant goal,” Hines said about the conversion. “You know, Marta’s brilliance and a great finish by Adri.”
The Pride had the majority of the chances in the first half, but weren’t able to convert. Despite the frustration of being the more attacking team and down 1-0, they didn’t let it dampen their confidence.
“Even when we went down early, we were never in doubt,” Strom said about the resilience leading to the equalizer. “We know we can get the equalizer.”
After 45 minutes, San Diego had more possession (55.9%-44.1%), but the Pride had more shots (8-6), shots on target (4-3), corner kicks (2-1), and crosses (6-2). Both teams ended the first half completing 83% of their passes.
“The first half we sat off a bit. We knew that they’re a pretty direct team. They wanted to go long and find Alex for the flick on,” Strom said about the halftime message. “And I think what we spoke about at halftime is one of our strengths is our press, our mentality. When we went after them, they struggled a bit. We were able to read the long balls better. They were kicking it out of bounds and weren’t as successful. So I think that’s part of our identity. We’re hungry. We like to press and it caused them a lot of problems.”
“I think the first 20 minutes of the game, we were kind of passive,” Hines added about the first half. “We changed that. There was more intensity to our press, put them under pressure. Caused a lot of problems with turnovers and we got ourselves back into the game.”
While San Diego didn’t make any halftime changes, Hines made two. Mikalya Cluff and Jordyn Listro entered the game for Abello and Villacorta.
“Just energy,” Hines said about the halftime substitutions. “You know, they did extremely well when they came on last game against Chicago. I felt we were a little bit tired in the midfield, so they came on, made an impact, lots of energy, the pressing that they put into it as well, causing a lot of problems and turnovers.”
It didn’t take long for Cluff to get involved. She took a shot in the 46th minute that was well over the target, but it was her second shot that gave the Pride an opportunity. The attempt from distance was blocked by Dahlkemper, sending Sheridan the wrong way. The ball was rolling towards the far post as the Wave goalkeeper scrambled to the opposite side of the goal. Unfortunately, the ball went just wide and out for a corner kick.
The ensuing set piece by Marta reached Rafaelle at the far post, but her international teammate couldn’t redirect it on goal.
In the 53rd minute, a ball into the Pride box was headed out by McCutcheon. Morgan was the first one to it, playing a quick give-and-go with Dougherty Howard before getting a shot off from distance. It was right to Moorhouse, but the Pride goalkeeper couldn’t handle it. Hill was there to put it back on target, but Rafaelle cleared it away. The assistant’s flag went up anyway as Hill was judged to be offside.
After receiving the ball from McCutcheon in the 59th minute, Doyle played the ball around Riehl and attempted to beat her with speed. Riehl put her shoulder into Doyle, knocking the attacker down in the box. But Thompson decided it wasn’t enough for a penalty. The ball went to Makenzy Doniak and Bright took her out from behind, earning the game’s first booking.
In the 65th minute, Adriana made a long run before pulling up just outside of the box and playing it back for Cluff. It looked like Cluff would lift the ball into the box, but she played it across for McCutcheon instead. The right back attempted an ambitious shot from distance and it looked like it would sail over the target. The ball was dipping, but still went just over the crossbar.
The Pride made their third change of the game in the 65th minute as Mariana Larroquette replaced Bright.
In the 75th minute, Listro knocked the ball off the foot of Doniak, but got too much on it, conceding a corner kick. Doniak’s ensuing set piece was to the top of the six, where Carusa got inside of Larroquette. The second-half substitute headed the ball past Moorhouse and San Diego retook the lead 2-1.
“They’re a direct team. They’re very strong in the air, all over the pitch, set pieces, in the run of play,” Strom said about conceding twice on corner kicks. “It was great services, great finishes, but at the same time, we need to be better. I think it’s maybe a bit of a lack of concentration on our part. To win those first and second balls, step out, deny the shots. So, it’s something we’re definitely going to have to look at and go back to our old ways and be really resilient in those moments.”
“Anytime there’s a situation like that, you know, there’s sometimes a lapse of concentration,” Hines said about conceding on set pieces. “A moment where you relax and I think they punished us in that moment.”
The Pride almost found another equalizer in the 79th minute when Adriana carried the ball to the top of the box and played it across for McCutcheon. The defender had plenty of space to touch the ball onto her left foot and fire from distance. It was heading under the crossbar, but Sheridan was able to get a hand to it, tipping the ball over the top.
Hines made his fourth change in the 82nd minute and it was an attacking one. Forward Ally Watt came into the game for left back Strom as the Pride went to a back three looking for an equalizing goal.
The Pride had a set piece opportunity in the 86th minute when Watt’s cross was deflected out of play by Riehl. Marta’s corner kick was towards the back post, where Cluff and Dahlkemper collided. The ball popped back for Rafaelle, but her header was into the hands of Sheridan.
The fourth official showed eight minutes of second-half stoppage time, a welcome sight for the Pride. But an odd moment occurred in the second minute when Sheridan’s free kick went over the head of Dahlkemper and straight out of play near midfield. As Listro ran over to take the throw-in, Wave Head Coach Casey Stoney, sitting on a cooler, kicked the ball away. Thompson ran over and immediately issued a confused Stoney a red card.
“In the 90+2 minute, the ball came out of play for an Orlando throw-in near the San Diego Wave technical area when head coach Casey Stoney kicked the ball away,” Thompson said after the game. “She was shown the red card and sent off for ‘delaying the restart of play by the opposing team, e.g. kicking the ball away’ per the IFAB Laws of the Game Law 12.”
The Pride continued to maintain possession and push for an equalizer, but weren’t able to create any solid chances on goal. After eight minutes and nine seconds of second-half injury time, Thompson blew the final whistle and the Pride fell to San Diego for the first time, missing an opportunity to climb into a playoff spot.
At full time, the Pride had more possession (52.4%-47.6%), shots (17-8), shots on target (6-5), corners (8-2), and crosses (23-3), and passed with more accuracy (80.9%-75.5%). But the hosts were unable to find a second goal and dropped all three points.
“It’s a strange one because I thought we did enough to win the game ,” Hines said about the performance. “Obviously, football doesn’t always work out like that. We’ve been in this situation, or have sat in this seat, multiple times where we felt like we’ve done enough to win the game. It just hasn’t fallen our way.”
In addition to conceding on both corner kicks San Diego had in the game, the Pride were unable to convert, despite having many more chances than the opposition. It’s been a recurring problem for this team and one of which they’re aware.
“That’s something we spoke about,” Strom said after the game. “We need to finish our chances because San Diego is a team that if they feel like they’re in it, they’re always going to have a bit of hope. All they need is one long ball behind. And they know they can score off of that and be dangerous off of that. So we need to take our chances. We did create quite a few and then it’s just finding that end product and putting it away and gaining that momentum and putting fear in the other team.”
“Every team is going to cause us different problems,” Hines said about the offensive troubles. “And that’s what San Diego did. They made it difficult to get any clear cut opportunities. You know, there was opportunities but they weren’t clear cut. And again, we learn from it.”
The Pride came into this game two points behind San Diego for the sixth and final playoff spot. Despite the loss, Orlando still sits two points out of the playoff places — now behind OL Reign, which holds a game in hand, which will take place Sunday at Angel City.
Hines said the Pride still have a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
“We’re still in a really good position. We’re still chasing, but we’re still in and around it,” Hines said. “And, you know, you see how close this league is. Anyone can beat anyone on their day and we fell short today. But, you know, we’ll have that hunger and drive.”
The Pride will look to bounce back from this loss next Sunday when they take on OL Reign in Seattle in another pivotal match with postseason implications.