Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. Racing Louisville FC: Final Score 1-0 as Banda’s Goal Lifts Pride to Fifth Straight Win

Barbra Banda’s 17th-minute goal lifts the Pride over Racing Louisville.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride (5-0-3, 18 points) won the battle of the unbeatens, defeating Racing Louisville FC (1-1-5, 8 points) 1-0 at Inter&Co Stadium tonight. Barbra Banda scored her fourth goal in three games and the Pride held onto the lead for 73 minutes.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made one change to the team that beat the North Carolina Courage 4-1 on Wednesday night. Angelina was out after suffering a knee injury during that game and was replaced by rookie Ally Lemos, who made her first professional start. 

“There were some nerves but also some excitement,” Lemos said about her first start. “You know, this is what I’ve been working towards ever since preseason and the season started. So I was just really excited to get out on the field and show what I can do and ultimately help the team win today.”

Starting in a 4-4-2 for the second straight game, the back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Emily Sams, Rafaelle, Kylie Strom, and Kerry Abello. Haley McCutcheon, Lemos, Julie Doyle, and Summer Yates were the midfielders, with Ally Watt and Banda again partnering up top.

This was far from the Pride’s best performance of the season, but they were able to grab a first-half lead and hold onto it. Chances by Louisville, which had drawn five of its first six games, were few and far between while the Pride searched for a second goal. Despite the narrow margin, only two late chances caused hearts in the stands to skip a beat.

Louisville took the first shot of the game in the fourth minute when Elexa Bahr received the ball outside the box. With nobody in purple closing her down, the forward turned and shot. However, she was unable to keep the attempt down, sending it over Moorhouse and her goal.

The visitors had a second chance in the seventh minute when Uchenna Kanu sent a cross across the face of goal. Moorhouse got her right hand to it, but only to Bahr on the far side. The forward took her second shot in the opening minutes of the game, again sending it over the target.

The Pride had their first attack in the ninth minute when Watt laid the ball back for Doyle. Dribbling inside, Doyle attempted to play Banda through, but it was well defended by Arin Wright.

In the 10th minute, Yates looked to get to the Louisville end line and send a cross in, but Wright got in front of the attempt, knocking it out of play. The ensuing corner kick by Yates bounced off the knee of Rafaelle, but the Brazilian center back couldn’t control it and the visitors cleared the danger.

Banda had a chance in the 12th minute to give the Pride the lead when Lemos won the ball back from Kayla Fischer. The midfielder sent it forward for Banda whose third touch was a shot from outside of the box. Lund went down to block the attempt away, but it didn’t appear to give the goalkeeper too much trouble.

Doyle had a chance to open the scoring in the 14th minute when Watt sent a great ball across to the back post. The midfielder was wide open to shoot on goal, but missed the target.

The Pride finally broke through in the 17th minute and from a familiar source. It started with a give-and-go between McCutcheon and Sams on the right side. The defender took a touch towards the end line and sent a cross to the back post, where Banda, despite being among the most threatening strikers in the league, was wide open. It was an easy header for the Zambian, who gave the Pride the early lead.

It was Banda’s fourth goal in the last three games, which sees her surpass Yates as the team leader. The cross by Sams resulted in her first professional assist in her second season.

“Just naturally you have to be a little bit higher, both in the attack and defense, higher up on the pitch. So I was just higher already and wanted to support Haley and she gave me the ball back and I just chipped it across and hoped someone was there to finish it. And luckily Barbra was there,” Sams said. “So yeah, I’m super happy to get my first assist.”

Louisville finally had another chance in the 30th minute when Emma Sears knocked the ball off Strom and out. Carson Pickett took the corner looking for Abby Erceg at the far post. The center back and Louisville captain climbed over Strom, but the ball went out of play, ending the threat.

Abello tried to make something happen on her own in the 36th minute. She played a give-and-go with Doyle to get her behind the Louisville defense and sprinted into the box. Banda was making a run and Abello looked for her, but two defenders were on the goal scorer, so Abello shot herself. Unfortunately, the attempt was directly to Lund, giving her no trouble.

In the 39th minute, Yates was trapped on the sideline, but chipped the ball to spring Doyle. Fischer took down Yates after the pass, and referee Alyssa Nichols called the play back when it was clear it wouldn’t result in an attempt on goal, issuing Fischer a yellow card. The ensuing set piece by Yates connected with the head of Rafaelle, but Lund tipped it over the crossbar.

Fischer nearly equalized in the 43rd minute when the attacker took a shot from outside the box. It looked to be heading inside the far post, but Moorhouse got down and tipped it wide. The corner kick was headed towards goal by Taylor Flint and Erceg was behind the Pride defense, but Moorhouse was quick to react, reaching the ball before Erceg could tap it in.

Banda nearly had her second goal in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. The forward beat Wright to a long ball by Abello and entered the Louisville box. She cut inside to lose Erceg and had nobody else in front of goal except Lund, but the center back did well to recover. She deflected the ball into the arms of Lund, keeping the score 1-0 at the break.

After 45 minutes of action, Louisville had more possession (56%-44%) and corner kicks (3-2) and better passing accuracy (88%-83%). The Pride had more shots (8-7), shots on target (6-2), and crosses (6-5). They arguably should’ve had a bigger lead, but missed some excellent chances in front of goal.

Despite a strong first half, Hines made two halftime substitutions. Adriana and Cori Dyke came into the game for Yates and Abello.

The Pride came out of halftime strong, immediately creating chances. In the 48th minute, Doyle found McCutcheon at the top of the Louisville box. Since nobody closed her down, McCutcheon went for goal. Lund initially jumped for the ball, but it sailed well over the target.

A minute later, Watt nearly doubled the advantage. After a poor pass into the middle was knocked back out, she quickly won it back from Kanu. The forward took a touch inside and fired towards the far post. It beat the diving Lund, but bounced off the far post.

Hines made the Pride’s third and fourth substitutions in the 58th minute. Amanda Allen and Morgan Gautrat entered the contest for Watt and Doyle.

In the 66th minute, the Pride had a free kick when Adriana was fouled by Lauren Milliet. The ensuing free kick by Lemos into the box was headed out, but only to Banda. The striker attempted a volley towards goal that was nowhere near the target.

Lemos had an opportunity in the 70th minute when she received a ball back from Adriana outside the box. The midfielder took a shot that was deflected by Erceg, resulting in Lund diving the wrong way. However, the deflection sent the ball over the crossbar.

The ensuing corner kick was tipped beyond the box by Lund, but the goalkeeper went down immediately after and required attention. During the set piece, her foot was stepped on by teammate Reilyn Turner. In the meantime, the players headed to the sideline for instructions and, after a brief stoppage, Lund was able to continue.

Louisville lacked any real threat in the second half, but Fischer tried to create something in the 78th minute. Receiving the ball outside the box, she sent a curling low ball towards the back post. It would’ve been dangerous if someone in white had been making that run, but nobody was and it went harmlessly out of play.

In the 82nd minute, Pickett sent a long ball for Bahr, who beat Strom into the opposing third. Moorhouse did well to come out and block the shot, but Turner was following and got to the ball. Fortunately, Rafaelle made a good tackle to knock it away before Turner could put it on goal. Rafaelle’s attempt to carry the ball out of the box was blocked by Sears to Sams and Sears fouled the defender, ending the threat.

“Anna did a really good job today of keeping that clean sheet,” Hines said about the save and her performance. “You know, could easily have been another goal for Louisville.”

The Pride made their last change in the 87th minute. After a strong performance in her first professional start, Lemos was replaced by Carrie Lawrence as the hosts looked to see out the game.

Erceg won a late corner for Louisville in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time when Lawrence knocked the ball out. Pickett’s set piece was into the six-yard box and it looked like Moorhouse had it. But she bobbled the ball briefly, scaring the 6,837 fans in attendance before grabbing the ball and falling to the ground.

At the full-time whistle, Louisville had more possession (54%-46%), corners (5-4), and crosses (12-11) and better passing accuracy (83.4%-80.3%). But the Pride had more shots (14-9), shots on target (8-3), and the all-important goal.

“I think today it was a tough game, obviously with the quick turnaround and everything that we put into on Wednesday. The emotions that we had to go through after Wednesday and then just to turn it around against a good Louisville team, who had a week to prepare for this game with a lot of energy,” Hines said about the game. “You could see towards the end, the players were on their last legs. But I can’t say enough compliments for them. You know, to have that grit, that determination, the attitude, the mentality to see the game out and walk away with three points and end the week with nine points with three games. I’m really, really proud of all the efforts that they put into it.”

“It’s tremendous,” Sams added. “I mean, all of us just had that determination to get that shutout and get those three points for all 90 minutes. It was a grind for 90 minutes. We came into this game not as fresh as we could have been, or especially as the other team, but we didn’t let that be an excuse to not play our best or try to play our best at least.”

The Pride have now won five consecutive games, tied for the team record. The other five-game winning streak came during the 2017 NWSL season, the only year in which they qualified for the playoffs.  The win also extends their unbeaten run to eight games, one short of the team record, also set in 2017.

The Pride have shown an ability to win games in different ways this season. They won a high-scoring 3-2 game against the Washington Spirit 10 days ago and have now won three games 1-0. It’s a team-wide approach and the success didn’t go unnoticed by their coach.

“I can’t just pinpoint on the back line because they are doing a great job, but it’s the whole team,” Hines said about the defensive effort. “Everyone’s doing their role and it’s really nice to see. And even the players who are coming onto the field, they have to do their job and their roles and responsibilities to, again, see the game out.”

The three points lifts the Pride over the Kansas City Current, who drew earlier in the day, to claim first place by a point. While the Current have a game in hand, it’s something to celebrate for a Pride team that has missed out on the playoffs in all but one of its previous seven NWSL seasons.

 “It’s just all smiles. We’re so happy,” Sams said about how the team feels about being in first place. “The team chemistry that we have, it’s just great. You know, we’re all joking and trying to have a good time around the facility and in the locker room. I think that carries over to the field too. We all just want to work for each other and play for each other. So it’s great. I mean, we’re all just having a good time all the time.”

After playing three games in 10 days, the Pride will now have nearly a week before they take the field again. Their next game is Saturday when they welcome league newcomers Bay FC to Orlando.


Exit mobile version