Pride score early, but stalwart Thorns defense holds for win

A historic night for the Orlando Pride began on a high note, but ended in heartbreaking defeat.

In the 82nd minute, Portland Thorns (1-0-0, 3 points) midfielder Lindsey Horan netted the match-winning goal to hand the Pride a 2-1 season-opening defeat Sunday evening in Portland.

“Overall I was delighted with the players,” Pride coach Tom Sermanni said. “I was delighted with their effort, delighted with the way they played. To be honest, in the last 15 minutes or so, I thought we were the team that was more likely to score. Obviously very disappointed that we lost the game because I thought they deserved something.”

After Pride defender Monica Hickmann Alves deflected a Thorns entry pass off her head, the ball landed in the lap of Portland’s Tobin Heath, which drew help from Pride defender Laura Alleway. Heath then expertly touched the incoming ball to Horan, who grounded a goal in a one-on-one faceoff with Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in the box.

With a little more than eight minutes remaining in the match, the Pride (0-1-0, 0 points) increased their attack. In the 87th minute, Lianne Sanderson, who was substituted in for Becky Edwards at the 61st minute, crossed a ball from just outside the middle-left of the box that sailed past Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos and just past the Pride’s Kaylyn Kyle and Dani Weatherholt, who were dashing toward the back post.

That was essentially the Pride’s last opportunity at an equalizer, as the Thorns’ aggressive offense kept the Pride defense on its heels, as they searched for a third-goal dagger.

The scoring happened quickly, as Pride defender Steph Catley netted the club’s first goal in the National Women’s Soccer League off a free kick from just outside the right side of the box. Catley’s grounded ball just escaped the hands of Betos, while also evading the foot traffic of Pride attackers and Thorns defenders.

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The Orlando Pride suffered a 2-1 loss to the Portland Thorns after giving up two unanswered goals. Steph Catley scored the club’s first-ever goal in the 12th minute. (Courtesy of Orlando City SC Communications)

Portland’s equalizer came in the 25th minute when Horan floated a sky-high cross to Nadia Nadim, who managed to head the ball behind her to Heath. The 27-year-old veteran then placed the ball middle for a Dagny Brynjarsdottir one-timer that was too high and out of reach for Harris.

The Pride open home play when they face the Houston Dash and U.S. women’s national team star Carli Lloyd in the Orlando Citrus Bowl on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Morgan-Catley duo could be dangerous

The two international teamers, one for the States and the other for the Matildas, showed good chemistry in the club’s inaugural match in the NWSL. It was especially highlighted early in the match during the first half, as Catley frequently streaked up the left side of the pitch to assist a ball-controlling Morgan.

Both players played an aggressive game, as Morgan played a press throughout most of the match, while Catley consistently ran the length of the pitch, staying involved on both sides of the ball.

Starting XIs

Orlando Pride starting XI (4-3-3): Harris; Catley, Monica Hickmann Alves, Laura Alleway, Josée Bélanger; Maddy Evans, Kyle, Becky Edwards; Jasmyne Spencer, Morgan (C), Kristen Edmonds

Portland Thorns starting XI (4-2-3-1): Betos; Emily Menges, Emily Sonnett, Meghan Klingenberg, Kat Williamson; Horan, Allie Long; Heath (C), Mana Shim, Brynjarsdottir; Nadim

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