Last Thursday’s 1-1 draw against the Seattle Reign may have not secured a playoff spot for the Orlando Pride, but after an equally match that saw two stoppage-time goals from both teams, the Pride remain motivated on closing the season with a postseason berth.
“At the end of the day, I want us to continue to win and continue to push into the playoffs,” said Pride forward Alex Morgan, who scored the Pride’s lone goal in the second minute of stoppage time.
“At the time that we needed it the most, the big players all stepped up together, especially all of the international players, the Australians and the Brazilians. [Ashlyn Harris] came back at the perfect time, so it just all came together at the right time,” added Morgan. “A little unlucky tonight but overall, our confidence is continuing to go up, our momentum is continuing and that feels good [knowing] two games from playoffs.”
Soon after Morgan scored, Seattle’s Jessica Fishlock headed in a ball past Harris to equalize the game in the closing moments of the game. The final result: a split even 1-1 draw that halted the Pride (10-6-6, 36 points) from officially punching its playoff ticket.
Orlando said it was a “Switched off” moment that cost them the three points. But just because they couldn’t secure a playoff spot that night, the Pride extended its unbeaten run to six games as the final two games of the season approaches.
That in itself, however, introduces a new challenge.
With women’s international break going on next week, the Pride returns to take on the No. 2 seed Portland Thorns (12-5-4, 40 points) on Sept. 23 at home at 3:30 on Lifetime. A road game against No. 1 North Carolina Courage (14-6-0, 42 points) on Sept. 30 finishes the season.
Two potential playoff opponents. Two matches to try secure a postseason duel against potentially one of them. A challenge the team would welcome, according to defender Ali Krieger.
“No matter if we would have won tonight or not, we still would have want to win the last two games,” said Krieger. “Obviously we are on a really good streak right now. We haven’t lost in six games and it’s two of the best teams in the league. Hopefully in the playoffs, once we get there, we are going to have to play one of these teams again.”
“It’s great for us. I love playing against great players and the best teams because that’s what makes the game fun… you want to play against the best teams and the best players week in and week out because you can only get better,” she added.
The Pride will enter the Thorns game on the 23rd with the same scenario as last Thursday’s game: A win and Orlando Pride are playing in the playoffs in October.
A loss or even a draw puts them in a dangerous position.
Morgan praises rookie Hill
After scoring a brace on Sept. 2 against the Boston Breakers, rookie forward Rachel Hill continued with another impressive performance Thursday night.
Though she didn’t score, Hill came close scoring Orlando’s opening goal in the 47th minute after heading a ball from Camila toward goal, only to bounce off the crossbar. A few more shots attempts at goal, and that was enough to get her credit from teammate Alex Morgan.
“I thought she had at least one tonight, especially the header. I thought that was for sure in. It went off the crossbar unfortunately. But she’s been playing really well,” said Morgan. “She’s been taking on players. Her game has definitely escalated the more that she’s gotten playing time. She’s fun to play with, so she’s going to continue to grow the more playing time she gets.”
Hill has played in 13 games this season and has started in eight. The 22-year-old forward has scored three goals this season.
(Photo by Adrian Hernandez / Orlando Soccer Journal)
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