A back and forth affair and a spectacular individual performance by Marta was not enough for the Orlando Pride as they fell 4-3 to the undefeated North Carolina Courage Wednesday night at Orlando City Stadium.
Mistakes by the Pride cost them dearly as all four Courage goals came from turnovers or mental errors. Despite that, the Pride were able to fight back and keep the game level just until the 90th minute, when North Carolina was able to snatch a winner just before stoppage time.
“I think at times we saw the worst of the Orlando Pride and then at times the best of the Orlando Pride tonight,” head Coach Tom Sermanni said after the game. “Our first half performance is probably the poorest performance our team has put in in the two and a half seasons i’ve been here. Very disappointed. We were lucky to only be down one at halftime.”
“Second half, I think the players showed their character,” he added. “We came right back into the game, kept coming back into the game, but then it was almost like we came back into the game and we took our foot off the pedal. A lot of credit for us coming in, scoring three goals and getting back in the game again, but a lot of things tonight that we did poorly and you don’t expect from the caliber of players that we have.”
Jessica McDonald opened the scoring for North Carolina (8-0-2, 26 points) in the 32nd minute, after a ball into the box was not cleared by the Pride defense. The Pride (3-3-3, 12 points) pulled one back in the 52nd minute, after Marta played a powerful low cross into the feet of Chioma Ubogagu, who was able to knock in the equalizer.
The Courage responded by quickly adding two goals in five minutes to take a 3-1 lead. A miscue by Alanna Kennedy gifted the ball to Debinha in the 57th minute, who easily took the ball in the box and finished past Ashlyn Harris, then five minutes later, Sam Mewis got a free header in the box and knocked it off the post, deflecting off Harris and into goal.
Just three minutes later, Orlando pulled one back as Kennedy was able to head in a corner from Christine Nairn to cut the Courage lead to just one.
The game stagnated a bit, going back and forth, until the 83rd minute, when Marta was able to create an inch of space for herself on the left side of the field and thread an immaculate ball across the face of goal for Rachel Hill, who tapped the ball in for an equalizer.
Orlando tried for the next seven minutes to weather the storm from North Carolina, but just before stoppage time began, a Jessica McDonald header in the box was popped up in the air, took a weird bounce and fell to Shelina Zadorsky, who was not able to clear it off the line. The ball snuck in, breaking the Pride hearts as that proved to be the game winner.
The Pride have a quick turnaround as they head out to Chicago to play the Red Stars on Saturday, May 26 at Toyota Park at 3:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Lifetime.
Here’s how the Pride lined up:
Orlando Pride XI: Ashlyn Harris (c); Kristen Edmonds, Ali Krieger, Shelina Zadorsky, Carson Pickett; Alanna Kennedy, Christine Nairn (Dani Weatherholt 74′), Emily Van Egmond; Chioma Ubogagu (Rachel Hill 74′), Alex Morgan, Marta
Substitutes Not Used: Haley Kopmeyer; Poliana; Danica Evans; Lotta Okvist.
Announced attendance: 3,104.
(Photo Courtesy of Adrian Hernandez / Orlando Soccer Journal)
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