After failing to make the playoffs, the Orlando Pride are playing for exactly that: pride. The team traveled to New Jersey to face Sky Blue FC (6-7-5, 23 points), who still have an outside chance at a playoff position. The Pride (6-11-1, 19 points) were looking to finish the season strong by taking maximum points from their final three games. They got off to a good start with a 1-1 draw Wednesday night at Yurcak Field.
A relatively average game had two moments of brilliance that resulted in the tie, the first one in the short history of the expansion team. The Pride were playing with a depleted squad as Australian internationals Steph Catley and Laura Alleway were out. Becky Edwards was also out due to a concussion.
The match took a while to get going with both teams struggling early to break each other down and find that little bit of magic to break the deadlock. After several wayward attempts from both teams, the Pride took the initiative in the 22nd minute. A long diagonal ball from Maddy Evans allowed Alex Morgan to run in behind the opposing defenders and score a delightful yet technical volley from outside the box. It was Morgan’s fourth goal in 13 games this season.
From that point onward, Sky Blue chased the match and tried to make something happen. The liveliest player on the field for the home team was Australian star Sam Kerr. After having two early chances thwarted by Orlando Pride and U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, Kerr finally slotted one past her in the 80th minute. Kerr initially played teammate Maya Hayes through with a chipped through pass. Hayes’ shot was saved by Harris’ right foot and parried straight into Kerr’s path to finish.
The final minutes of the match became wide open as both teams were desperate for a late winner. Sky Blue defender Kristin Grubka made several important interceptions, including a clearing bicycle kick in the 91st minute to keep the score equal.
Women of the Match: Sam Kerr
Kerr had an impact from the start, causing the Pride’s defense to panic and stab at her as she weaved her way from the right side toward the penalty box. She got her just rewards by equalizing in the 80th. It was her fourth goal of the season.
|22’||Orlando Pride||Alex Morgan||Maddy Evans|
|80’||Sky Blue FC||Sam Kerr||n/a|
Statistics and Starting Lineups
|Goals||Assists||Shots||Shots on Goal|
|Sky Blue FC||1||0||17||7|
Sky Blue FC XI (4-4-2): Caroline Casey (GK); Erin Simon, Christie Rampone (C), Kristin Grubka, Erica Skroski; Leah Galton, Taylor Lytle, Sarah Killion, Sam Kerr; Tasha Kai, Maya Hayes
Orlando Pride XI (4-3-3): Ashlyn Harris (GK); Camille Levin, Monica Hickmann Alves, Kaylyn Kyle, Josée Bélanger; Maddy Evans, Kristen Edmonds, Dani Weatherholt; Sam Witteman, Alex Morgan (C), Jamia Fields
Disclaimer: Benjamin Sanders is a volunteer mentor for the Orlando City Foundation where he uses his free time to teach young children in after-school initiatives the basics of the game.