The Orlando Pride (7-5-4, 25 points) ended their 3 game home stand with a dominant 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit (2-10-4, 10 points) last night in front of 4,621 fans. The Pride, playing without injured star Alex Morgan, managed to keep Washington’s goalie (and former Orlando goalkeeper) Aubrey Bledsoe on her toes with a team record 31 shots during the match.
“I’m really proud of the players tonight,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “It was a really tight game in the end in the scoreline but we had seven good chances to score in the first 12 minutes. It’s important when you get those chances that, if you take one or two of them it gives you that little barrier and a little bit of respite because you know at some stage in this league teams are going to come into the game and they’re going to create chances and that’s exactly what Washington did. They consolidated a little bit and then got that opening goal, which made life obviously a lot more difficult then. The players deserve a lot of praise for coming back, keep plugging away, keep playing the way that we wanted to play and I think we did enough to win the game and we deserved to win the game.”
Washington started the match fighting off Orlando’s attack. The Pride had lost the past two games, one to first place and dominant Carolina, and the other was to Houston, who they clearly overmatched. The Spirit are a similar level of play to Houston and the girls were not about to let another opportunity slip away because they were not aggressive enough.
The Spirit did manage to draw first blood, when when Ashley Hatch headed in Whitney Church’s corner delivery in the 26th minute.
Orlando worked to even the score when Sydney Leroux got loose in the 45th minute and and got a shot past Bledsoe on the right post for her fifth goal of the season, tying that match at the half.
In the second half, Orlando came out with renewed fire and energy. They attacked each ball with enthusiasm and kept Washington off balance. The Pride took a team record 19 shots in the second half.
In the 55th minute, Christine Pickett lofted a ball towards the Washington goal that was just barely caught by Bledsoe, who coming into the match, led the league in saves with 70.
Orlando standout Camila returned to the field in the 65th minute, made her first appearance since tearing her ACL and spraining her MCL last September. The 23-year-old was aggressive in pursuit of a goal, taking three shots in her 25 minutes.
Then in the 86th minute, Leroux worked the ball up the left wing and into the box for Marta. Faced one-on-one with a defender, the Brazilian zig-zagged her way through the box before getting on her strong left foot and blasting it off the crossbar and in. Marta’s goal ties her with Alex Morgan for most goals in Club history with 16.