The Orlando Pride took to their home pitch last night looking to clinch their first playoff spot in team history, but the Portland Thorns had something to say about that. Portland managed to keep the red hot Pride out of the net with a 0-0 draw in front of 7,353 fans at Orlando City Stadium.
The draw also helped the Pride add a point to its lead over Seattle Reign FC, who are chasing Orlando and Chicago for a place in the 2017 postseason. With the point, the Pride extended its unbeaten streak to eight straight games, dating back to a 1-1 tie with the Chicago Red Stars on Aug. 5.
“[The draw] puts an awful lot of pressure on Seattle to win both games and turn the seven-goal differential around. I think I’d much rather be in our position now than Seattle’s. But we still, theoretically, need another point depending on what happens this weekend,” Pride head coach Tom Sermanni said.
The match was physical but the Pride managed to hold a 14-5 advantage on shots. Shots on target were limited as Alex Morgan totaled Orlando’s only two attempts on frame.
“I think it was a stressful game out there today. Portland are a very good side, I thought it would’ve been a grave injustice if we would have lost the game. We limited them to one real chance. We dominated the game, particularly for the first 30 minutes, I thought we played really well. But defensively they’re very good and they don’t give up a lot of chances, and they get everybody behind the ball.” said Sermanni.
In other other end, the Pride held Portland to just one shot on goal, a 40th-minute attempt from Ashleigh Sykes. Sykes broke through the Pride defense with a give-and-go and nearly beat Ashlyn Harris from the six-yard box. But Harris got just enough on the ball, allowing Monica to recover and clear the ball away from danger before the Thorns could breakthrough.
“Defensively, they are very good and they don’t give up a lot of chances,” Sermanni said. “And they get everybody behind the ball and they’re good at grinding out one-nil results away from home.”
Alanna Kennedy was one of six Pride players to return from international duty this week, The midfielder, along with teammates Steph Catley, Marta and Monica, returned just a day before Saturday’s match after Australia hosted Brazil in two matches this week. Harris and Morgan also traveled for two domestic games with the U.S. Women’s National team on Sept. 16 and 19. This left the squad with one day to train together before the Portland match.
Orlando wraps up the regular season on Saturday, Sept. 30 at the first-place North Carolina Courage. The Pride look forward to that match with confidence as this match with Portland is their first without a goal since July 1.