The Orlando Pride finally found their way into the winner’s circle with a win over the Houston Dash 1-0 with a sparse crowd of 3,890 fans. It was Orlando’s first win one the 2018 campaign.
After three matches with little result, the Pride tried to push through this fourth match as they look for some key players return from international play. This sloppy match did show some grit from the girls that are here at home that they can still compete.
“Just delighted to get our first win of the season,” Pride head coach Tom Sermanni said. “We knew it was going to be a very difficult game, particularly with the way Houston set up defensively. They make it really tight and very difficult to break them down. I think we found that particularly in the first half, it was probably a little bit frustrating because we never quite got into a rhythm.”
Orlando was disjointed and stagnant in the first half. Houston spent a good amount of time on the Orlando side maneuvering and looking for shots in the spacious Orlando defense. Orlando held on through the attacks and made some strikes of their own but no result up to the half.
“It’s funny, some games it just takes heart and grit and sacrifice and putting your body on the line even when things aren’t necessarily connecting and going as planned.” Said Orlando Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris “I think tonight was one of those games. There were moments when it was nice but it was a little disjointed and disconnected. We had limited chances to score but when we got in front of the net, it just wasn’t happening for us tonight.”
Harris continued “We started the week and we said, ya know, the last three games have been soft, frankly. Pressuring very soft. Tackling very soft. Connecting passes…just the simple things in the game. So this week, I feel like I was really tough on a lot of players and at this level you sink or you swim. If you’re gonna be here, you’re gonna have to work.”
And work they did. The Pride came out onto the pitch for the second half and looked like a different squad. They aggressively attacked the ball, each pass, shot and cross was hit and charged on as if the season depended on it.
“I was really, really pleased with our response in the second half.” Said Coach Sermanni “I thought we upped the tempo a bit, we started dictating most of the game in the second half and once we got the first goal, we probably had another couple chances to finish the game. We talked about finding a way to win, which was important because we felt that particularly in the first game here and then the Washington game we lost games we could have won. Today was a really important game for us to win and the players found a way to win.”
In the 65th minute, Christine Nairn served a beautiful free kick into the box for Ubogagu, who hammered her header inside the near post. It marks the second consecutive game that Nairn found Ubogagu for a goal after the pair combined for the opening score in Portland last week.
Orlando nearly doubled its lead when Sydney Leroux fired a shot off the left post on a breakaway attempt. Just two minutes before Ubogagu’s goal, Alex Morgan had a strong look at goal but put it over the bar.
The Dash had a couple of opportunities but most were thwarted by offside calls, with Houston racking up a total of seven — five in the first half.
“There’s some great things that we can pull from this game and not-so-great things we need to work on. We move forward.” said Harris “That was not an easy win so I’m very proud of the ladies.”
This was also the last match the Pride were without their Australian and Brazilian national team players. Matildas Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond and Brazilians Marta, Monica and Poliana will be available for selection after competing in 2019 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers next Saturday when the Pride host Seattle Reign FC at 7:30 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium.