ORLANDO – It was a celebration of soccer heroes Saturday night at Exploria Stadium as the Orlando Pride (3-9-2 11 points) dominated New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC (2-10-2, 8 points) for a 1-0 win in front of 9,412 fans.
Saturday was the first game the Pride hit the pitch with all of their Women’s World cup players back into the fold. The team took time out before the match to honor the nine players (Americans Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris, Australians Alanna Kennedy and Emily von Egmond, Brazilians Marta and Camila, Scotland’s Claire Emslie, and Canada’s Shelina Xadorsky) with flowers and special gifts.
When it came down to perform, the difference in the surging Pride’s performance was evident as the team had control of the match from the start.
The Pride pressed for 7 shots in the first period including what turned out to be the game winner by rookie Marisa Viggiano for her first professional goal. Chioma Ubogagu streaked up the left side, cut inside and got the ball to Viggiano who blasted the ball into the upper right corner for the score in the 23rd minute.
The goal turned out to be all that the Pride needed to go on to their first shut out victory of the year after a strong defensive and offensive effort. The Pride outshot SkyBlue 21-10 and once they reached the late minutes of the match, their defense clamped down, giving New Jersey no chance to come back.
“I thought that I’m so proud of the players for, you know…one of the things we’ve been asking for a while is a clean sheet.” Said Pride head coach Marc Skinner “You’ve heard me sit in this room many times and say that we’d like a clean sheet because then you only have to score one goal, and that’s the difference. I think we’ve created enough tonight to be well away, I wasn’t really nervous. I think we had control of the game.
Skinner went on to praise his rookie star of the day “What a wonderful goal from a fourth round draft pick [Marisa Viggiano], so it’s a wonderful story and a testament to the attitude of all the players that have been here while our internationals have been off doing their thing.”
Ubogagu could have doubled the lead in the 30th minute, when she made a run down the field, beating a defender before striking the ball wide of the goal.
In the 65th minute of the match, Pride newcomer Claire Emslie was substituted in and merged to get a shot off that was went on target but was punched out by Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, as well as mixed it up with Marta to add some pressure in the box later in the match.
Alex Morgan missed Saturday’s game due to a right-knee injury she’s recovering from after arriving from World Cup duty with the United States women’s national team. Carli Lloyd missed the game for Sky Blue due to an excused absence.
The Orlando Pride have nearly three weeks off from match play, returning to action on August 10 against the Houston Dash at Exploria Stadium.