Orlando Pride christen new stadium with 1-1 draw against Washington Spirit

Orlando Pride 1 Washington Spirit 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 22nd April 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

In the first National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game at Orlando City Stadium, Orlando Pride  secured a 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit with a Danica Evans’ late-game goal. The equalizer was Evans’ first professional goal and the Pride’s first goal of the season. Brazilian superstar Marta made her Pride debut, coming into the match in the 59th minute.

“For the first 15 minutes we turned over possession, we looked a little bit nervy, a little bit slow, didn’t really get into our stride. Then as the first half wore on we got more and more into the game and into some great positions,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “We started the second half really well. First time they went up the field is when they scored and then I thought it was great character from the team to keep plugging away and come back and get the point. I think overall I saw a lot of improvement from last week.”

The Pride came out in a 4-5-1, featuring the same starting XI as Opening Day in Portland. The visitors started the better of the two teams Spirit as they made Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris work in the early part of the first half with a couple of saves, but the Pride were able to put pressure on the Washington defence as the half worse on.

Half Time : Orlando Pride 0 Washington Spirit 0

Washington opened the scoring in the 60th minute when Line Sigvardsen-Jensen looped home a header after an initial save from Harris following a Spirit corner kick.

Evans entered the match in the 75th minute and made an instant impact. The former Colorado Buffalo and third-round pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft had a couple of looks at goal including a nice combination play with Marta that saw Evans’ curling shot saved by Stephanie Labbe in the Spirit goal.

Orlando Pride 1 Washington Spirit 1, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 22nd April 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

In the 86th minute, Chioma Ubogagu slipped a clever ball into Evans, who took a neat first-touch to find herself one on one with the Spirit goalkeeper. Evans rounded the keeper to her right before slipping the ball into an open net to level things up.

“One of the reasons that we drafted her was when we looked at her, we felt that she had an ability to finish and an ability to finish in a composed way,” Sermanni said. “I think that was highlighted today. For us, it’s really helpful to have a player that can come in and make that impact over that short a period of time.”

A crowd of 14,452 were in attendance for the opening home game of the 2017 NWSL season and they were made to wait until the 59th minute to see Brazilian international Marta enter the game. Immediately there was a new zest in the game as she wasted no time in getting in behind the Spirit back line and serving some decent crosses for her teammates in dangerous areas.

As the game entered stoppage time, the new recruit nearly stole the win for the home side as she raced clear only to see her shot just go past the right hand post.

Full Time: Orlando Pride 1 Washington Spirit 1

“She changed the game. I think some of her class and her quality and her creativity for that last 25-30 minutes tonight” said Sermanni. “Considering the travel she’s had and the commitment she’s had over the last couple of days, I think she showed tonight how good a pro she is to be able to come on and perform that way.”

The Pride will hit the road for their next two matches, traveling to relocated North Carolina Courage – formerly the Western New York Flash – on April 29 before going to FC Kansas City on May 7. Orlando Pride will host its second home game on May 14, facing the Courage for the second time in as many weeks at 5 p.m. ET.

Tickets for all Pride home matches can be purchased at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.

Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris Ⓒ; Jamia Fields (Laura Alleway 44’), Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley; Monica (Marta 59’), Dani Weatherholt, Jasmyne Spencer (Danica Evans 75’), Kristen Edmonds, Camila; Chioma Ubogagu

Substitutes Not Used: Aubrey Bledsoe; Toni Pressley; Nickolette Driesse, Maddy Evans

Washington Spirit: Stephanie Labbe; Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Shelina ZadorskyⒸ; Alyssa Kleiner (Francisca Ordega 57’), Tori Huster, Kristie Mewis (Meggie Dougherty 67’), Line Sigvardsen-Jensen, Kassey Kallman; Katie Stengel (Lindsay Agnew 19’), Havana Solaun

Substitutes Not Used: Arielle Ship; Cameron Castleberry

Attendance: 14,452

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

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