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Orlando Pride couldn’t have written a better script, as the Club made history with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dash on Saturday night, in front of a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) record single-game attendance of 23,403 fans at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
Fans celebrated the team’s first goal at home in the 46th minute after the Pride came out after halftime firing on all cylinders after a dull first half where the visitors looked the best team. The Pride’s opening goal came from a Houston own goal after 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion Alex Morgan’s shot deflected off defender Andressa and past Dash goalkeeper Lydia Williams (pictured above).
Second-half substitute Lianne Sanderson then doubled the Club’s lead in the 57th minute with some quick thinking. She asked match referee if she could take a quick free kick and then proceeded to catch , the Dash off guard with a curling shot from 30 yards that went over the wall and past a startled Williams to her left.
Orlando scored goal number three just minutes later, with the influential Sanderson starting the attack with a wide ball to pacey Jasmyne Spencer on the left. The forward cut the ball inside, allowing defender Steph Catley to spring free with an overlapping run to the byline. After receiving the ball, Catley, who scored the first ever goal for the team last weekend against the Portland Thorns, crossed to former Thorns teammate Morgan who applied a clinical finish into the side netting.
Florida native Ashlyn Harris (pictured above left with Kay Rawlins – right) had a big game in goal pulling off some superb saves throughout the night to keep Houston at bay. Harris denied rookie Janine Beckie at a crucial stage in the first half with a superb left handed save that looked destined to find the net in the 19th minute. Harris then produced vital back-to-back saves near the 80-minute mark, including a point-blank stop from reigning NWSL Player of the Week Rachel Daly in the 82nd minute. She could do nothing about a fine goal from Andressa in the 75th minute as she shrugged off a challenge before firing a perfectly-placed ball past Harris from outside the box.
“I think the crowd we had today has taken the league to a new level, it just wasn’t about the number in the crowd but the passion of the crowd and how they supported the team,” said Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni (pictured above). “Hopefully we did enough tonight to encourage them to come back for the rest of the season.”
Lianne Sanderson said “As each day that goes by, we are just getting together more and more as a group. We are trying to possess the ball…I think tonight was brilliant that we got the home win in front of the fans, and I think we got to keep working hard on the training field. Me personally, I love playing with great players. I love playing with Alex [Morgan], and I love playing with all of the girls. When I came into the game, certain players make it easier for me because they know what I am capable of.”
Alex Morgan (pictured above) commented: “For the most part, soccer has been the most popular women’s sport…The key for us is consistency, and it’s keeping the fans coming back [and] making them excited about coming back and loving the environment and the product that we put on the field.”
Orlando Pride will travel to Chicago for a 6 p.m. ET match next Sunday at Toyota Park. The Club returns to the Citrus Bowl the following week, hosting Hope Solo and Seattle Reign FC at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 8.
Orlando Pride – Ashlyn Harris; Josee Belanger, Laura Alleway, Monica, Steph Catley; Becky Edwards (Maddy Evans 70’), Kaylyn Kyle (Sarah Hagen 81’), Dani Weatherholt (Lianne Sanderson 46’); Kristen Edmonds, Alex Morgan, Jasmyne Spencer
Substitutes Not Used: Aubrey Bledsoe; Cami Levin, Toni Pressley; Sam Witteman
Houston – Lydia Williams; Poliana, Ellie Brush, Becca Moros, Allysha Chapman; Morgan Brian (Chioma Ubogagu 65’), Amber Brooks, Andressa; Carli Lloyd (Kealia Ohai 12’), Janine Beckie (Cami Privett 77’), Rachel Daly
Substitutes Not Used: Bianca Henninger; Stephanie Ochs
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com