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Orlando Pride (6-10-0, 18 points) returned to Camping World Stadium on Friday night for its first home game in 41 days. Although the Pride maintained momentum and solidarity, having received several key international returnees after the Olympic competitions, it fell 2-1 to the current leading National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team, the Washington Spirit.
“We knew we were coming up against a team that was at the top of the league and in really good form. They have had a really consistent lineup for some time, so we knew it was going to be a very difficult game tonight,” said Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni. “I think we played with a lot of passion and a lot of commitment in the last 30 minutes and really got ourselves back in the game. Overall, I was pleased with the effort of the team. They leave everything on the field. I was happy with the effort, but disappointed with the result.”
Sarah Hagen (pictured above) scored her second goal of the season, beating Washington goalkeeper Kelsey Wys after coming into the match just eight minutes prior. Cami Levin sent a low cross into the box, bouncing under the foot of the Washington defender to Hagen, who put in a Pride goal that the crowd had been awaiting.
After Hagen’s tally, the Pride quickly regained possession and Jasmyne Spencer shot forward, beating multiple defenders before putting pressure on Wys. The Spirit defense, however, recovered just in time to block Spencer’s would-be equalizer.
Captain Alex Morgan was active in her first match after missing four games due to the Rio Olympics. Nearly a half hour into the game, Dani Weatherholt – who started her first career match at right back – sent a cross into the box to Morgan but her header was saved on a fingertip effort by Wys.
Morgan came knocking again early in the second half. Rookie Samantha Witteman sent an inswinging cross in from the left side, which the forward headed toward the Spirit goal, but it was just over the crossbar.
Then, with just minutes to play, Morgan nearly had the equalizer after a lofted pass from Kristen Edmonds, however, her left-footed effort rolled wide of the far post.
The match also marked the first appearance post-Olympic for goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who made three saves, and defender Monica who made a 26-minute appearance after playing in the Olympic bronze medal match exactly a week ago.
The Spirit scored a goal on each side of the half, taking the lead in the 37th minute when Caprice Dydasco found Cheyna Williams inside of the penalty area. Christine Nairn doubled the visitors’ lead 10 minutes into the second half after Katie Stengel slotted a pass across the box, finding the midfielder open on the wing. Nairn collected the ball then tucked her shot into the far post for what would be the game-winner.
With four matches remaining in their inaugural campaign, the Pride travel to face the Houston Dash for the fourth and final time this year on Saturday, Sept. 3. Orlando returns to Camping World Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, for the second half of a home-and-home series with Sky Blue FC.
Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris; Dani Weatherholt (Monica 64’), Kaylyn Kyle, Toni Pressley, Cami Levin; Sam Witteman (Jamia Fields 80’), Becky Edwards (Sarah Hagen 63’), Kristen Edmonds, Maddy Evans, Jasmyne Spencer; Alex Morgan
Substitutes Not Used: Kaitlyn Savage; Christina Burkenroad, Allie Wisner
Washington Spirit: Kelsey Wys; Ali Krieger, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson, Caprice Dydasco; Joanna Lohman, Tori Huster, Christine Nairn; Cheyna Williams (Alyssa Kleiner 82’), Crystal Dunn (Francesca Ordega 14’), Cali Farquharson (Katie Stengel 46’)
Substitutes Not Used: DiDi Haracic; Line Sigvardsen Jensen, Megan Oyster; Alli Murphy
More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com