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Orlando Pride launched its inaugural National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season against Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park in front of 16,073 spectators and over 15,000 online viewers on Sunday evening. Australian international Steph Catley made history, scoring the Pride’s first ever goal in the 12th minute but the home team walked away with a narrow 2-1 victory.
“Overall I was delighted with the players, I was delighted with their effort, delighted with the way they played. To be honest in the last 15 minutes or so I thought we were the team that was more likely to score. Obviously very disappointed that we lost the game because I thought they deserved something,” said Head Coach Tom Sermanni (pictured below.) “To be honest I was a bit apprehensive about tonight because I didn’t know what to expect, and Portland did a fantastic job.”
Sermanni added, “Outside of Seattle, this was our most difficult away trip. [Portland’s] a team that’s been together and they have a lot of international players, so when I judge the game overall, I think we had a fantastic effort and players can be really proud of what they did tonight.”
Catley scored from a well executed free kick as she fired a hard shot through the wall to beat the Thorns’ Michelle Betos. The Pride had already given notice of their attacking intent when Australian center-back Laura Alleway rocketed a 30-yard free kick onto the cross bar in the ninth minute.
NWSL rookie Dagny Brynjarsdottir then responded for the home side, rifling home a cross from U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Tobin Heath in the 25th minute. From a free kick, Heath redirected the ball toward the middle with one touch, and Brynjarsdottir was able to beat Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris from close range.
Portland then added its second goal of the night, the eventual game-winner, from another goal created by Heath’s crafty touch. Influential midfielder Allie Long looked to chip a ball over the Pride’s backline that found Heath and the midfielder quickly volleyed the ball over to USWNT teammate Lindsey Horan, who beat Harris from eight-yards out.
Sermanni started a pacey lineup that kept the Thorns’ defensive line in check with Jasmyne Spencer, Alex Morgan and Kristen Edmonds at the top – leading an attack that out shot the Thorns 15-11 on the night.
Former Santa Clara University midfielder Dani Weatherholt, who Pride signed last week, made her professional career debut subbing in for Maddy Evans in the 71st minute and she almost made it a debut to remember when she went close to equalizing on the dying minutes.
After the cross-country journey, the Pride will finally debut in front of its home crowd on Saturday, April 23, when Carli Lloyd and the Houston Dash come to the Orlando Citrus Bowl for a 7:30 p.m. contest.
Ticket to the match can be purchased at orlando-pride.com. Season Ticket packages are also available starting at $15 per match and can be purchased at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling 855-ORL-CITY.
Orlando Pride – Ashlyn Harris; Josee Belanger, Laura Alleway, Monica, Steph Catley; Becky Edwards (Lianne Sanderson 61’), Kaylyn Kyle, Maddy Evans (Dani Weatherholt 71’); Kristen Edmonds, Alex Morgan, Jasmyne Spencer (Sarah Hagen 86’)
Substitutes Not Used: Aubrey Bledsoe; Cami Levin, Toni Pressley; Sam Witteman
Portland Thorns – Michelle Betos; Kat Wlliamson, Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges, Meghan Klingenberg; Dagny Brynjarsdottir, Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, Tobin Heath (Hayley Raso 93+’); Mana Shim (Mallory Weber 58’), Nadia Nadim (Katherine Reynolds 88’)
Substitutes Not Used: Adrianna Franch; McKenzie Berryhill; Celeste Boureille