Orlando Pride mount second-half charge to defeat Washington Spirit

Orlando Pride 3 Washington Spirit 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 8th August 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Orlando Pride (6-6-5, 23 points) extended its home unbeaten streak to three games on Tuesday night, downing the Washington Spirit 3-0 at Orlando City Stadium. After a stalemate and frankly, dire first half, the Pride exploded to score three goals in thirteen second half minutes and make the game safe with twenty five minutes to go.

The midweek win was an important one for the Pride, who move up to fifth place in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) standings, sitting just one point out of the fourth and final playoff position with seven games remaining in the regular season.

The Pride have now outscored opponents 8-2 over the last three matches at Orlando City Stadium with three goals on the night, along with a 4-1 win and 1-1 draw in their previous two home games.

“Obviously a terrific win for us and a clean sheet, which is fantastic. [It was] difficult in the first half because they high pressed us and we kind of expected that. But then we felt the game would open up the second half, and when it did, we would create opportunities and that’s exactly what happened,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said.  “I was really delighted with our second half performance with how we played, how critical we were with our finishing and how well we managed the game after that. I thought it was an extremely good performance in the second half. We also spoke to international players the other day, and we talked about [how] our big players [need to come] out big at this time of the season, and it is great tonight because that’s exactly what happened.”

Orlando Pride 3 Washington Spirit 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 8th August 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Team leading scorer Marta (pictured above) got the Pride on the board first, connecting a give-and-go with Alex Morgan in the 52nd minute. Morgan’s pass found Marta open in the penalty area and the forward sent Washington goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé sliding past the ball. Though the goalkeeper clipped her foot, the five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year showed her skill, slotting the ball home while tumbling to the grass for her ninth of the season.

Orlando Pride 3 Washington Spirit 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 8th August 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Five minutes later, Marta’s Brazilian National Team teammate Camila increased the Pride lead to two goals with a skillful finish from the midfield. After Alanna Kennedy sent Morgan running in on goal, Labbé made a strong play, heading the ball away from an onrushing Morgan just outside of the penalty area. However, her clearance went right to Camila 40-yards out. Fresh off two goals in the Tournament of Nations, the young, 22-year-old wasted no time, sending in a one-touch, inside of the foot volley for her fourth goal of the season.

Orlando Pride 3 Washington Spirit 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 8th August 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Morgan (pictured above), already with an assist on the night, finished off the team’s scoring with a blasted volley in the 65th minute. Left back Steph Catley, who was rested during last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Chicago, placed a perfect long ball to the forward, which fell at the top of the 18-yard box. Morgan wasted no time, striking the ball off the half volley with her laces and powering the shot into the goal. It was Morgan’s third straight goal in as many home games.

Rookies Danica Evans and Nickolette Driesse earned minutes in the second half, with Driesse making her first appearance of the season at Orlando City Stadium.

Marta set the Pride’s single-game shot record in the match, totaling eight on the night, while also posting a 93.1% passing accuracy. The defense – featuring a backline of Catley, Monica, Ali Krieger and Kristen Edmonds – made thing easy on goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, holding the Spirit offense without a single shot on goal.

The Pride wrap up a three-game homestand on Saturday evening, hosting Sky Blue FC at 7:30 p.m. ET. The two sides are tied for fifth place in the NWSL standings and have met twice this season, each taking a win from Rutgers University.

Tickets for the match are available at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.

Orlando Pride: Aubrey Bledsoe; Kristen Edmonds, Ali Krieger ©, Monica, Steph Catley; Maddy Evans, Marta (Nickolette Driesse 76’), Alanna Kennedy; Camila (Jamia Fields 82’), Alex Morgan (Danica Evans 70’), Chioma Ubogagu
Substitutes Not Used: Caroline Stanley; Toni Pressley; Dani Weatherholt; Jasmyne Spencer

Washington Spirit: Stephanie Labbé; Caprice Dydasco, Whitney Church, Kassey Kallman, Estelle Johnson © (Alyssa Kleiner 69’); Havana Solaun, Mallory Pugh (Estefania Banini 73’), Tori Huster, Meggie Dougherty Howard; Arielle Ship (Cali Farquharson 63’), Cheyna Williams

Substitutes Not Used: Didi Haracic; Shelina Zadorsky; Kristie Mewis; Lindsay Agnew

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

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