Orlando Pride on verge of NWSL play offs for first time

Orlando Pride 0 Portland Thorns 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 23rd September 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Orlando Pride (10-6-7, 37 points) picked up a crucial point on Saturday afternoon as they drew 0-0 with Portland Thorns FC (13-5-5, 44 points) in front of 7,353 fans at Orlando City Stadium. With the point, the Pride extended its unbeaten streak to eight straight games, dating back to a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Red Stars on August 5th.  Orlando also managed to pick up its first point against the 2013 Champions over its four all-time meetings.

Orlando Pride 0 Portland Thorns 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 23rd September 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

“Portland are a very good side, but I thought it would’ve been a grave injustice if we would have lost the game. We limited them to one real chance. We dominated the game, particularly for the first 30 minutes. I thought we played really well,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni (pictured above) said.  “But defensively they’re very good and they don’t give up a lot of chances, and they get everybody behind the ball. They are good at grinding out one-nil results away from home. I was delighted with how our players went about the job tactically today, considering we didn’t have any time to work with the team. I was delighted with the effort and thought if any team should’ve deserved to win the game I thought it was us.”

The draw also helped the Pride add to its lead over Seattle Reign FC, who are chasing Orlando and Chicago for a place in the 2017 postseason. Following the completion of Saturday’s match, the Pride and Red Stars are in third and fourth place in the table, respectively, with Chicago slated to take on the Houston Dash Saturday night.

The Pride can clinch a place in the postseason on Sunday night if Reign FC loses or draws in its 9 p.m. ET match against FC Kansas City. Orlando wraps up the regular season next weekend, traveling to face top-seeded North Carolina Courage in what could be a critical match for a place in the final four.

“[The draw] puts an awful lot of pressure on Seattle to win both games and turn the seven-goal differential around. I think I’d much rather be in our position now than Seattle’s. But we still, theoretically, need another point depending on what happens this weekend,” Sermanni added.

Orlando Pride 0 Portland Thorns 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 23rd September 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The match was tight throughout and, though the Pride held a 14-5 advantage on shots, shots on target were limited as Alex Morgan (pictured above) totaled Orlando’s only two attempts on frame. In other other end, the Pride held Portland to just one shot on goal, a 40th-minute attempt from Ashleigh Sykes.

Orlando Pride 0 Portland Thorns 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 23rd September 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

On that play, Sykes broke through the Pride defense with a give-and-go and nearly beat Ashlyn Harris from the six-yard box. But Harris got just enough on the ball, allowing Monica to recover and clear the ball away from danger before the Thorns could breakthrough.

Alanna Kennedy, who was one of six Pride players to return from international duty this week, came just inches from goal on two different occasions with shots from outside of the penalty area. The midfielder, along with teammates Steph Catley, Marta and Monica, returned to training just a day before Saturday’s match after Australia hosted Brazil in two matches this week. Harris and Morgan also traveled for two domestic games with the U.S. Women’s National team on Sept. 16 and 19.

Orlando Pride 0 Portland Thorns 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 23rd September 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The clean sheet marked the fourth shutout from the Pride defense this season, with Harris only needing to make a lone first-half save. After missing two games due to a calf injury, Kristen Edmonds returned to right back. Catley started the match at left back, but was replaced early in the second half by Jasmyne Spencer, which sent forward Chioma Ubogagu to the left side. It was Ubogagu’s second time featuring on the backline this season.

Orlando Pride 0 Portland Thorns 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 23rd September 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Portland midfielder Tobin Heath (pictured above) made her 2017 debut, but was kept at bay by the Pride defense, which also featured Ali Krieger and Toni Pressley during the 90 minutes.

Orlando wraps up the regular season on Saturday, Sept. 30 at the Courage. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The 2017 NWSL Championship will be hosted at Orlando City Stadium on Oct. 14. Tickets are available at nwslsoccer.com/championship or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.

Attendance: 7,353

Lineups:
Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris ©; Kristen Edmonds (Toni Pressley 78’), Monica, Ali Krieger, Steph Catley (Jasmyne Spencer 50’); Dani Weatherholt, Alanna Kennedy; Camila; Chioma Ubogagu, Alex Morgan, Marta

Substitutes Not Used: Aubrey Bledsoe; Nickolette Driesse; Danica Evans, Jamia Fields, Rachel Hill

Portland Thorns FC: Adrianna Franch; Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett, Emily Menges, Meghan Klingenberg; Allie Long (Amandine Henry 60’), Lindsey Horan, Ashleigh Sykes; Christine Sinclair ©, Nadia Nadim (Tobin Heath 60’), Hayley Raso

Substitutes Not Used: Britt Eckerstrom; Celeste Boureille, Dagney Brynjarsdottir; Mallory Weber, Savannah Jordan

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

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