The Pride played a match against the Chicago Red Stars at Camping World Stadium last night that was interrupted by Mother Nature with an hour-long weather delay. Unfortunately the home team lost, and I'll have to take the blame for that one: I wore the right hat, I wore the right kit, I wore the right scarf--but due to the fact that the match was televised and the MLS match was slated to start hard on the heels of the scheduled end time, I left the stadium early when the referee called for the delay in the 74th minute.
The fact that the team lost is the bad news--the good news is that they gave us the same full 90-minute effort that is a hallmark of the team's character and heart. And now, let's get to the recap...
- Kaitlyn Savage - The Pride's most recent signee had a great game in goal last night. She finished the night with seven saves out of 8 shots on goal. By contrast, the Pride only managed to get four shots on goal at the Red Stars' Michele Dalton, who managed only three saves. But I will contend that the Pride had some of the best chances of the night for either team.
- Great Shooting - I said above that the Pride had fewer shots on goal, but the home team could have easily won the match a multiple times:
- In the 19th minute, Jasmyne Spencer sent a screaming shot from the top of the 18-yard box that Dalton had to make a "Supergirl" leap to save to keep it from finding the near-side corner of the net.
- Early in the 64th minute, Dani Weatherholt passed a great ball in to give Kaylyn Kyle a chance at a back-heel kick at the top of the six-yard box that just barely missed going into the net, but earned the Pride a corner kick.
- Then on the ensuing play Kristen Edmonds served up a gorgeous corner kick that found Kyle's platinum-blond locks for a header that was destined to find the back of the Chicago goal. But one of the Red Stars field players, the dynamic Arin Gilliland, managed to get her head on the ball and deflect it into Dalton's arms before it could cross the goal line.
- In the 74th minute Dalton kicked a weak clearance out just beyond the top of the 18-yard box. A sprinting Kristen Edmonds came in to blast the ball on a perfect trajectory, but Dalton made a sure-handed save just before a huge bolt of lightning struck within a couple of blocks of the stadium to send the match into the weather delay.
- In the 88th minute Cami Levin sent a long pass up the field to Jasmyne Spencer, who headed the ball perfectly toward the feet of rookie Christina Burkenroad, who blasted a shot past Dalton into the back of the net. But unfortunately Christina was just a foot or two offside (as defenders tried to rush back toward Spencer) and the goal was disallowed.
- Team Toughness - Two key players were back for the Pride after suffering in the Boston match last week. Kaylyn Kyle had tweaked an ankle but played the full 90 minutes, and Kristen Edmonds likewise played the full match after being evaluated for concussion protocol after the match due to the hard collision she had with the Breakers goalkeeper.
- Rookie Contributions - All three of the Pride's 2016 draft picks were in the match last night. Sam Witteman played the full 90 minutes and launched many of the Pride's attacks by sending great passes forward. As previously stated, Christina Burkenroad came off the bench and had a shot that should have counted for a goal if not for being caught in an offisde trap. And Dani Weatherholt, who always seems to have great vision on the pitch and awareness of when her teammates are open, came off the bench to create a number of chances and also was active in getting the ball away from Red Stars players.
- Efforts Unrewarded - The Pride played well enough to deserve at least a point at home, but they were not able to get a result from the match. That's always disappointing as a fan, but I wasn't left feeling like the team gave the match away. Chicago made some fantastic plays to preserve the clean sheet, and for that they deserved the victory.
- Defensive Breakdowns - I said before I think the team played with a lot of effort on the night, but there were a number of times that defenders got turned around and put out of position by Chicago's attack. For example in the 57th minute several Pride players got caught ball-watching and were drawn toward a Red Stars player making a long run deep into the attacking half of the pitch, which let another player sneak past behind the defenders to get a great one-on-one chance against Kaitlyn Savage. But Savage did her best Ashlyn Harris impersonation as she rushed toward the top of the 18-yard box to smother the ball and prevent the scoring opportunity.
- Officiating Woes - The referee made some questionable calls and some questionable non-calls during the match. There were a couple of times that one of our girls hit the deck that I thought should have resulted in cards or foul calls, including a takedown in front of the Red Stars goal that I thought should have earned a PK for us. And Kaylyn Kyle worked over the ref a number of times during the match for poor calls.
- (Lack of) Crowd Support - There is a lot of frustration among the Orlando City fan base, especially on the MLS side. There have been a lot of long-time fans who have been very vocal in their displeasure at both the front office for some questionable decisions on personnel and at the players on the MLS team for a lack of consistent effort. The ladies drew only a little over 7,200 fans last night, and their effort deserves a lot more support. So if you've been a little miffed at the performance of the MLS side this season and you want to find a team whose passion on the pitch matches yours in the stands, you should consider coming out to an Orlando Pride home match before the season ends and supporting the ladies in person. You'll find the action every bit as entertaining as the MLS game, and you'll see a team whose hearts and heads are always in the match.
- First Weather-interrupted Match - Considering the fact that it's summer in Florida, the surprise is that the Pride have not had a match interrupted by weather before. The ligtning strike in the 74th minute that interrupted the match was the first time that the Pride have suffered such a delay after play began. Last week's match had its start delayed by weather and there were ominous stormy clouds that loomed near the stadium all during the first half, but once the game started it was played through without any further delays.
- Rare Unchanged Lineup - Coach Sermanni has tinkered with the lineup in almost every match this season, rarely leaving the same Starting XI and using the same substitutes two matches in a row. But the starters and subs for the Chicago Red Stars match were identical to those used in the Boston Breakers match last week.
What about you? What did you like about the match last night? Who stood out for you as having a particularly good match, and was there anyone whose play disappointed you? Let me know in the comments below!