Last night was a tough loss for the Pride on the road at FC Kansas City. It was the first time they've lost a match by more than a goal. While it may look bad on paper, the match was actually one of those expected growing pains for an expansion side as they face the inevitable adversity and challenges that come along with any long season in sports.
We saw several players get their first minutes of the year, and there were two major cogs in the Pride machine that were missing for International call-ups, with Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan both out for the USWNT camp in preparation for friendlies against Japan next week. In addition, three other players were out with injury: Cami Levin (recovering from her appendectomy), Laura Alleway (groin injury), and last weeks goal scorer Kristen Edmonds (hip pointer), who traveled but was in street clothes on the sidelines for the match.
- Facing Adversity - Some fans and teams dislike facing adversity, but in sports it's a part of any season. Being without the creative talent of Alex Morgan and the huge talent of Ashlyn Harris in goal gave other players a chance to rise to the occasion. We know all the players on the team have great talent, but they have to have time on the pitch in live games to develop the chemistry with their teammates, and the International call-ups provided such a crucible last night.
- Jasmyne Spencer - The little dynamo that is Jasmyne Spencer continues to impress match after match. She was the target of two well-conceived crosses early in the first half (5th minute from Sam Witteman and 22nd minute from Josee Belanger) that were just off target. The team may not have won last night, but it's clear that even without some major stars there is the potential for this team to contend for a playoff spot this season.
- Out and Illness - Earlier I documented the players that missed the match for callups and injuries, and then in the 21st minute Sarah "Apple" Hagen had to leave the match due to illness. It was also notable that Kaylyn Kyle was not in the starting lineup for the first time all season, though she did see some action as a substitute (70th minute for Becky Edwards).
- Shaky Defense - Aubrey Bledsoe got her first start in goal, and she did not have the usual crisp and strong defensive performance that has helped the Pride win three clean sheets in a row. FC Kansas City was able to mount a number of strong counter-attacks that found their way deep into the Pride box throughout the match. In the 77th minute, Erika Tymrak was left unmarked with a lot of space to work just above the Pride 18-yard box, and she found a perfect lane to strike the ball into the corner of the net again, just missing the outstretched arms of a diving Bledsoe.
- Rare Error - One of the most impressive players for this blogger all season has been Lianne Sanderson, who almost always seems to be in the right place at the right time to help build up the Pride's potent attack. Last night she found herself in just the wrong place in the 52nd minute on a free kick by FC Kansas City's Yael Averbuch. The kick deflected off Sanderson and flew into the corner of the Orlando net away from Aubrey Bledsoe, who had been tracking the flight of the ball before it hit her teammate and was unable to recover to stop the goal.
- Streak Ended - The goal by Averbuch ended a 348-minute shutout streak for the Pride. The fact that the streak ended is bad, but as an expansion side we should be very proud of the fact that the team has kept opponents off the scoreboard for such an extended time.
- Limited Attacks - The numbers for the match show that the Pride were not quite firing on all cylinders as we have seen in most matches this season. Kansas City outshot the Pride by the tally of 13 to 5, with a 6 to 4 edge in shots on goal as well.
- First Minutes - Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe got her first start for the Pride, and forward draft pick Christina Burkenroad saw her first minutes as a pro in the match last night, as she came in for Sarah Hagen.
- Road Kit Debut - Last night also marked the first time that the Pride have worn their alternate or away kits.
- First Win of Title Defense - While it wasn't a historic event for the Pride, the win by FC Kansas City marked their first win of the season in defense of their 2015 NWSL championship.
What else did you see in the match last night that you liked or that had you concerned? With the first mini-break of the season coming up, how would you assess the way that the Pride have started their inaugural season? Let me know in the comments below!