Having already been knocked out of postseason contention for the 2021 NWSL season, the Orlando Pride had a chance to play spoilers for the Chicago Red Stars on Friday night. However the Pride could not find the back of the net on the night, falling to the visitors 1-0.
“I thought in the first half, we had a hard time keeping the ball in the final third, ” Pride interim coach Becky Burleigh said after the match. “Just couldn’t quite connect and obviously you have to give Chicago a little bit of credit for that too. It got a little bit better in that in the second half, but still not quite enough quality chances to be able to break through.”
The loss ended the Pride’s season with five straight losses, dating back to the end of September against OL Reign.
Orlando struggled to make headway offensively through most of the first half, having trouble dealing with the Red Stars high press but got some flow in the final third late in the first 45. The best chance of the half came from Alex Morgan, who connected with a cross from Courtney Petersen in the 45th minute. Red Stars keeper Cassie Miller got a touch on the ball as well, leaving it sitting in the box with both Miller and Morgan on the ground. The Pride striker got up and tried to put it in the open net, but Arin Wright made a sliding challenge to force the shot out of play.
The second half was similar to the first, with Chicago forcing Orlando into mistakes and Orlando unable to get any quality chances in the offensive end.
The visitors would find the lone goal of the match in the 65th minute, as Kealia Watt received a ball on the wing from Morgan Gautrat, cut inside on Ali Riley and fired a curling shot into the back of the net, past keeper Erin McLeod.
Orlando would look to respond as the game wore on, with substitute Emily van Egmond firing the lone shot on target into the hands of Miller in the 77th minute.
The Pride would push numbers forward to attempt to find an equalizer, but none came as the Red Stars defense snuffed out the offensive trio of Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Jodie Taylor.
Orlando finished out the season with a 7-7-10 record, finishing 8th in the NWSL standings.
This was also the final game in charge for Becky Burleigh, who finishes her tenure as interim manager with a 3-3-6 record.
“In the end, the most difficult part to wrap my mind around was the lack of results for us.,” Burleigh said as to why she took her name out of the running for the next Pride coach. “But if you take that away, I think the experience was one that I really enjoyed. And I’m definitely going to continue to watch the Pride from maybe a little bit different angle now. Not just a fan, but knowing the inside of it a little bit. It just makes me really excited for the future.
Part of the reason for me to not stay on is because I think with new ownership, new attitude, new outlook, and I think they need to find someone that is got a little bit longer-term perspective, that was never going to be me. And I think it will really be best for the organization to start building for the future.”
66’ – Kealia Watt, assisted by Morgan Gautrat (CHI)
How the Pride lined up
Orlando Pride XI: Erin McLeod; Courtney Petersen, Phoebe McClernon, Toni Pressley, Kylie Strom (Ali Riley, 59′); Gunny Jónsdóttir (Parker Roberts, 69′), Marisa Viggiano, Erika Tymrak (Emily van Egmond, HT), Jodie Taylor (Abi Kim, 75′) Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan.
Substitutes: Brittany Wilson, Kaylee Collins, Crystal Thomas, Amy Turner, Carrie Lawrence.
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