ORLANDO — In a battle between two of the National Women’s Soccer League’s top three teams, the Orlando Pride (8-6-5, 29 points) blew a 1-0 lead midway through the second half and settled for a 1-1 draw with Seattle Reign (8-4-6, 30 points) Saturday afternoon at Orlando City Stadium. It was the teams’ third draw against each other this season.
Orlando took a 1-0 lead at the 21-minute mark on a nifty move by Toni Pressley, who took a blocked shot in the center of the box, spun her defender around and ripped a shot past Seattle keeper Lydia Williams. That score held up until the Reign’s Jodie Taylor scooted a slow shot past Orlando Pride goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer in the 70th minute.
Kopmeyer was making her second start of the season, replacing Ashlyn Harris, who was called up by the U.S. women’s national team.
“It was two evenly matched teams,” Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni said.
Orlando and Seattle were equal in more ways than one. Both teams were missing a pair of key players – Orlando’s Harris and Alex Morgan and Seattle’s Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long all missed the match due to national team obligations.
The draw gave both teams a point in the nine-team standings and kept them in the hunt for a playoff berth. Only the top four teams in the NWSL advance to the playoffs, with seeding determined by record. The regular season ends Sept. 8.
“It was very disappointing,” Pressley said. “But a point is a point against a very good Seattle team.”
Orlando played rather lethargic in the second half after playing Seattle evenly in the first half. Seattle only held an 8-7 total shots advantage in the opening 45 minutes, but then dominated the second half by outshooting the Pride 10-5. Seven offsides calls hurt Reign runs.
“We started OK,” Sermanni said. “We just didn’t have the energy to threaten Seattle as much as we should have. I just felt we made a lot of fundamental errors. I felt it was a game where we got back in the habit of bad habits.”
Entering Saturday’s play, the North Carolina Courage was running away from the pack (14-1-4, 46 points). Seattle and Orlando both remain in a heated battle with the Chicago Red Stars (7-4-7, 28 points), and the Portland Thorns FC (7-5-5, 26 points) for the second, third and fourth place spots.
Orlando looked like it would seize control of second place after Pressley’s goal. That goal halted a 12-minute stretch during which Seattle commanded the game.
Orlando’s Marta was the one who put a dent in the Reign’s momentum at the 20-minute mark. She was awarded a free kick, only to have a sharp shot headed out. Marta seconds later ripped off another shot and that was repelled as well.
Prior to the sequence, Seattle twice had scoring opportunities turned away by Kopmeyer. First, the Reign’s Jessica Fishlock had a header off a cross that was stopped at 16:31. Seconds later, Seattle’s Beverly Yanez had a shot stopped in the middle of the goal.
The match started off rather conservatively as the teams jockeyed for a big play. Orlando was the first to nearly score when Marta took a ball on the left side and worked her way to the box before ripping off a shot that bounced off Williams’ hands at the 7:05 mark.
A minute later, Pressley had a header blocked and then Sydney Leroux nearly scored on a close shot. From there, Seattle outhustled Orlando during the next 12 minutes. Yanez and Jasmyne Spencer, who was traded by the Pride to the Reign during the offseason, both had shots turned back.
The NWSL will observe an international break, during which numerous athletes will compete in the Tournament of Nations.
Orlando resumes play Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m. when it hosts Sky Blue FC.