ORLANDO, Fla. — Suffice it to say the Orlando Pride’s sendoff game for their U.S. national team players didn’t exactly go to plan.
Minutes before kickoff, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was announced as a late scratch after the Pride’s captain was shaken up in warmups. Though replacement Haley Kopmeyer surrendered only one goal, it turned out to be the difference as the Utah Royals sent the Pride to a 1-0 defeat.
“We take two steps forward and one back,” said Pride coach Marc Skinner, who couldn’t hide his displeasure as he addressed his players in the postgame huddle. “We cannot waste time. You stop the silly goals, and Utah doesn’t walk away with a victory tonight.”
Utah’s Christen Press slotted the only goal 19 minutes into the contest, sending the Pride to their third loss in four games and extending their winless streak to 10 games going back to last season.
The Pride (0-3-1, 1 point) also is winless in its past six home games, with their last victory at Orlando City Stadium coming in a July 7 win over the Washington Spirit. They’re 0-2 at home this season, having lost 2-0 to Portland on opening day.
“We’re definitely disappointed,” said Alex Morgan, who managed only one shot in her final Pride appearance before joining the U.S. national team in preparation for this summer’s Women’s World Cup in France.
“I did not do as well as I know I’m capable of. I’m kind of bummed all around. To go away from this team for two months and not finish with a win here in Orlando, that’s disappointing.”
Morgan and Harris won’t be around for at least two months, and possibly defender Ali Krieger. Other internationals will follow in the next two weeks, such as Brazil’s Marta and Australians Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond.
Kopmeyer, slated to step in during Harris’ World Cup absence, began her tenure on rather short notice. Harris fell awkwardly during warmups, lingering on one knee before getting checked by the training staff.
Though she returned to warmups, the change was made after returning to the locker room.
“I didn’t see exactly what happened,” Kopmeyer said. “She was obviously diving, and I was off to the side. At that point, your mindset isn’t so much about the game but about the (warmup) shooting that’s going to happen in a few minutes. … You amp up your warmup a little bit differently.”
Skinner said Harris hurt her left knee. Though not expected to create any long-term damage, the consensus was it was best to hold her out Saturday night.
“Haley got thrown in,” the coach said. “She made some vital saves. With that injury and her experience, I think she acquitted herself very well.”
That wasn’t necessarily the case for Orlando’s field players, who struggled to make connections in the first half. Though they showed more continuity in the second half, the equalizer never materialized.
“No excuses, guys,” Skinner said. “It’s a no-excuse culture. Everybody’s accountable. That’s the word that’s going to ring out from this press conference.”
Press did the game’s only scoring in the 19th minute, getting a payoff just minutes after an earlier scoring chance was turned away by Kopmeyer.
The U.S. international’s first chance came in the 11th minute, making a nifty solo run into the left side of the box that brought Kopmeyer off her line. A low shot was deflected by Kopmeyer, with Krieger clearing it out of danger.
Press wasn’t to be denied on her next opportunity, though it originally didn’t seem as dangerous. A left-footed shot from the top of the box took a deflection and bounced twice before eluding a diving Kopmeyer, rolling into the back corner of the net.
“I saw a long ball come into Press – it went behind her and she put on a very nice touch to settle it,” Kopmeyer said. “I saw it hit off Shelina (Zadorsky) as I started making my dive. I pushed as hard as I could and it snuck into the far corner.”
Skinner called the tally “a ridiculous goal. You cannot allow goals like that.”
Orlando’s best opportunity came early on, as Kennedy ran onto a corner kick that forced Barnhart into a point-blank save. Late in the half, Marta saw a chance to set up Morgan at the far post cut off by a Utah defender.
The Pride had a pair of late chances in the second half, only to be narrowly denied.
In the 74th minute, Krieger fired a shot from just outside the 18 that took a deflection in traffic and headed toward the far post – squeezing between the outside of the post and the outstretched foot of Kennedy.
Marta also had another close miss in the 88th minute, seeing her shot just skip the top of the crossbar on a free kick after Morgan had been brought down just outside the box.