ORLANDO — Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni is still searching for answers with four matches left in the season.
Time and again, his team of talented stars has put forth confounding performances. The Pride have some of the best attacking players in women’s soccer, but they can’t convert chances. Defensively, Sermanni’s squad has given up a multitude of easy goals.
In front of an announced crowd of 4,577, the Pride (8-6-6, 30 points) perplexed their coach yet again and only managed a 2-2 draw against winless Sky Blue (0-13-4, 4 points).
After the match, Sermanni said he was at a loss for answers.
“It’s extremely frustrating for everybody,” Sermanni said. “We knew Sky Blue, what they would come and do. They come here with a point to prove. Their players have dug in all season and made life really difficult for teams. They should have won games earlier this season.
“It’s been our season, to be frank. Tonight is a snapshot of our season. It’s a bit like ‘Forrest Gump’ and a box of chocolates. You never quite know quite what you’re going to get once you open it up. I think tonight is just another snapshot of virtually every game this season.”
Sermanni said the club’s 3-0 drubbing at the hands of North Carolina and its 5-2 victory over Chicago were the Pride’s only matches that were different from Sunday’s draw.
“I would love to be able to say it’s this or it’s this or it’s this,” Sermanni said. “It’s either individual lapses where we suddenly get caught out. It’s either ball-watching when we’ve got the ball and suddenly we get caught out on counterattacks or we’re dominating games and we’re just not ruthless enough to put chances away.”
With a laugh, Sermanni said, “You know, we’re still in the hunt. If we win next week against Portland, we’re in a really good position. But I don’t think we should be in this position. We should be, four, five, six points better off than we are.”
After an uneventful first half, the two clubs came alive to start the final 45 minutes.
“I’m proud of us for fighting and getting back in the game but obviously all of us wanted three points tonight so we’re a little disappointed,” Pride left wing-back Chioma Ubogagu said.
The Pride opened the scoring thanks to a goal from Brazilian star Marta in the 51st minute. Midfielder Dani Weatherholt worked her way into the penalty area after a throw-in from Ubogagu. Weatherholt fired a shot, which was saved by Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.
The ball then bounced off the far post and right in front of Marta, who scored her fourth goal of the season.
Orlando didn’t hold its lead for long.
Sky Blue forward Shea Groom worked her way into the penalty area and hit the brakes. The Pride players who surrounded her also stopped, but Alanna Kennedy slipped and fell, which kept midfielder Imani Dorsey onside while other Pride players closed in on Groom.
Groom fed the ball to Dorsey, who was clinical in front of the net and tied the match in the 53rd minute.
Sky Blue FC captured its first lead of the season six minutes later.
U.S. women’s national team star Carli Lloyd sent in a cross to forward Savannah McCaskill, who headed the ball to Groom. Groom then headed it past Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Weatherholt rescued the Pride from a loss to a club without a win this season with an individual effort in the 73rd minute. Midfielder Camila was pushed off the ball, but Weatherholt came charging forward and collected the ball. Weatherholt kept moving forward, even after Sheridan came off her line and got her foot on the ball, eventually heading the ball home.
“I saw Camila attacking, so I kind of tried to clear the space,” Weatherholt said. “Then it opened up for a slip-though ball. Kind of got into a tangle with the goalie and it happened to put right to me, so I’m grateful that I followed through and followed up on it.”
The Pride had an opportunity to win the match during second half stoppage time. Lloyd was sent off with a straight red after a handball in the penalty area and the Pride were awarded a penalty kick. Marta stepped up to take it and was denied by Sheridan.
That was the last meaningful action in the match.
“We’ve got Alex [Morgan] and Marta, who you’d put your house on scoring penalties,” Sermanni said. “A couple of times, they haven’t scored this year. You can’t do anything about that. That’s football.”
Both clubs came out flat to start the match. Neither team managed a shot on target until the 28th minute, when Dorsey got in behind the Pride’s back line and fired a shot that was saved by Ashlyn Harris.
The Pride’s first and only shot on frame in the second half came after a free kick from Marta took a deflection and bounced off the crossbar. Weatherholt tried to follow up, but her attempt was saved.
The two teams ended the first half with one shot on goal apiece.
Next, the Pride close out their three-game homestand with a match against the Portland Thorns. The two teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.