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Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner frustrated by 2-0 loss to Portland Thorns in season opener

Orlando Pride star Marta, center, controls the ball under pressure from the Portland Thorns Sunday at Orlando City Stadium. (ISI Photos)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Marc Skinner minced no words, either in the halftime locker room or in front of the media afterward.

Get used to it.

“It wasn’t good enough from us,” the Orlando Pride coach said after his debut Sunday went down to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Portland Thorns.

“All those things we’d been working on, in the first half they didn’t have effect. We just didn’t do them. We have talented players but as a collective, we were just not good enough in the game. That’s why we lost.”

A dismal first half saw Portland pepper the Pride goal with 15 shots, which Orlando managed to absorb until Caitlin Foord’s goal in the final seconds before stoppage time. Tobin Heath set up that goal, then scored one of her own five minutes into the second half.

The Thorns finished with 22 shots on the evening, including a pair of dangerous early chances from Christine Sinclair. A shot in the fourth minute sent Orlando’s Ashlyn Harris high to tip it over the bar, and she banged one off the right post in the 21st minute.

“It could have been 5- or 6-0 to end the first half,” said a frustrated Harris. “I hope we choose to dig deep. It’s [a matter of] who’s willing to do the little things right.”

The Pride tallied 15 shots, though just two got through to Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna French. Alex Morgan twice hit the framework in the second half – hitting the crossbar in the 57th minute, later watching a dribbler struck while falling nearly sneak in the left corner.

It was the third time in four years that Orlando opened the season with a loss – all coming against the Thorns. Their first two opening-day meetings came in Portland, before last year’s 1-1 draw against the Utah Royals.

“That’s a tough draw,” said Pride defender Carson Pickett. “But going forward, we know the areas we need to work on. We didn’t deserve it today.”

Nor does it get any easier in the days to come. The Pride has a short turnaround before traveling for a Wednesday night game against NWSL champion North Carolina Courage. They’ll stay on the road to visit Reign FC next Sunday.

“We’ll move forward now as a team,” Harris said. “We’re hungry for North Carolina. I don’t care if they won it all last year. Last year is last year.”

The Pride was making its debut under Skinner, hired Jan. 14 as just the second coach in franchise history after Tom Sermanni was not retained last September.

Formerly coach at Birmingham City of England’s FA Women’s Super League, Skinner isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. On Sunday night, he was frustrated that all the technical work they’d done in the preseason didn’t make it to the pitch.

“What did we have to do in the first half,” he said, “and what did we allow them to do? I don’t think Portland did anything to earn it. We allowed them to do it.

“You’ve got to be ruthless at both ends. We were far too passive along the lines, and we can’t afford to do that.”

After holding off a steady Portland attack through the opening half, the Pride couldn’t quite get it to the locker room as Foord cashed in a nifty Heath backheel in the final seconds before stoppage time.

Sinclair began the sequence with a ball from outside the box to Heath near the penalty spot. Heath took one touch and heeled it back to Foord, who sent a left-footed shot past a spinning Joanna Boyles and just past a diving Harris.

“That’s a first half we need to wipe from our memories,” Skinner said.

The Thorns needed little time after the break to double their lead, getting an awkward goal by Heath in the 50th minute. Foord entered the box on the right and sent a crisp pass to Heath, who looked as though she might overrun the ball but managed to get her heel on it.

The redirect was enough to let the ball dribble into the left corner of the net for a 2-0 advantage.

The Pride are just 1-6-1 all-time against Portland, last year’s NWSL runners-up after winning the title in 2017. The Thorns hold a 3-0-1 advantage at Orlando City Stadium.

The Pride took the field without a pair of expected starters in Australian internationals Alanna Kennedy and Emily Van Egmond. Both were felled by a virus shortly after arriving this week, Skinner said, and the team waited until early Sunday to scratch them from the lineup.

Boyles and Bridget Callahan got the starts instead, with Boyles making her NWSL debut and Callahan her second appearance.

The Pride also inserted Rachel Hill into the starting lineup for Camila, who was bothered with knee pain. Camila came off the bench for 35 minutes of work in the second half.

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