Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni will have his work cut out for him looking at film of Wednesday’s match against the league-leading North Carolina Courage.
At times, mostly thanks to Brazilian superstar Marta, the Pride looked every bit like the dangerous squad Sermanni envisioned during preseason training.
And for the rest of the match, the Pride were dreadful.
It was a wild game, and the Pride managed to claw their way back into it after falling behind in the second half, but it ended with a 4-3 victory for the visiting Courage in front of an all-time low announced crowd of 3,104 at Orlando City Stadium.
The loss snapped a five-match unbeaten run for the Pride.
“The first half performance I would say was probably the poorest performance our team has put in in two and 1/2 seasons that I’ve been here,” Sermanni said. “I thought we were very disappointing. Didn’t have any initiative. We were lucky to go in 1-nil at halftime.”
The Pride scored all three of their goals in the second half. The Courage also had three second half goals.
“I think in the second half, players showed a great deal of character,” Sermanni said. “We came right back into the game. Kept coming back into the game, but then it was almost like we came back into the game and took our foot off the pedal.”
The North Carolina Courage took advantage of every mistake the Pride made. Without centerback Mônica to steady the back line and make some key clearances, the Pride’s back line struggled to contain Courage forwards Jessica McDonald and Crystal Dunn.
Goals scored by Debinha in the 57th minute and McDonald in the 32nd minute were the product of failed clearances.
Brazilian superstar Marta did everything she could to keep the Pride in the match. She was the maestro of the Pride’s attack and she provided two assists — one to Rachel Hill in the 83rd minute and the other to Chioma Ubogagu in the 52nd minute. Both assists were on goals that, at the time, equalized the match.
Marta wasn’t shy giving her opinion of the club’s performance in her post-match interview.
“We need to want to win more,” Marta said through a translator. “I mean, we were playing at home. We were playing in front of our crowd. We need to show them that we own it and that’s our home. We need to be more aggressive. We can see [the Courage] be aggressive to us and we’re not back.
“We need to be more aggressive. We [can’t we] do that back to them if they do it to us?”
She said the club wasn’t aggressive enough with the match tied 3-3 and the clock inching closer to full time.
“I can tell you in the last minute that we were tied and we saw it was going back and forth and then whenever we got the ball, we just kick it and give it back to them,” she said.
In English, she added, “I need the ball at my feet.”
The match was sealed in the 90th minute when McDonald headed a ball from Jaelene Hinkle on frame, but it was weak and Pride centerback Shelina Zadorsky tried to head the ball away. Instead, it went straight down and bounced into the goal.
McDonald was credited with the goal, though it could easily have been an own-goal on Zadorsky.
It was that kind of odd night for the Pride. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was nearly credited with an own-goal of her own. Samantha Mewis put a header off the post, and the ball then bounced of Harris and into the goal in the 62nd minute. That put the Courage up 3-1 10 minutes after the Pride had equalized the match.
The Pride (3-3-3, 12 points) return to action Saturday, hitting the road to face the Chicago Red Stars.