ORLANDO, Fla. — Casey Short knocked in a header in stoppage time, handing the Orlando Pride a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium.
Ashlyn Harris helped keep the Pride (4-14-3, 15) in the match for 94 minutes, earning six saves. But as the final seconds ticked down in the 95th minute, striker Sam Kerr found Short with a cross in transition and she dove to head in the ball to give the Red Stars (11-8-3, 36) the last-minute lead.
The goal left the players stunned on the pitch, and the Pride barely had time to set up at midfield before the referee blew his whistle to signal the game’s end.
“I thought we should have put our chances away,” striker Claire Emslie said after the game, her voice cracking with emotion. “We had the opportunity to win the game. … We managed to get the ball into the wide areas and into the box, but it was just putting the ball in the net that we couldn’t do.”
Throughout the night, Orlando worked to maintain its defensive shape against the high-paced attack of the Red Stars, which looked to slip Kerr behind the backline to pounce on counter-attack opportunities. Kerr struggled to time her runs in transition, getting called offsides on back-to-back plays during the first half.
With Ali Krieger remaining at centerback alongside Shelina Zadorsky, the backline managed to smother Kerr for most of the game. Kristen Edmonds shifted back into an outside back position again as well, offering a more veteran defensive group that allowed the Pride to counter the typically aggressive Chicago attack.
“On the field, we always know where Kerr is,” Edmonds said. “When she’s up there by herself, we make sure to try to get in her head a bit and always know where she is. I think we paid attention to her pretty well tonight.”
The timing kept Kerr from making her typical impact on the scoresheet. When she did time one correctly in the 75th minute to take on Harris one-on-one, the keeper dove to make the save.
All six of Harris’ saves were similarly show-stopping, from a leap to swat a ball out of the top left corner in transition to a punch into the crossbar from close range.
“She didn’t deserve that tonight,” Pride coach Marc Skinner said. “I feel so badly for her and for [Krieger] tonight. I thought the centerbacks, the fullbacks … they did not deserve that sucker punch at the end.”
The Pride earned an advantage in the 64th minute when Chicago forward Katie Johnson earned her second yellow card of the night for a hard tackle on Edmonds. With the Red Stars diminished to 10 players, the Pride found rhythm on the attacking side and increased their pressure.
With a one-player advantage, the Pride opened up to take six shots in the second half but only placed one goal on frame each half. The team set up several point-blank scoring opportunities in the final minutes of play, giving Danica Evans a shot from inches off the goal line that flew just high in the 87th minute.
The Pride have posted only a single shutout this season, its 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC. While Skinner and his players felt the team’s defensive structure improved from the weekend’s 3-0 loss to Seattle, the final minute’s mistake left the team feeling frustrated.
“We put together a solid 94 minutes and then the last minute of the game, we kind of switched off for a minute and they took full advantage of that,” Edmonds said. “They finished their one chance and we didn’t finish any of ours. In soccer, you have to put together a complete game and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
The team will complete another three-game week with a trip to North Carolina to take on the Courage on Saturday.