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Orlando Pride see encouraging signs during 3-1 loss to Portland Thorns

In a season thus far full of frustrations, even Mother Nature apparently couldn’t resist taking a dig at the Orlando Pride.

Or maybe it was the referee.

With the Portland Thorns on the brink of a 3-1 victory and three minutes remaining in stoppage time, a flash of lightning above Orlando City Stadium left the teams cooling their heels for nearly an hour Saturday night before they could play to the finish.

Nothing changed. The Pride will have to wait another two weeks before their next chance at the season’s first victory.

Oddly, though, the delay may have left the Pride (0-5-1, 1 point) with a more upbeat vibe than had the game finished in standard fashion.

“I’m finding out what this team’s about,” Pride coach Marc Skinner said. “The weather break told me a lot. The team wanted to come out for 1:40 and see if they could get something from the game. People might think that’s ridiculous, but that’s the character we want to instill here.”

Said midfielder Dani Weatherholt: “Ultimately it didn’t go the way we wanted, but I think you saw the team’s heart in wanting to go out and play those final two minutes. That’s the positives to take away – that fight, that grit.”

Toni Pressley, seeing her first action of the season, ended Orlando’s scoring drought with a goal just 10 minutes into the contest. But that would be the extent of it, as Portland countered with a three-goal response.

Caitlin Foord scored her third goal of the season for the Thorns, following first-half tallies by Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Brazil’s Andressinha. Haley Kopmeyer denied a fourth Portland goal in the 66th minute when she parried away both Foord’s penalty kick and a quick followup by Hayley Raso.

Marta had a chance to bring Orlando within a goal in the second half, but a hard shot from the left went straight to goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom.

“We just have to keep staying positive,” Weatherholt said. “There was fight; there was determination. There was willingness to go the extra inch. We just have to stay positive in this situation.”

With the game winding down and four minutes of stoppage time just announced, lightning appeared on the horizon. Referee Marie-Soleil Beaudoin, rather than risk three minutes, immediately whistled play to a halt and cleared the field.

After some brief confusion, it was established that the game had not been declared complete.

“We talked tactics,” Skinner said. “Believe it or not, we were going to have seven people up front.”

Some 50 minutes later, the teams played 101 seconds before the merciful end. Orlando’s Joanna Boyles got her head on a feed from Camila, but the attempt sailed wide.

“It’s strange,” Skinner acknowledged. “It’s another negative result, but we’re looking at character. They can only do what they can do, and I’m proud of them.”

It was Portland’s second victory this year at Orlando City Stadium, with the Thorns also prevailing 2-0 on opening weekend. That’s two more wins than they have at home. The club is playing its first six games on the road while Providence Park upgrades are completed.

Saturday marked the Pride’s second outing without Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, now in U.S. women’s national team camp preparing for next month’s Women’s World Cup. Canadian defender Shelina Zadorsky also began her international absence.

Call-ups also left Portland without five of their regulars, including U.S. mainstays Tobin Heath and Lindsay Horan and Canadian scorer Christine Sinclair.

Pressley, seeing her first action of the season after rehabbing a hamstring injury, was on the pitch just 10 minutes before converting Carson Pickett’s corner kick to put the Pride on top 1-0.

The rangy defender came off the near post to get her head on a redirect that eluded Eckerstrom into the far netting.

“It was perfect,” Pressley said. “Carson has such great technique, I didn’t really have to do anything.”

It was just Orlando’s second goal of the season, ending a 276-minute dry spell since Alanna Kennedy scored in the sixth minute at Reign FC.

The lead would last only 18 minutes, though, until Brynjarsdottir equalized by slotting home a loose ball after Foord’s deflected shot kissed off the post. Kopmeyer did well to usher Foord’s shot away from the net, but couldn’t do anything about the rebound.

The Thorns went ahead 2-1 in the 37th minute on Andressinha’s perfectly placed free kick from just outside the box, hitting the top netting as Kopmeyer had no chance. The free kick came as the result of a yellow card to Orlando’s Rachel Hill for bringing down Ellie Carpenter.

Foord completed the scoring in the 57th minute, left alone near the penalty spot to whistle a full volley past Kopmeyer.

Pressley was one of two Orlando centerbacks seeing their first minutes of the year, pairing with Morgan Reid as the Pride shuffled the back line with Zadorsky on Canada duty and Kennedy nursing a sore quad. Reid was acquired from North Carolina in April.

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