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Alex Morgan gets confidence boost after netting first Orlando Pride goal of 2018

United States' Alex Morgan (13) shoots past Mexico's Bianca Sierra (3) during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Alex Morgan is used to seeing her name on the scoresheet.

Last season, she scored nine goals in 13 appearances for the Pride. Last month, she scored four goals – and probably could have had more – for the U.S. women’s national team in two friendlies against Mexico.

Morgan knows how to find the back of the net, it just took her a few games to do so in league play this year.

She scored her first goal of the season on the road against Portland Thorns to help the Pride secure their first win over the reigning NWSL champions.

“I mean, I haven’t scored a goal at Providence Park since I was playing for the Portland Thorns, so that was a big thing for me, just to get on the scoreboard and feel good and feel in form with this team,” Morgan said. 

“Obviously, a lot of players have stepped up throughout this season so far within the Pride. A lot of different players, so I wanted to be one of those players that game. It was definitely good for me to just kind of get my name in the sheet finally and just feel good about that moving into this game.”

After a week off from competition, the Pride (3-2-3, 12 points) return to action Wednesday against the unbeaten North Carolina Courage (7-0-2, 23 points). The Pride are unbeaten in their past five matches.

Despite the on-paper potential of Orlando City’s attack, which features stars Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Marta, the Pride have relied on solid collective defending during their recent unbeaten run.

“I want our forwards to stay connected with me,” Morgan said with a smile.

“But, at the same time, we want to get scoring chances from defending higher up on the field. From forcing turnovers. I think that’s something we’ve been able to do well this year, more consistently throughout these games, and why I think we’re coming out on top, whether that’s a tie or win, is because of our defensive presence.”

True collective defending is what Sermanni has stressed since preseason training.  

“It starts up front,” Sermanni said. “That’s exactly where defending starts. We’ve been trying to preach that message this year and players have bought into it. The effort from our strikers then sets the standard for the rest of the team.

“You ask what’s one difference between our team now and, say, at the same stage last year or over the last two years … we don’t look as vulnerable defensively as we have been.”

Of course, there’s a bit of a drawback to that approach.

“We probably haven’t looked as threatening from an attacking sense as we have in previous years,” Sermanni said.

Still, Morgan and Sermanni are confident more goals are on the horizon for the Pride.

“I feel like we definitely need this breaking out of getting a few goals on the scoresheet rather than getting one or two or a low-scoring tie,” Morgan said.

“We’re still looking for that breakout, but we’re getting the results that we need to get. We’re grinding out results that could go either way, like how it happened in Portland. At lot of times last season, you saw that we were on the other end of that. Not necessarily getting a win, but maybe a tie or loss.”

Harris, Mônica held out of training

Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was not at the portion of training open to media on Monday. Club officials said she was following a separate training schedule for the rest of the team.

Brazilian centerback Mônica was present for training, but didn’t participate. She “had some discomfort” and is going to be evaluated soon. 

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