ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Pride were looking to bounce back after their Wednesday loss to the Houston Dash.
The league-leading North Carolina Courage, however, scored three goals in four minutes to seal a 3-0 win over the Pride (6-5-4, 22 points) Saturday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 4,017 at Orlando City Stadium.
“Frankly we’re just beaten by a team that was better than us – significantly better on the day,” Orlando coach Tom Sermanni said. “Probably on all areas of the field, they were quicker to do things. More dynamic, more alert. They did soccer fundamental things better than we did and we got ourselves a little bit rattled.”
“We knew it was going to be a tough game; probably the real disappointing thing in the performance is the manner and timing of [conceding] the three goals. Particularly the reaction to the first goal, then the reaction to the second goal, which for a team of our caliber and professionalism is very poor.”
The Courage (11-1-3, 36 points) opened the scoring in the 37th minute after a failed clearance in the penalty area found Debinha, who struck from close range for the early lead.
North Carolina doubled the lead in the 39th minute when Debinha dished the ball over to Merritt Mathias, who rifled a shot outside the box toward the bottom-left corner of the goal for the 2-0 lead.
Jessica McDonald gave North Carolina a three-goal lead moments later in the 40th minute after Crystal Dunn set up the forward for her fifth goal of the season.
It was an dominant stretch by the team that sits 14 points ahead of the rest of the nine-team National Women’s Soccer League.
While the Courage controlled the first half, the Pride managed to hold them off in the second half. Orlando limited North Carolina to one shot on target while controlling 55 percent of possession.
It was Orlando’s second back-to-back loss of the season.
With the Pride trailing to three goals entering the second half, midfielder Alanna Kennedy insisted the team did not assume Orlando would lose.
“Definitely not, that would be us giving up on the fact that we can still win the game,” said Kennedy. “We definitely made it hard and that’s not good enough on our behalf. We need to be more disciplined back there. … It was still possible for us to come back and score four goals or five or six.”
Orlando almost scored when a long ball played by Sydney Leroux connected with Alex Morgan, who then took a shot that hit the right post.
The last time the teams played, the Courage walked away with a 4-3 victory at Orlando City Stadium on May 23.
In the 80th minute, the Pride — having played all their substitutions — were reduced to 10 players when Morgan left the field due to a calf injury, according to Sermanni.
It was Ali Krieger’s first game back after missing five weeks due to a medial collateral ligament injury she suffered during a 5-2 win against the Chicago Red Stars on May 26.
“I felt so good to be back and be out there,” Krieger said. “Obviously, it’s now getting match fitness back, I’ve worked in the past four to five weeks so hard every day … constantly to prepare to be back on the field and get my fitness back.”
The Pride continue their home stretch against the Washington Spirit at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday.