The Orlando Pride’s attack is loaded with household names.
Marta. Alex Morgan. Sydney Leroux. Heading into the 2018 season, it was expected the three of them would be the ones burying clubs under a relentless attack.
Instead, the club’s less-heralded signings are paying dividends early in the year. Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill — both players in their second seasons with the Pride — each had goals to lead Orlando to a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
It was the Pride’s first victory over the Red Stars in club history. Orlando (2-2-2, 8 points) is 2-0-1 during its past three matches after starting the season 0-2-1.
“I thought it was a really solid, professional performance away from home,” Pride coach Tom Sermanni said. “I thought we started a little bit slowly but never gave up any chances and we gradually played our way into the game. I think after that, in general, I thought we were just pretty solid and all around [we] put in what I’d call a really professional performance.”
Ubogagu opened the scoring in the 28th minute. After she was brought down fighting for the ball in the middle third, she got up and deflected a pass to Leroux. Ubogagu got the ball back from Leroux, made her way down the pitch and found Leroux near the penalty area.
Leroux laid the ball off for Ubogagu, who one-timed it from the top of the penalty area with her left foot and into the back of the net.
It was Ubogagu’s third goal of the season and until Hill scored later in the match, Ubogagu was the only Pride player with a goal in the run of play.
“We’re the kind of team that’s going to create chances,” Sermanni said. “Having those other players, it helps the Chis and the Rachel Hills. I’m not surprised they scored goals. I think, in time, you’ll start to see Syd and Alex on the scoresheet as well.”
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 3, 2018
The match was also the Pride’s first multi-goal performance this season. Leroux and Marta both were active in the attack, but Morgan didn’t enter the game. She was listed as questionable with a hyper-extended left knee before the match but was in the Pride’s 18.
Forward Hill put the exclamation point on the match in the 81st minute after a solid sequence in the final third.
It got started with an Ali Krieger interception. The veteran defender pounced on an errant Chicago pass in the middle third and found Hill, who then passed to Kristen Edmonds, who in turn found Australian midfielder Emily van Egmond.
Van Egmond found Hill in the penalty area, and Hill went around Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for her first goal of the season.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 3, 2018
The Pride had six shots on goal. Chicago had just one, despite having the services of forwards Sofia Huerta and Sam Kerr. Part of that can be attributed to a stand-out performance from Brazilian center back Mônica, who repeatedly sniffed out crosses and turned away the Red Stars.
Wednesday’s match was the first time the Red Stars were shut out at home since 2015.
“Fantastic,” Sermanni said about Mónica’s performance. “It’s funny. When we put Mônica on the back line last year is when we went on that winning run. She’s come back and went straight in there and we’ve looked more solid than we were, although we were looking solid before that.
“She reads the game very well, that’s No. 1. No. 2 is she’s composed, which helps her make good decisions.”
Lightning in the area around Toyota Park caused officials to pause the match five minutes into the second half with the Pride ahead 1-0. The delay lasted almost 30 minutes.
The Pride continue their three-game road trip with a Wednesday game against the Utah Royals in Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The two clubs played to a 1-1 draw on March 24. The Pride’s Australian players weren’t back from international duty for that match.
“We’re beginning to get a little bit more cohesive,” Sermanni said. “A little bit more confident, I think. We’re starting to see signs of the team jelling together a little bit better.”