Things looked dangerous for the Orlando Pride for a while in Providence Park.
The Pride scored two goals in the first 21 minutes of their Saturday match against the Portland Thorns, a club they’ve never beaten.
Despite the early lead, the Pride never had much control over the match, and the Thorns quickly responded with a goal of their own. After that, the Pride did everything the could just to hold on.
And, for the first time, the Pride held on against the Thorns.
Star forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Christine Nairn scored their first goals of the season to lead the Pride past Thorns 2-1 Saturday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 17,115 in Providence Park. After the goals from Morgan and Nairn, the Pride withstood a furious onslaught from the Thorns to claim the club’s win over the reigning NWSL champions.
“At some stage, we had to make sure that we got that breakthrough,” Pride coach Tom Sermanni told Pro Soccer USA after the match.
“To be able to come here and do it, particularly after a tough midweek game, I think shows not just how much ability we have on the team, but how much character we’ve got and with the changes we made, how much depth we have on the squad. Looking at the whole thing wholistically, it was an outstanding result.”
Nairn’s goal proved to be the match winner, and it was sensational. Nairn took a touch off her chest in the 21st minute and fired a shot from distance. The shot dropped at the last possible moment, grazed the fingertips of Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom and landed inside the goal.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 12, 2018
“It dipped at the end,” Sermanni said. “I thought, ‘That’s going over the bar,’ then suddenly, just whoosh, it dipped under the bar.”
Morgan opened the scoring in the 11th minute, taking advantage of a Thorns mistake. Mallory Weber tried to a clear a ball played into the penalty area by Kristen Edmonds (who was a forward for Saturday’s match). She whiffed on the clearance, which allowed Morgan fire a shot that went inside the far post.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 12, 2018
“Everyone showed up to play, honestly. It was a team effort. I’m so proud of this team,” Morgan told Lifetime’s Dalen Cuff after the match.
It wasn’t an easy look, either. Morgan, who was questionable coming into the match with a left shoulder sprain, was falling away from the ball when she shot it.
“She was outstanding today,” Sermanni said. “She kind of led the way and the rest of us followed. It was a typical Alex Morgan goal and an outstanding performance from her.”
The Pride got off to a solid start, but after those two goals, it was all Portland.
The Thorns were relentless at home and quickly cut into the Pride’s lead. Thorns forward Christine Sinclair, the NWSL’s top goal scorer, headed home a corner kick from Tobin Heath in the 23rd minute.
The Thorns went to work searching for an equalizer after that. They finished the match with 24 shots, six on target.
Portland had two goals called back. They nearly broke through in the seventh minute, but an offside call wiped away a would-be goal.
The Thorns also had a goal called back in the 48th minute. Midfielder Lindsey Horan took a heavy touch inside the penalty area and Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris tried to fall on it. She couldn’t control the ball and Thorns midfielder Margaret Purce buried the loose ball into the back of the net.
During the sequence, Horan and Harris collided and Harris took a shot to the ribs. Harris stayed in the match, but Purce’s goal was called off.
“We knew what to expect,” Sermanni said. “We talked about when you come here, you need to match the fight first. If you don’t match the fight, you’re going to leave here with a heavy defeat. I think the key thing we did today was we matched the fight.
“We were always competing for things. We never allowed Portland to really dominate in the way they can dominate.”
The Pride (3-2-3, 12 points) are now on a five-match unbeaten run. They return to action May 23 against the unbeaten North Carolina Courage.
After three matches on the road, the Pride finally return home for that match.
“Unbelievable,” Sermanni said. “It’s a great group of players. A great team. A great squad. What we’re starting to see now is the development of that squad. I’ve said on many occasions, I think we’re still finding our way a little bit and that will continue for a little while, but I’m unbelievably proud of the effort on the road.”