For the first time this season, the Orlando Pride played with a complete roster, but it wasn’t enough to earn a win.
After conceding early in the first half, a free kick goal from Brazilian forward Marta in the 61st minute salvaged the Pride’s 1-1 draw against the Seattle Reign (2-1-1, 7 points) Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 5,058 at Orlando City Stadium.
“I believe that we started the game very well and we took the time,” Marta said through a translator. “We have a lot to get better and, in my opinion, when we play at home, we need to use these games to win points. And when we lose some points at home — [when] we only [end up] with one point — and I believe we have a lot to do to get better in those situations.”
Four out of Orlando’s five returning international players made the final game-day roster ahead of the Seattle game. Marta, Mônica and Alanna Kennedy earned spots in the starting lineup for the Pride (1-1-2, 5 points).
Seattle came close to breaking the 0-0 deadlock in the 31st minute when a strike from close range from Jodie Taylor was stopped by Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
Moments later, however, in the 33rd minute, after a failed clearance from Christine Nairn off a set piece, Megan Oyster played a ball to Allie Long, who slotted it past Harris to give the Reign the 1-0 lead.
Entering the second half trailing 1-0, a Reign foul on Alex Morgan outside the box drew a free kick for the Pride. Marta stepped up and curled the ball toward the upper-right corner of the net to tie the game in the 61st minute.
“I thought it was a competitive game,” Orlando coach Tom Sermanni said. “I thought it was a game with two teams that tried to play good open soccer. In different times during the game, both teams were in the ascendancy. I thought that we had very good first 25 minutes of the first half and I thought we had a first good 25 minutes of the second half.”
Australian international Emily van Egmond, who joined Pride training camp earlier in the week, made her official debut for the team after checking in at the start of the second half for Chioma Ubogagu.
Despite the return of the internationals, Sermanni said it’s still going to take time for the team to hit its stride, but he saw some promising moments.
“There was a couple of times tonight late, particularly … where Alex [Morgan] made a couple of great forward runs, but we never played [the ball] her because we were looking for something else,” Sermanni said. “Once we hopefully get playing together, more into the season, we start seeing those things and doing those things and that will help us a little bit more.”
Former Pride players Stephanie Catley and Jasmyne Spencer returned to Orlando after being traded to Seattle in the offseason.
Next, the Pride embark on a three-game road trip beginning on Wednesday when they travel to take on the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park at 7:30 p.m.
Orlando then heads to Rio Tinto Stadium to play against the Utah Royals on May 9 at 9 p.m. before capping its road stretch at Providence Park against the Portland Thorns on May 12 at 3:30 p.m. on Lifetime.
“We try to approach games on the road the same way we approach them here, [we’ve] just gotta try to win the games,” Sermanni said. “Season one, we found it difficult to play away from home. Season two, we started to do a lot better and we just need to keep that up.”