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Orlando Pride set for rematch against Houston Dash

during the Houston Dash at Orlando Pride NWSL soccer game at Orlando City Stadium on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

The Orlando Pride’s last outing against the Houston Dash was an anomaly, according to head coach Tom Sermanni.

The Pride jumped out to an early lead, dominated possession, created chances thanks to star forward Alex Morgan and, for the most part, looked set to cruise to a victory.

Everything unraveled in the 79th minute, after Dash midfielder Kealia Ohai’s mishit cross found the back of the net and leveled the match for Houston. The Dash went ahead after a penalty kick and the Pride fell 2-1 at home.

To Sermanni, the game “could have been put away after 25 or 30 minutes.”

“That’s the frustrating thing and, at times, wonderful thing about our sport,” he said. “What we need to do is, if we can produce that same kind of performance, is that we need to make sure we finish them off. Or finish off the chances and win the game.”

So, basically, don’t expect to see a drastically different game plan for the Pride Wednesday night against the Dash at BBVA Compass Stadium.

“The tactics will basically be the same because we feel that’s the best way to break them down,” Sermanni said.

The Pride followed their recent loss to the Dash with another home loss against the North Carolina Courage. Sermanni said the club lacked cohesion after that defeat. Following a bounce-back victory over the Washington Spirit, Sermanni said that’s changing.

“It’s kind of getting back to, hopefully, where we were at this time last year,” he said about the club’s identity. “That’s a team that plays a really good attacking brand of soccer. That creates chances. That’s dynamic and brings an energy and an enthusiasm to the game.”

Left back Carson Pickett said the Pride aren’t taking Houston lightly. The Dash are in seventh place in the NWSL table, but three playoff spots are still up for grabs as the season winds down.

“The second you take someone lightly, you can go down, like we did last time,” Pickett said. “It’s just a bounce-back game. Not from the game we just played, but the last Houston game that was at home. That was obviously a downer. Just going there more focused and ready.

“You look at the standings all the time. It’s inevitable, but I think that each game we just have to play how we know to play and stop player either down or to other times. The standings are extremely important right now.”

Brazilian centerback Mônica agreed.

“I think we need to be ready for these new challenges,” she said. “As big as we are on paper, we need to be that big on the field, as well. We just need to be focused and ready to win those games.”

There’s little room for error for the Pride, who have just eight matches left this season.

Last year, the Pride went unbeaten during their final eight games.

Orlando is better off points-wise at this point in the season than they were before going on their unbeaten run at the end of last year. Sermanni’s 2017 crew was 5-6-5 (20 points) through 16 games. The 2018 group is 7-5-4 (25 points) through 16 games.

“We feel we’ve got all the ingredients,” Sermanni said.

“One of the things we talked about is being a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more proactive. Being a team that gets on the front foot a little bit more. I was really pleased because I thought we did that the other night against [Washington].”  

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