Orlando Pride midfielder Alanna Kennedy apologized to coach Tom Sermanni after what she considered a sub-par first half last week.
Kennedy was slightly sluggish and managed to pick up the pace during the second half of a win over Sky Blue FC.
Seven days later, Kennedy showed Sermanni she was ready to play with much greater intensity and a fierce killer instinct. She scored a career-best goal from just past midfield and played a strong overall match, helping the Pride earn a 1-0 road win over the Washington Spirit Saturday night.
Kennedy was locked from the opening minute against the Spirit, intercepting a ball just past midfield in the 11th minute. She charged forward, glanced up and saw former Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe off her line.
She fired a chip shot that sailed just past Bledsoe’s reach into the back of the net to give the Pride a 1-0 advantage it would never surrender.
The play was shared widely on social media and later featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
When Kennedy was asked during the ESPNews broadcast after the match whether she had ever hit a comparable goal during a game, she responded, “In training, but it hasn’t come up on the field, so I was happy to get a goal.”
Sermanni said the long-range goal was a rare treat to see in person.
“That just shows her quality and class and vision,” Sermanni said of Kennedy. “Those are kind of world-class goals, you don’t see that happen that often. Her ability to get the ball midfield, look up, see the opening and hit it straight over Aubrey is remarkable.”
*Mike Breen voice*
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 24, 2018
The coach was quick to add Kennedy never plays especially poorly and was just slightly off last match.
“Players have a bad game and naturally look to deflect things,” he said. “… I think it just showed her maturity and her standards.”
Orlando is still working to consistently meet those standards for a full 90 minutes.
The Pride had momentum throughout much of the first half and Sydney Leroux was among the players who generated some dangerous looks.
Washington, however, was more aggressive in the second half. The Pride’s defense anchored by goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris did enough to maintain a clean sheet.
Marta subbed on in the second half, but she didn’t get a chance to spark any Orlando shots on goal.
“Obviously delighted with the result. I thought we played extremely well in the first half and probably as well as we have away from home this season,” Sermanni said. “I thought we dictated the game and made good decisions on the ball and probably could have been up by a lot more than one-nil.
“Second half was a little bit of a different story. We really had to dig in and battle and fight for the win. The Spirit came back strongly. … We showed another side to the team. A fighting spirit and some grit.”
Sermanni said the Pride’s problems are easy to identify and he’s working to address them.
“We need to move the ball quicker and we need to stop giving the ball away,” he said. “It could not be any more straight forward. We have to stop making mistakes and giving teams opportunities.”
Orlando earned its first road win over the Spirit in franchise history and is now unbeaten during it past six road matches dating back to May 2.
During that span, the Pride posted a 4-0-2 record, outscored opponents 10-3 and earned four shutouts.
Kennedy felt it was a strong showing for the Pride (6-3-5, 22 points), who are in second place in the National Women’s Soccer League table behind powerhouse North Carolina (10-1-3, 33 points).
“I thought we even could have had a few more goals, but happy that we were able to see the game out and get a clean sheet,” Kennedy said.