CARY, N.C. – It’s clear the Orlando Pride have numerous things to work on in their first season under new coach Marc Skinner.
They’re still trying to find ways not only to score, but to be effective in the final third.
And critical mistakes all over the pitch need to be cleaned up.
The Pride were pummeled 5-0 by the North Carolina Courage Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 4,292 at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Errors undid the Pride throughout the match and the defending champions punished Orlando’s NWSL side for each one.
“You can’t give away goals like that,” Skinner said. “It’s a simple rule of football. This team is champions and they’re a set piece team. They’re a direct, set piece, in-your-face, counter-attacking team. They’re very good at it. It’s not a negative, I’m just saying they’re very good at that. But you can’t give the goals away that we’ve given away and expect to get anything out of a game.”
It was the most lopsided loss in Orlando Pride franchise history. The Courage had 30 shots, 13 of which were on target. It was the most shots the Pride have allowed in franchise history.
The Pride started the match well enough and created some chances. Still, Orlando wilted during the final 10 minutes of the first half. It was the second consecutive match the Pride gave up the opening goal in the final minute of the first half.
Pride forward Alex Morgan was dispossessed by Courage forward Crystal Dunn, who pushed into the final third and found Lynn Williams inside the penalty area. Williams provided the finish and the Courage went up 1-0 in the 45th minute.
It was the first critical mistake of many for the Pride.
“I think, second half, we kind of dug ourselves a hole with giveaways in tough areas and, you know what, they’re a great team at counter-attacks and, additionally, they’re a great team on set pieces,” said centerback Shelina Zadorsky. “We knew that and I think it was about staying switched on the entire time.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m still excited about this team and I know we can go up from here.”
Orlando was out-shot 13-4 in the first half and didn’t put a single shot on target despite having some decent chances. Rachel Hill couldn’t get on the end of a cross from Marta in the 18th minute. She also got in behind the Courage’s back line in the 20th minute thanks to a good through ball from Morgan. Hill took one too many touches and Courage goalkeeper Steph Labbe came off her line to smother the ball.
“It’s really frustrating in a sense because I thought we did really well the first half,” said right back Ali Krieger. “We deserved it. Obviously, we need to now… once we get into the final third, then execute a little bit better than we did.”
Krieger added the Courage didn’t create much outside of set pieces.
“I do think, moving forward, we can build off that of that first half,” she said. “I thought we pressed really well. I thought we put them under pressure and then they couldn’t figure it out in the end.”
The Courage doubled their lead in the 55th minute by pouncing on another Pride mistake. Williams deflected an errant pass from Pride centerback Alanna Kennedy to forward Jess McDonald and McDonald had enough time and space to calmly put a shot by Harris to give the Courage a 2-0 lead.
North Carolina got its third and fourth goals off corners, and both goals were scored by Dunn. The Pride couldn’t clear corner kicks in the 70th and 77th minutes and Dunn took advantage. Her goal in the 70th minute took a deflection off Zadorsky before going in. Her second goal of the night came after the ball bounced around the penalty area.
Julia Spetsmark put the exclamation point on the match for the Courage in the 88th minute. Harris got a hand on Spetsmark’s arching shot, but it wasn’t enough and the ball still went over the line to give the Courage a 5-0 advantage.
Orlando ended the match without a single shot on target. Skinner wasn’t discouraged by that stat.
“You might look at the no shots on target, but actually, they’re in the spaces to do that,” Skinner said. “It’s the final decision. That’s everything. There’s not a crisis, there’s nothing like that. It’s focus when you’re in that area to finish.”
The Pride face Reign FC on Sunday in Tacoma, Wash. The match will be the Pride’s third in a row against a 2018 playoff team.