Orlando Pride and the Washington Spirit played an emotional match on Saturday night, with the home Spirit coming away with a 2-0 victory in front of a capacity crowd at Maryland SoccerPlex. The match, the ninth of the season for both teams, was much more than a soccer game as the two teams honored the victims of the recent tragedies in Orlando.
In the 49th minute, with the sellout crowd of 5,750 rising to their feet to applaud, the ball was passed back to Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and the two teams paused play for 60 seconds to honor the 49 victims of last weekend’s tragedy in Pulse nightclub. Both teams also donned purple #OrlandoUnited shirts during opening ceremonies.
“The beauty of [soccer] is it brings people together. That’s why we do what we do. Today, if you look in the crowd, there’s not Washington Spirit fans versus Orlando Pride fans. Today we were just one collective group coming together to celebrate the lives of the people who didn’t make it out of Pulse and the victims’ families,” said Harris, who formerly played for Washington. “Today was just about honoring them and taking a few moments out of our game to pay respect and be grateful that we are still here, getting to do what we love everyday. It was more than just about us. It was about bringing this entire place together.”
“It was an emotional night. It’s been a tough week in Orlando as everybody can imagine,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “But we had to go out there and play a game of soccer tonight and you’ve got to turn up and do that. So congratulations to the Washington Spirit, they were the better team tonight and deserved the win.”
Washington opened the scoring nine minutes into the match after Alyssa Kleiner sent a low cross into the box from the left side. The ball found Estefania Banini in the middle and the Argentinian midfielder beat one Pride defender before tucking the ball into the right side netting to make it 1-0.
Defender Steph Catley came within inches from leveling the match in the 15th minute after Alex Morgan was taken down by Shelina Zadorsky just outside the penalty area. With the sun setting in Stephanie Labbé’s eyes, Catley used her left leg to bend the ball around Washington’s four-player wall but it sailed just wide of the left post.
The Spirit offense threatened in the 23rd minute after Christine Nairn’s shot was saved by Harris but fell loose the middle. On the rebound, Francisca Ordega poked the ball away before Harris could fall on it but Catley recovered to block the Nigerian’s shot at the line. The block trickled wide of the net to Crystal Dunn, but Toni Pressley was able to hit the ball out before any further damage.
Six minutes later, Harris came up with a highlight reel save, diving to block away Diana Matheson’s shot from just inside the box.
The home team doubled its lead just before halftime when Ordega stole the ball from Laura Alleway on a tackle that caused the Australian to exit the game early. After muscling Alleway off the ball, Ordega took the ball in alone on Harris with Pressley attempting a last-minute block, but the forward chipped the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net. Alleway was replaced by Kaylyn Kyle after the 40th-minute goal.
Morgan came inches from cutting the Pride’s deficit to one goal after collecting a long ball from Pressley in first-half stoppage time, taking off behind the Spirit defense for a chance on Labbe. The Canadian goalkeeper was able to narrowly deflect Morgan’s shot, causing enough of a change in direction to parry the ball off the post. The U.S. forward collected the rebound and tried another quick shot, but it was hit wide right.
With 25 minutes to play, Catley sent a powerful cross across the face of the goal, beating Labbe, but both Spencer and Witteman were unable to hit the ball home despite sliding efforts at the goal line.
“It’s very important [for us to represent the city] because our team and our Club is very much a part of the community and attached to the community,” Sermanni added. “The tragedies that hit Orlando last weekend hit the whole community and that, by definition, hits the Club as well.”
Orlando Pride will return to Camping World Stadium for two matches next week, first welcoming the Houston Dash at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday night followed by Portland Thorns FC at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Tickets to all home matches can be purchased at orlando-pride.com or by calling 855-ORL-CITY.
NWSL Match Report
Match: Washington Spirit vs. Orlando Pride
Date: June 18, 2016
Venue: Maryland SoccerPlex
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Weather: Sunny, clear, 70s
1 | 2 | F
- Washington (5-1-2) » 2 | 0 | 2
- Orlando (4-5-0) » 0 | 0 | 0
WAS - Estefania Banini 9’
WAS - Francisca Ordega 40’
Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris; Steph Catley, Laura Alleway (Kaylyn Kyle 40’), Toni Pressley, Josee Belanger (Sarah Hagen 65’); Monica, Maddy Evans, Kristen Edmonds; Sam Witteman, Alex Morgan, Jasmyne Spencer (Jamia Fields 78’)
Substitutes Not Used: Megan Dorsey; Becky Edwards, Dani Weatherholt; Christina Burkenroad
Washington: Stephanie Labbe; Ali Krieger, Megan Oyster, Shelina Zadorsky, Alyssa Kleiner; Diana Matheson, Tori Huster, Christine Nairn (Joanna Lohman 70’); Estefania Banini (Katie Stengel 85’), Crystal Dunn, Francisca Ordega (Cheyna Williams 63’)
Substitutes Not Used: Kelsey Wys; Caprice Dydasco, Whitney Church, Estelle Johnson; Katie Stengel