In the first National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game at Orlando City Stadium, Orlando Pride (0-1-1, 1 point) secured a 1-1 draw against the Washington Spirit (0-1-1, 1 point) with Danica Evans’ late-game goal. The equalizer was Evans’ first professional goal and the Pride’s first goal of the season. Brazilian superstar Marta made her Pride debut, coming into the match in the 59th minute.
“For the first 15 minutes we turned over possession, we looked a little bit nervy, a little bit slow, didn’t really get into our stride. Then as the first half wore on we got more and more into the game and into some great positions,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “We started the second half really well. First time they went up the field is when they scored and then I thought it was great character from the team to keep plugging away and come back and get the point. I think overall I saw a lot of improvement from last week.”
The Pride came out in a 4-5-1, featuring the same starting XI as Opening Day. The match took some time to open up, but a physical tone was set from the get-go. The visiting Spirit forced Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris into a few saves in the early part of the first half, but the Pride quickly turned the pressure on Washington goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe. Both teams, however, headed into the locker room without a goal at the half.
Washington opened the scoring in the 60th minute when Line Sigvardsen-Jensen headed in an initial save from Harris following a Spirit corner kick.
Evans entered the match in the 75th minute and made an instant impact. The former Colorado Buffalo and third-round pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft had several strong looks at goal, first after a nice combination with Marta that saw Evans’ curling shot saved. In the 86th minute, Chioma Ubogagu slipped a nice ball into Evans, who made an incredible first-touch back-heel meg to get in alone with Spirit goalkeeper Labbe. Evans then took a touch to her right before sliding the ball into an open net.
“One of the reasons that we drafted her was when we looked at her, we felt that she had an ability to finish and an ability to finish in a composed way,” Sermanni said. “I think that was highlighted today. For us, it’s really helpful to have a player that can come in and make that impact over that short a period of time.”
After cheers from the 14,452 in attendance, Marta entered the match in the 59th minute. She immediately changed the game, quickly getting in behind the Spirit back line and serving balls for her teammates in dangerous areas. Her shot from the left side of the box in stoppage time barely missed the far post.
“She changed the game. I think some of her class and her quality and her creativity for that last 25-30 minutes tonight. Considering the travel she’s had and the commitment she’s had over the last couple of days, I think she showed tonight how good a pro she is to be able to come on and perform that way.”
Defender Laura Alleway made her season debut for the Pride, coming into the match in the 44th minute for Jamia Fields. The move shifted Krieger to right back, creating offensive opportunities for the former Spirit captain, while Steph Catley ran the left flank with Jasmyne Spencer and Marta.
The Pride will hit the road for their next two matches, traveling to relocated North Carolina Courage - formerly the Western New York Flash - on April 29 before going to FC Kansas City on May 7. Orlando will host its second home game on May 14, facing the Courage for the second time in as many weeks at 5 p.m. ET.
Tickets for all Pride home matches can be purchased at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.
NWSL Match Report
Match: Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit
Date: April 22, 2017
Venue: Orlando City Stadium
Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET
Goals 1 2 F
Orlando (0-1-1) 0 1 1
Washington (0-1-1) 0 1 1
WAS - Line Sigvardsen-Jensen 60'
ORL - Danica Evans (Chioma Ubogagu) 86'
Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris Ⓒ; Jamia Fields (Laura Alleway 44’), Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley; Monica (Marta 59’), Dani Weatherholt, Jasmyne Spencer (Danica Evans 75’), Kristen Edmonds, Camila; Chioma Ubogagu
Substitutes Not Used: Aubrey Bledsoe; Toni Pressley; Nickolette Driesse, Maddy Evans
Washington Spirit: Stephanie Labbe; Estelle Johnson, Whitney Church, Shelina ZadorskyⒸ; Alyssa Kleiner (Francisca Ordega 57’), Tori Huster, Kristie Mewis (Meggie Dougherty 67’), Line Sigvardsen-Jensen, Kassey Kallman; Katie Stengel (Lindsay Agnew 19’), Havana Solaun
Substitutes Not Used: Arielle Ship; Cameron Castleberry
Stats Summary: ORL / WAS
Possession: 55.6 % / 44.4%
Shots: 21 / 11
Shots on Goal: 5 / 6
Saves: 5 / 4
Corner Kicks: 7 / 3
Fouls: 7 / 8
Offside: 1 / 4
ORL - Laura Alleway (Yellow Card) 59’
WAS - Kassey Kallman (Yellow Card) 65’
WAS - Tori Huster (Yellow Card) 75’
Referee: Karen Abt
Assistant Referee 1: Francisco Bermudez
Assistant Referee 2: Matthew Osterhouse
Fourth Official: Natalie Simon