In the first match of its third National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season, Orlando Pride (0-0-1, 1 point) drew 2018 expansion side Utah Royals FC (0-0-1, 1 point) with a 1-1 final on Saturday night. Marta became Orlando’s all-time leading scorer when she equalized from the penalty spot in front of 9,017 fans in attendance.
“It was the game we expected. We knew they would come out and be well organized and start to really press us and work really hard to get a result here. They’re a new team, a new franchise. They brought that enthusiasm to the game,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “I’m satisfied that we’ve come out and kept our run in the league going from last year and not losing the game. That was important. We’re one point better off than we’ve been at the start of the first two seasons in the league.”
Five players made their Orlando Pride debuts in the starting XI. Defenders Carson Pickett, Shelina Zadorsky and Poliana started on the back line alongside Ali Krieger. Christine Nairn made her Pride debut next to Toni Pressley and Dani Weatherholt and Sydney Leroux started up top with Marta and Alex Morgan. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris wore the captain’s armband.
Utah got the match off to a fast start with a goal on the counter in the third minute when Diana Matheson found Gunnhilder Jonsdottir in behind the back line.
The Pride continued pressing and earned a penalty kick in the 19th minute when Pickett served a ball into the box for Weatherholt, whose first-time rip was handled by Utah captain Becky Sauerbrunn. Marta stepped up and calmly finished into the side netting. The goal was her 14th with Orlando, which passed Morgan for the most goals in Pride history.
Sermanni pressed for the go-ahead goal with second-half substitutions of Chioma Ubogagu for Morgan and Rachel Hill for Pressley. Hill showed great energy, at one point running onto a ball and playing it into the box before chasing her own pass and nearly drawing a second penalty.
Morgan left the match just before the halftime whistle after a hard collision with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith just outside the box. She is currently being evaluated per the league’s concussion protocol.
Orlando returns to action on Saturday, March 31, when it visits the Washington Spirit. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET at Maryland SoccerPlex and will be nationally televised on Lifetime. The Pride then visit Portland on April 15 before returning to Orlando City Stadium on Sunday, April 22, to host the Houston Dash at 5 p.m. ET.
Tickets for the remaining home games can be purchased at orlando-pride.com/tickets or by calling (855) ORL-CITY.
NWSL Match Report
Match: Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals FC
Date: March 24, 2018
Venue: Orlando City Stadium
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Goals 1 2 F
Utah (0-0-1) 1 0 0
Orlando (0-0-1) 1 0 0
UTA - Gunnhilder Jonsdottir (Diana Matheson) 3’
ORL - Marta (PK) 21’
Orlando Pride: Ashlyn Harris ©; Carson Pickett, Shelina Zadorsky, Ali Krieger, Poliana (Monica 66’); Toni Pressley (Rachel Hill 73’), Christine Nairn, Dani Weatherholt; Marta, Alex Morgan (Chioma Ubogagu 46’), Sydney Leroux
Substitutes Not Used: Haley Kopmeyer; Lotta Ӧkvist, Kristen Edmonds; Danica Evans
Utah Royals FC: Abby Smith; Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn ©, Rachel Corsie, Becca Moros; Katie Bowen, Gunnhilder Jonsdottir (Katie Stengel 62’), Diana Matheson (Taylor Lytle 64’), Desiree Scott; Elise Thorsnes, Brittany Ratcliffe (Sydney Miramontez 81’)
Substitutes Not Used: Nicole Barnhart; Brooke Elby; Lo’eau LaBonta, Erika Tymrak
Stats Summary: ORL / UTA
Possession: 53.7 % / 46.3 %
Shots: 7 / 9
Shots on Goal: 3 / 2
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 1
Fouls: 14 / 8
Offside: 1 / 2
UTA - Becky Sauerbrunn (Yellow Card) 21’
UTA - Brittany Ratcliffe (Yellow Card) 58’
ORL - Ali Krieger (Yellow Card) 90+3’
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Assistant Referee 1: Trent Vanhaitsma
Assistant Referee 2: Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Miguel Martes