ORLANDO, Fla. (May 14, 2016) - Orlando Pride saw perhaps its toughest test of the season on Saturday night, when the Western New York Flash visited Camping World Stadium for both teams’ fifth match of the year. The Pride (3-2-0, 9 points) kept its home winning streak alive after Alex Morgan scored the match’s lone goal in the 79th minute to lift her Club to the 1-0 victory.
The Pride captain scored her second goal of the season on a left-footed chip over Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo, capitalizing on a well-placed ball from Kristen Edmonds. Both Morgan and Edmonds, along with five other Pride players, have played for the Flash during their club career - Morgan a 2011 WPS Champion with the Flash, while Edmonds featured for the club in both 2014 and 2015.
“It was a very difficult game because it is a game that we are not used to. In the last three or four games, we haven’t come up against a team that played quite like that. Adjusting to that, despite the fact we knew what we were going to face, is very different than what to expect,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “The fact that we kept matching up to how [Western New York] played and that we found a way to win the game with another clean sheet is great. Those two things are really critical for any team. It wasn’t our most polished performance but it was a gritty performance and that showed a great determination, a great character.”
The visiting team controlled most of the first-half opportunities, totalling seven shots in the first 45 minutes - the most the Pride have allowed in a first half this season. Sophomore forward Lynn Williams had the Flash’s best scoring chance 26 minutes in, after midfielder Samantha Mewis muscled past Edmonds and sent a ball into the middle, finding her teammate with an open net. Williams, however, was unable to find the netting, blasting her shot off the woodwork from just six-yards out.
The halftime break turned the tide for Orlando, as the team took control of the match in the second stanza, holding the Flash to just a single shot in the final half.
Sermanni, who started the match with a repeat starting XI for the first time this season, turned to midfielder Lianne Sanderson as a halftime substitute again, and the Englishwoman did exactly as she has done all year - became a spark for the Pride and spurred creativity for the Club.
Sanderson was key to creating Morgan’s goal, winning a 50-50 ball in the midfield before finding Edmonds on a quick outlet. After Edmonds’ lofted pass, Morgan didn’t even need to take a touch, hitting the ball in stride from 23-yards out for the goal.
Sarah Hagen, who scored her first goal of the season last week in a 2-0 win over Seattle, had an opportunity to put the Pride up 1-0 in the 29th minute with a volley off a corner kick, but D’Angelo came up with a great diving stop to keep the game level.
Midfielder Kaylyn Kyle, who has started every match so far this season, saw another corner kick opportunity in the second half, but she was unable head home a cross from Sanderson.
Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and the defense earned its second straight shutout on Saturday night, with Harris making a 69th minute stop that will nominate Harris for a fourth-straight NWSL Save of the Week title. Harris came up with the big stop after Western New York slipped a ball through to Taylor Smith, who entered the match just two minutes prior. The rookie appeared to have a breakaway but the Satellite Beach native made a well-timed approach on the ball, cutting off all of Smith’s shooting space before blocking the ball away.
The Pride now head out on their longest road trip of the season, playing its next four matches away from home. First, the Club will travel to face the Houston Dash for the second time this season on May 20 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The two teams met in the Pride’s inaugural home game, which saw an NWSL record 23,403 fans pack the then-Orlando Citrus Bowl to witness Orlando’s 3-1 win.