With our City broadcast on Sunday this past weekend, I decided to take my fiancée to the Pride game on Saturday night. It was the World Cup Homecoming game, featuring a tribute to the nine Pride players who featured in the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. I figured we’d have a solid turnout and it would be a fun night out to see everyone back on the pitch.
What we got off the field was nearly 10,000 people packing Exploria Stadium for the best Orlando Pride attendance figure in two and a half years.
Goalkeeper and team captain Ashlyn Harris put it best after the game:
I just want to take a second and thank the incredible @ORLPride fans. Last nights atmosphere was the difference. If we want to build a culture that we are proud of let last night be an example. My hope is we continue this.— Ashlyn Harris (@Ashlyn_Harris) July 21, 2019
What we got on the field was a masterclass, comfortably the best performance from the Pride under Marc Skinner. The 1-0 final severely flattered visiting Sky Blue FC, to say the least—the Pride outshot Sky Blue 22-10 and were denied multiple times by fine work from Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan.
Orlando played flowing, beautiful soccer all night, culminating early in this ridiculous golazo from Marisa Viggiano:
Viggiano, by the way, is a rookie fourth-round pick out of Northwestern who wasn’t even guaranteed to make the team. She has played her way into being a staple in Marc Skinner’s XI.
The Pride were somehow even better in the second half despite holding the lead. Sky Blue had difficulty getting out of their own half, or even possessing the ball at all. However, while Orlando had a few chances to increase the lead, Sheridan managed to hold the Pride at bay:
(By the way, that turn, run, and through ball from Marta is just silly. GOAT.)
Then Claire Emslie came in, and the game was over.
There has been increasing hype about Emslie since her signing, which believe it or not was nearly two months ago. Emslie played in the World Cup for her native Scotland, then finally made her way to Orlando to make her Pride debut on Saturday. She was breathtaking. That play up there was her second action in the game; her first was a laser on target that was saved expertly by Sheridan. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
The Pride are on the way up, Orlando. They are 3-2-1 since June 15. Saturday was the first time in that span where the Pride didn’t score at least two goals. But more importantly, and Skinner pointed this out postgame, they kept a clean sheet for the first time in 2019, a massive step forward and a sign of things to come.
My fiancée enjoys live sports well enough, but usually as a vehicle to just enjoy a night out rather than to focus on the game itself. She was enraptured from start to finish by this game, though, and was begging me to come see the Pride again on the walk back to the car. We’ll be back as soon as we can. Hope to see you there.