HARRISON, N.J. (Aug. 9, 2023) – Orlando Pride (0-4-2, 2 points) earned a 1-1 draw against NJ/NY Gotham FC (3-1-2, 11 points) on Wednesday night in the Club’s final UKG Challenge Cup match. The Pride will return to NWSL regular season play on Sunday, August 20 as they welcome the Chicago Red Stars to Exploria Stadium.
Rookie Messiah Bright found the back of the net for the Pride, counting as her fifth goal of the season across all NWSL competitions. She leads all NWSL rookies in goals across all competitions, with tonight’s goal serving as her first in Challenge Cup play.
Kerry Abello earned the assist on the goal, her first of the season and second of her professional career. Both of Abello’s assists have come in Challenge Cup play with her first coming back in the 2022 version of the tournament on April 16 against the North Carolina Courage.
The Pride almost found a late winner in second-half stoppage time after Summer Yates found Ally Watt get through the Gotham back line. Watt got the shot past the Gotham goalkeeper, but the ball hit the post and bounced away, keeping the score level.
32’ Messiah Bright (Kerry Abello) – ORL 1, NJNY 0
The Pride opened the scoring with Kerry Abello using her pace to find some space on the left side of the field and sent a ball into the box. The ball found the foot of a sliding Messiah Bright who was able to finish it off.
90+1’ Meleana Shim (Midge Purce) – ORL 1, NJNY 1
The home side were able to find a second-half stoppage time leveler when Midge Purce whipped a ball in and found Meleana Shim at the back post who was able to just put it over the line.
Head Coach Seb Hines:
“[The Challenge Cup has] been eventful. What it has allowed is, it's allowed a lot of players to get good minutes. It has allowed us to play in a competition midseason as well. I've been pleased with the progress that we've made, obviously, results haven't gone our way, but some of the performances have been brilliant. The attitude of the players has been great. It really showed today in today's game, we knew what was at stake for Gotham, but it was more about ourselves and getting back to what we're good at. I thought the first half performance was really good, we started the game fast, caused them a lot of problems. We deserved that goal from Messiah [Bright]. It was a great ball, great run from [Kerry] Abello on a great ball into a dangerous area, and Messiah [Bright] was there to put it in. We had a lot of good moments and luck hasn't gone our way. You look back in the second half, and there was obviously a goal that gets chopped off a handball, and you think, here we go again. Then they score really late on but we had enough to hold on for a draw. I think that's an important moment for us to not lose the game tonight after playing such a performance together today. I was really pleased with the players and their attitude. We need that to go into the, to the end of the season.”
- Messiah Bright scored her fifth goal of the season across all competitions and her first in Challenge Cup play.
- Kerry Abello recorded her first assist of the 2023 campaign and her second assist while donning a Pride jersey, both of which have come in the Challenge Cup.
- With the start and donning the captain’s armband, Haley McCutcheon made her 125th NWSL appearance across all competitions.
- Erika Tymrak made her 60th appearance for the Club with the start.
- Rookie Emily Madril made her 20th appearance in the NWSL across all competitions.
- Head Coach Seb Hines made five changes to the Starting XI, with McCutcheon, Megan Montefusco, Viviana Villacorta, Tymrak, and Bright all earning the starting nod.
The Pride will have a little bit of a break before returning to NWSL regular season play as they are set to welcome the Chicago Red Stars to Exploria Stadium on Sunday, August 20. Kickoff for that match is set for 7 p.m. and can be streamed on Paramount+.