PORTLAND, Ore. (April 17, 2016) - Orlando Pride (0-1-0, 0 points) launched its inaugural National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season against Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park in front of 16,073 spectators and over 15,000 online viewers on Sunday evening. Australian international Steph Catley made history, opening the Pride’s scoring sheet, however, the home team walked away with a 2-1 victory.
“Overall I was delighted with the players, I was delighted with their effort, delighted with the way they played. To be honest in the last 15 minutes or so I thought we were the team that was more likely to score. Obviously very disappointed that we lost the game because I thought they deserved something,” said Head Coach Tom Sermanni. “To be honest I was a bit apprehensive about tonight because I didn't know what to expect, and Portland did a fantastic job.”
“Outside of Seattle, this was our most difficult away trip. [Portland’s] a team that’s been together and they have a lot of international players, so when I judge the game overall, I think we had a fantastic effort and players can be really proud of what they did tonight.”
Much like the Pride’s Major League Soccer counterpart’s inaugural match in March 2015 – when Brazilian playmaker Kaka scored the team’s first goal through a free kick – Catley capitalized on her free kick scoring opportunity when she fired a hard shot on a set piece that ricocheted off the wall to beat the Thorns’ Michelle Betos.
NWSL rookie Dagny Brynjarsdottir responded for the home side, rifling home a cross from U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Tobin Heath in the 25th minute. Off a free kick, Heath redirected the ball toward the middle with one touch, and Brynjarsdottir was able to beat Ashlyn Harris.
Portland then added its second goal of the night, the eventual game-winner, on another goal created by Heath’s crafty touch. Midfielder Allie Long looked to chip a ball over the Pride’s backline, who caught the Thorns offsides seven times in a their debut, but a difficult clearance led to the ball in front of Heath.The midfielder quickly volleyed the ball over to USWNT teammate Lindsey Horan, who beat Harris from eight-yards out.
Sermanni started a pacey lineup that kept the Thorns’ defensive line in check with Jasmyne Spencer, Alex Morgan and Kristen Edmonds at the top - leading an offense that outshot the Thorns 15-11.
In the final 10 minutes, Morgan looked to score her first goal of 2016 against her former club, being setup on a well-paced throughball but Betos was able to turn away the close-range shot.
Former Santa Clara University midfielder Dani Weatherholt, who Pride signed last week, made her professional career debut subbing in for Maddy Evans in the 71st minute.
Australian centerback Laura Alleway had perhaps the best opportunity for Orlando’s second goal when she rocketed a 30-yard free kick, only to be kept out by the upper stanchion in the ninth minute.
After the cross-country journey, the Pride will finally debut in front of its home crowd on Saturday, April 23, when Carli Lloyd and the Houston Dash come to the Orlando Citrus Bowl for a 7:30 p.m. contest.