It’s not how you start but how you finish. The Orlando Pride players were not happy with their performance, especially in the first half, but striker Sydney Leroux found the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time as Orlando pulled out a 1-1 draw against Racing Louisville FC in a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) match on Friday at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
“I wouldn’t say we had a very good game but I think we battled, and we battled to the last minute,” Leroux said.
Louisville forward Ebony Salmon scored the opening goal in the match.
Both teams got off to a slow start in the first half, though Louisville dictated much of the tempo and forced Orlando to control the ball and counter when the opportunity presented itself. The lackluster play did lead to Salmon’s tally in the 21st minute. It was her third goal in the past five matches.
Orlando defender Ali Riley expressed frustration at her team’s first-half performance.
“I think we had a very poor first half in terms of winning our individual battles,” she said. “The one-on-ones was too easy as our organization was all over the place. They looked like a World Cup team, you know, and we looked like amateurs.
“And we brought it in the second half. Luckily it wasn’t too late for the three points, and I think those would have been very important, but thanks to Syd, thanks to an amazing battle there at the end and Ash coming up big I think. So, good to get the point. Good that they didn’t come away from our home with three points, but it’s not good enough.”
The second half remained choppy and physical between the two sides, with both teams making all five of their respective substitutions. A set-piece play allowed Orlando one final look on goal during stoppage time as goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris served the ball into play, flicked on by Taylor Kornieck, and it landed in the box to a waiting Leroux.
Leroux echoed her teammates’ sentiment after the match, saying the overall performance wasn’t enough despite the dramatic finish to walk away with a point.
“I think we left a lot of gaps for them to play in between us and that’s something that we’ll look at going forward,” she said.
“But I’m proud. We came back and we got to point. But there are definitely some things to look at.”
Orlando closed out the match with eight total shots compared to five from Louisville and they recorded two attempts on target versus one from the visiting opposition.
The narrow draw means Orlando are back in second place on the league table, while Louisville are nestled into seventh place. The Pride bid farewell to their final Olympian as Riley heads off to Tokyo with the New Zealand women’s national team. Orlando will face OL Reign on July 24 and Louisville will host Washington Spirit on July 25.