Greetings, friends, and welcome to the first installment of Points of Pride. Each week, I’ll give three takeaways, two match quotes, and one point to look for going forward into the next match. For the first edition, the Orlando Pride hosted the Utah Royals FC in the Pride home opener and first-ever match for the Royals.
At the final whistle, the score was a 1-1 draw, which sees Tom Sermanni’s side claim an opening day point for the first time in its three year history. Laura Harvey’s side is going home feeling hard done by the referee and the questionable penalty kick which allowed Marta to equalize for the home side. Let’s look at my three takeaways from the game:
Most people will be talking about the referee instead of the game
The biggest takeaway for most people is going to be the performance of the referee, Danielle Chesky, who was also in the spotlight as the head referee for last season’s NWSL championship match. For most folks, the penalty awarded to the Pride on a supposed Becky Sauerbrunn handball—on the replay, the ball seemed to hit Sauerbrunn in the face—was the wrong call. It allowed the Pride to equalize when the team’s defensive lapse in the third minute had given Gunny Jonsdottir the opportunity to give the visitors the opening goal. After the match, Chesky answered the pool reporter’s questions by stating she “had a clear view of the incident” and referring to Sauerbrunn, said, “the arms were in an unnatural position and was determined to deliberately handle the ball” [sic]. The Utah defender was also issued a yellow card for unsporting behavior.
Orlando Pride looked disjointed
The expectation coming into the season for Orlando was the offense was going to pick up where it left off last season as the highest-scoring team in the league. However, there was little rhythm in the ball moment for the Pride, and many times instead of turning and going for goal the team would turn and play the ball back. Instead of growing into the game, Orlando seemed unsure at times, missing passes and getting dispossessed. In the second half, once Alex Morgan was subbed out due to a head injury, Sermanni’s side was only able to generate two shots, one being on target. He addressed this post-match, attributing the lack of sharpness to a short preseason and players still getting to know each other.
A point is still a point
Prior to this season, the Pride have started on the road in Portland. Each trip to Providence Park left the Pride with a road loss and zero points to show for it. This time around, the schedule makers decided to have an NWSL championship rematch with the Courage hosting the Thorns, which left Orlando free to host league newcomer Utah. Regardless what some fans may think after yesterday’s performance, the Pride is happy to start the season with one point heading to Maryland to take on the rebuilt Washington Spirit.
Two Quotes From the Game
Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni: “When you consider we had five new starters on the field tonight, when you consider we virtually, like most teams, had no preseason, I’m satisfied that we’ve come out and kept our run in the league going from last year and not losing the game. That was important. We’re one point better off than we’ve been at the start of the first two seasons in the league.”
Utah Royals FC Head Coach Laura Harvey: “I mean, I don’t want to get fined, but it’s hard to come here and not come away with three points when you concede the penalty that we did. What I don’t get is how the linesman watches the replay and still gives it. It blows my mind. So I don’t want to get fined, but it just has to be better and every year we say the same. Every year we’re told that they’ve been better… I just don’t get it… and Becky Sauerbrunn literally has a Nike swoosh on her face. It’s tough.”
One Thought for Next Week
The Orlando Pride will be without the services of Brazilian internationals Marta, Monica, and Poliana as they depart to join their national team for World Cup qualifying at Copa America Femenina for CONMEBOL. The team might be further shorthanded if star striker Alex Morgan—who left the game shortly before halftime after a blow to the head with a collision with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith—isn’t cleared for play next week. While the team is sure to announce more national team replacement player signings, there was a lack of offense in the first match and coach Sermanni is going to have to evaluate the health of his squad to see who will be able to provide the goals needed to get results. Additional pressure will be placed on Sydney Leroux, especially if there’s no Morgan to play off of in the final third. Where will the goals be coming from when the expectations for this offense are so high?
There you have it: the three, two, one for the first week of Points of Pride. Let’s hope for smoother sailing at the ‘plex for the women in purple.
If you want more of thought of Luis you can tune in to Quick Kicks. Quick Kicks is live on YouTube every Tuesday at 8:30 pm ET.