Sydney Leroux scores game-winner, Orlando Pride remain unbeaten

Orlando, Florida, USA, May 26, 2021, Orlando Pride’s Sydney Leroux #2 and Alex Morgan #13 Celebrate with teammates after scoring second goal of the match at Exploria Stadium (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

ORLANDO – The Orlando Pride (2-0-2, 7 points) defeated the Portland Thorns (1-2-0, 3 points) at Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night in front of over 3,000 fans.

The win keeps Orlando’s unbeaten run going as the group of soccer stars continue to get used to playing together. This is only the second time that the Pride have beaten the Thorns. The win temporarily puts Orlando in first place, but other teams in contention for the top have yet to play this week.

The Pride started the scoring when Alex Morgan took an perfect chip from Taylor Korniak over the Portland back line and blasted it on the bounce straight into the right side-netting for the finish. This was Morgan’s third goal in as many matches, and her best start in a Pride uniform.

Orlando, Florida, USA, May 26, 2021, Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan #13 makes a goal attempt at Exploria Stadium (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

The Thorns finally scored in the 42nd minute when Simone Charley caught a cross from Natalia Kuikka from the right flank and hit a header at the far post for the equalizer.

Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner says it’s more than just goals for this team.

“I think tonight’s win is bigger than a result on the field. It’s a moment where a group is choosing to come together and they’re choosing that their destiny lies within their own hands.” Skinner said. “They’re putting performances on where we might not necessarily be the best footballing team at times, but we are grinding together, we are working together and those are the foundations we want. For us it’s that togetherness, that commitment, that energy as a group that I am just the most proud coach as I could be for that. The football stuff we can critique, but the energy and the commitment to each other and the commitment to die for each other on the field is what wins you games like that and that’s what we had tonight and that’s what we’re going to continue to build.”

Orlando, Florida, USA, May 26, 2021, Portland Thorns forward Crystal dunn #19 makes a goal attempt at Exploria Stadium (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Portland came out aggressively and was on the attack in the beginning of the game, and Orlando do pulled back and had solid defensive footing. At the half, the Pride went into the locker room angry that they had given up the tying goal.

“There was some yelling, there was some anger,” said Leroux about what happened at halftime. “We knew that we had to come out and we had to come out strong and early. It always feels good to get a goal early and then you’re able to play a little bit more. So, we were on the front foot for, I mean, the 45th minute on.”

After a long ball forward, Leroux was fighting for the ball with Kelli Hubly. Hubly won the battle, got the ball, and dribbled back towards her own net. Running out of options, it appeared Hubly would try to send the ball back to goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. But Leroux got to the ball first, sliding and stabbing the ball past Franch and into the net. Orlando took a 2-1 lead.

Orlando, Florida, USA, May 26, 2021, Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger #11 defends the ball during the match at Exploria Stadium (Photo Credit: Marty Jean-Louis)

Portland kept the pressure on the Pride. The Thorns were unable to get past Orlando’s back line, as McClernon and Ali Krieger defended well and kept the Thorns attackers in check.

The Pride are back in action on Sunday at home against Kansas City at 6 p.m.

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