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Yanez, Marta add goals in Reign-Pride draw

Marta scored a second-half equalizer to help the Orlando Pride earn a point on the road in Seattle.

It may not have been a tale of two halves, but for the Orlando Pride, it was a tale of two goalkeepers as the Seattle Reign (2-1-3, 9 points) and Orlando Pride (1-2-3, 6 points) battled to a 1-1 draw in the final matchup of Week 6.

After Week 5 performances that saw both the Reign and Pride score multiple goals to earn three points each (and the first win of 2017 for the Pride), many fans may have been expecting another goal-fest when the two teams squared off this week. However, that was not to be the case, as both teams were only able to find the back of the net one time each: Beverly Yanez put the Reign on the board late in the first half, while Marta scored the equalizer early in the second half.

Although it was a low-scoring game, that’s not for a lack of opportunity by either side. In the 9th minute, Jasmyne Spencer, who was once again in the Pride XI in place of the injured Chioma Ubogagu, received the ball in front of the defense but managed to put a heavily weighted touch to split the defenders and break through the Reign backline. Spencer took a shot on goal, but Reign keeper Haley Kopmeyer was able to dive to get a hand on the ball, with Jess Fishlock finally clearing it out from in front of goal in the Pride’s first real attempt of the night.

Moments later, the Reign switched the field, sending a long ball to Nahomi Kawasumi on the right side of the field. Kawasumi moved the ball down the field and, with plenty of time, patiently controlled the ball before sending a cross into Christine Nairn, but Nairn’s shot was well off target.

After some more back and forth between the two sides, Camila took a shot from distance, but it was far off the mark. That was followed a few minute later by Marta, who took a shot from close range from within a sea of blue jerseys only to have it sail over the crossbar.

The match took a turn for the worse for the Pride about 25 minutes in when starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris went down holding her hip after taking a goal kick. She stayed down in obvious pain for a few minutes before finally walking off the field. In her place came former Reign and Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, who signed with the Pride earlier this week after backup goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe was sidelined with a concussion. Stanley was immediately called into action, stopping a close-range header from Jess Fishlock to prevent the Reign from instantly capitalizing on the goalkeeper change.

Seattle finally got on the board at the end of the first half when Megan Rapinoe played a ball in from near the corner. Stanley came off her line to try to punch Rapinoe’s ball clear, but she was unable to get to it because of the traffic in in the box. Rachel Corsie was in position to get a foot on the ball and, despite a bad touch, slipped it past Stanley, who was well off her line and falling to the pitch. The ball didn’t seem to have the pace or direction to make it into the goal, but Bev Yanez was there to redirect the ball and send it into the net for the match’s opening goal.

Marta became especially dangerous in the final minutes of the first half, especially during stoppage time, as she tried to create opportunities for an Orlando equalizer. She fought through the Reign defense while trying to move towards goal, only to be fouled and earn a free kick within scoring distance. The set piece was ineffective, but soon Marta was once again driving down the left flank looking for a teammate to play the cross into, but the ball was blocked by Corsie. When the halftime whistle blew, the Reign were still leading, 1-0.

However, Marta came out for the second half with the same determination and tenacity she possessed in the first. She had a dangerous shot on goal just five minutes into the second half, but Kopmeyer took to the air to deny the Brazilian international from scoring. That would not be the case just minutes later when Camila intercepted a bad giveaway by Kopmeyer to turn the ball over. She took a heavy touch, which Marta ran onto before sending a rocket in past Kopmeyer to level the score.

Jasmyne Spencer nearly put the Pride in the lead after a ball that Kopmeyer had punched clear landed at her feet, and Spencer sent a hard shot right at Kopmeyer, who easily made the stop. Less than 10 minutes later, Pride fans once again held their breaths as Kristen Edmonds hit the turf after taking a bad clearance to the head from close range. Edmonds was shaken up for a few minutes and slow to stand, but she eventually walked off the field on her own, only to come right back in.

Marta nearly had an assist in the 74th minute when she sent a pass to Camila, who then fired off a shot that sailed just over the crossbar. The Brazilian duo had been connecting all night to maintain possession and generate opportunities for themselves and their teammates on goal, but they could only use their chemistry to produce the one goal between the two of them on the night.

As the final minutes of the match ticked down, it was Rapinoe’s turn to try to desperately find the back of the net, this time for a last-minute Seattle game winner. She took two shots in quick succession, both of which sailed well off the mark, putting no danger on Stanley where she stood in goal.

Kawasumi, who had a little bit of a quieter night compared to her record-breaking performance last weekend against the Spirit, nearly put the Reign back in the lead just before second-half stoppage time. Katie Johnson, who had subbed in for Christine Nairn in the 64th minute, went up against Ali Krieger and beat the defender as she fell to the pitch. Johnson played the ball to Kawasumi, whose shot hit the post to deny Seattle a second goal.

Although she conceded a goal late in the first half, it was Stanley who kept the Pride in the game late in the second half. The Reign were hungry for a second goal, and the Pride goal was peppered with shots on target in the final 15 minutes of the match. Stanley made a number of stops and saves to prevent the Reign from finding a game winner and helping the Pride walk away with a hard-fought point on the road.

Both teams return to action on Saturday, May 27. Seattle travels to Houston to take on the Dash in the Lifetime Game of the Week, while the Pride continue the road-heavy portion of their schedule and travel to New Jersey to take on second-ranked Sky Blue FC.

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