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Orlando one step closer to playoffs with win over FC Kansas City

Alex Morgan scored for the fifth game in a row to lead Orlando one step closer to the playoffs, while FC Kansas City’s winning streak was ended as the Pride took a 2-1 victory on the road.

FC Kansas City came out with a strong press that initially caused Orlando some problems. The Pride had a hard time playing out of the back, and FCKC was there to jump on second balls. However, when Orlando did get the ball into their attacking third, they created early chances. A Marta free kick in the 5th minute after a foul outside the box went just inches wide of the net.

In the 16th minute, FCKC conceded a series of three corners. After the initial clearance on the third one, Steph Catley recycled the ball back into the box, where another clearance fell to Monica. Her shot deflected off of Becky Sauerbrunn and fell right to the feet of Chioma Ubogagu, who was open. Her touch beat Nicole Barnhart to put the Pride up.

The game continued with neither team getting any solid attack built up until the hydration break in the 31st minute. Afterward, FCKC came out with renewed energy and controlled the rest of the half. In the 35th minute, Katie Bowen found space on the left flank. She sent a diagonal ball into the box that missed Shea Groom but went right to the feet of Sydney Leroux, who had shaken her defender. Leroux would have been clear on goal against Ashlyn Harris, but a poor first touch sent the ball away from her and allowed Ali Krieger to clear.

Shortly before halftime, FCKC had another chance. After Leroux did some solo work to keep the attack going, Groom sent in a curling ball over the Pride backline to Lo’eau LaBonta, who was kept onside by Kristen Edmonds and sent the ball through the legs of Harris with a great finish.

Much like the first hydration break, the halftime break recharged one of the teams, but this time it was Orlando. They came out with intent and controlled much more of the ball, although FCKC continued to look dangerous on counterattacks. However, much of the half was played out in the midfield, with neither team able to find the final ball to test the keepers.

That changed starting in the 71st minute. With Bowen down on the pitch, Marta served a rocket of a ball from the upper left corner of the box. Morgan brought it down off her chest, turned, and attempted a left-footed shot as she was falling, but Barnhart was there to make the save.

After a series of attacking substitutions, the Pride switched to a three-back formation with Monica and Toni Pressley on either side of Krieger, hoping to add width with Steph Catley and Camila as the wingbacks. They continued to dominate the attack, but it took a poor decision from FCKC to foul that gave them their next opportunity.

In the 87th minute, Marta took a free kick from the right side of the box. Getting free of Yael Averbuch, Morgan leapt into the air to meet it, redirecting it toward goal with a flick of her left foot with her back to net. Barnhart managed to get her gloves up but wasn’t fast enough to catch the ball, instead deflecting it into the net.

The referee signaled for a whopping seven minutes of stoppage time, which were nearly all FCKC. The home side pushed fast and furious for a late equalizer, with Leroux in particular doing everything she could to get her team a result. Megan Kelly had the best chance, sending a superb Leroux cross just wide of the net. Catley nearly gifted FCKC a goal when an awkward touch sent the ball back toward her own net instead of clearing it, but it went wide. Krieger put in some solid defensive work as FCKC launched everyone but Barnhart forward on a multitude of corners and helped her team see out the game.

Now on a four-game winning streak, Orlando sits in fourth place, two points above Seattle and tied with Chicago, who is in third. They host the Boston Breakers next weekend. FCKC will remain in seventh place and hosts Sky Blue next week.

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