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Pride clinching on hold after trading late goals with Reign

The Pride and Reign played more than 90 minutes of scoreless soccer before the fireworks started. Alex Morgan scored a 93rd minute goal that looked to be the Pride’s ticket to the NWSL playoffs but Jessica Fishlock equalized a minute later to put the clinching on hold. The 1-1 draw at Orlando City Stadium moved the Reign to within four points of the now 4th-place Red Stars, but the two points dropped leave them on the brink of missing out of the second season in a row. The Pride need two points or two dropped points by the Reign over the final two games to get in.

In a match moved up two days due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma, both teams came out looking for goals, but neither team could get on the board for much of the night. The Reign put on intense early pressure but could not come up with a shot on frame. The Pride quickly shifted momentum and nearly scored after a quarter hour when a Marta free kick was nearly headed into her own goal by Merritt Mathias.

The Reign’s best chance in the opening half came 26 minutes in when Fishlock slipped a ball through to Megan Rapinoe whose knuckling shot was saved by Ashlyn Harris. She gave up a rebound though which appeared to spin interminably near the top of the six. Alanna Kennedy eventually beat Mathias to it and dibbled it out of danger.

The Pride came out with two quality chances right out of halftime. In the 47th Camila delivered a cross to the far post that Rachel Hill only had to redirect. Hill somehow headed it off the crossbar and over top for a goal kick. A minute later, Camila took the shot, bending one with a ticket to the far post until an outstretched Lydia Williams knocked it away.

The real fun began in stoppage time. Morgan’s goal came from very little. Several players from both sides knocked the ball around in midfield and it eventually fell to the feet of Dani Weatherhot. She knocked it through to Morgan who beat a surprised looking Lydia Williams with a softly hit but well placed shot on the ground and to the far post.

Barely a minute later, Nahomi Kawasumi had space on the right flank and sent a cross to about 8 yards out. Fishlock flew in and headed it in to snatch the point for the Reign.

Both teams nowhit the FIFA break before resuming their seasons in two weeks. The Pride host the Thorns on September 23 still needing two points—or two points dropped by the Reign—to get into the playoffs. The Reign (8-7-7, 31 pts) host Kansas City on September 24. They need at least 4 points from their final two matches plus help from the Pride or Red Stars to return to the playoffs. With their two points dropped the Red Stars will now clinch a playoff berth if they beat FC Kansas City on Saturday.

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