It was 90’s night in Orlando, and the Pride showed up coming off of the international break with a renewed sense of purpose that initially caught the Chicago Red Stars off guard. While both teams had limited availability from their Tournament of Nations internationals, they each had dangerous moments, but failed to close the game out for either side.
The match started with Orlando on the front foot, earning a chance on goal in the 6th minute that found only the crossbar denying an early Alex Morgan header, in from a cross from Chioma Ubogagu. With Orlando retaining much of the possession in the early going, the back and forth play between the two teams always seemed to be leaning in the Pride’s favor, and this culminated in another chance for Morgan, who slotted home a quick pass from Jasmyne Spencer in the 24th minute, putting the Pride up 1-0.
— NWSL (@NWSL) August 6, 2017
Orlando didn’t let up after their initial strike, with a high flying shot from Jamia Fields going over the crossbar in the 35th minute, and Fields pushing forward again with a goal-shaking attempt that was thwarted by the post in the 37th minute. This was the final flurry of activity for the first half, other than the odd Orlando shot from distance, which found Chicago fortunate to not to be in a greater hole, having struggled to put any shots on target despite coming out of the half with the majority of possession.
The second half began with much more energy from Chicago, not least because of a halftime substitution made for the Red Stars that put Stephanie McCaffrey in for Sarah Gorden. Mccaffrey worked in a more linking, attacking role than Gorden (who was tasked with holding down the right flank to account for the unavailability of Casey Short), and she showed a flair in taking attackers on 1v1 that she’d been missing in her limited minutes for Chicago this year. This created more continuity in the midfield for the Red Stars, and attackers Sofia Huerta and Jen Hoy started to look quite a bit less cut off from the action as the half progressed. This put together the opportunity for Huerta to fire a rocket into the upper left 90 of the Orlando goal in the 53rd minute that drew Chicago level at 1-1.
— NWSL (@NWSL) August 6, 2017
In the following 15 minutes, it started to seem that Chicago was starting to take hold of the match, especially as international legs began to fade, but Orlando came back with a fury in the 86th minute with a number of corner kicks that Chicago struggled repeatedly to clear, and the Pride hit the post a third and final time. In the ensuing scramble the Pride could argue that they were robbed of a penalty kick opportunity from an Arin Gilliland handball that ultimately went uncalled by the referee, allowing the match to end in a 1-1 draw.
The urgency in this match seemed to work for both teams in tandem with their respective places in the NWSL table. Chicago rested many of their star players, and allowed their depth to shine through, while Orlando came out looking for the opportunity to make up points, finally getting one from a stingy Red Stars team. These strategies could have lasting effects, as Chicago will host Portland next week in a possible play-off preview, and Orlando will have to utilize their own depth as they take on the Washington Spirit on Tuesday evening.