Orlando Pride start regular season with disheartening home loss to NJ/NY Gotham FC – Orlando Sentinel

It was supposed to be a new start for the Orlando Pride. Following a disappointing 2021 season and 2022 Challenge Cup, the start of the NWSL season offered supposedly a fresh chance to get off on the right foot.

Unfortunately, the Pride conceded three goals in the final 17 minutes of the first half, losing 3-0 to Gotham FC on Sunday night at Exploria Stadium. The match marked the most goals conceded by the Pride on opening day in team history, and they have still never won their first game of a regular season in their seven-year history.

This was the third game the two sides had played against each other over the last month following a 1-0 loss to Gotham in March and a 1-1 draw just a week ago.

“I thought we started well again. I think we had some of our best building moments out of the back and created some chances early on the first 30,” coach Amanda Cromwell said. “Right before their first goal, we had some chances, but we can’t let one goal affect us like that. We have to be mentally resilient in those moments.”

Orlando had most of the chances leading up to the 29th minute. Kerry Abello, Leah Pruitt and Darian Jenkins created chances out wide while Gunny Jonsdottir almost finished off one of those opportunities in the 20th minute.

Those missed chances set the tone that came back to haunt the team as the Pride conceded a set-piece goal to McCall Zerboni in the 29th minute.

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It got worse just two minutes later when on a throw-in the Pride allowed Midge Purse to run in on goal uncontested, getting the ball past keeper Erin McLeod for a 2-0 lead.

Kristie Mewis added a third tally just before the half, taking advantage of missed marking by the Pride.

“It’s been a theme for a few games now,” midfielder Angharad James said. “I think we’re still at the learning stage and we’re still trying to gel as a team. We’re a pretty new team; new coaches, new setup, new philosophy. So it’s gonna take awhile to adapt to that and I think we’ve all got to take responsibility, both players and coaches, and be better for the next game.”

Orlando’s substitutes for the second half could not beat former Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris.

Viviana Villacorta made her professional debut in the 72nd minute. The midfielder had not played a competitive minute since her senior season at UCLA when she tore her ACL in February 2021.

Timber Creek High grad Carrie Lawrence made her NWSL regular-season debut after playing in just the Challenge Cup for the last two seasons. Lawrence signed with the Pride in 2020 but missed almost all of last season due to injury.

“She’s worked extremely hard to get back,” Cromwell said. “You can see probably just by her movement, she’s fit. She only played 20 minutes but she’s fit, she’s agile, she’s quick. I think she reads the game very well. She’s someone that I think has the sophistication in the midfield to come in and help us and in and out of possession. She’s very dynamic.”

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