Pugh’s late strike lifts Spirit to draw

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY AARON TOR­RES aaron.tor­res@wash­post.com

Mal­lory Pugh stood at the penalty spot, the roar of a crowd of 5,200 at the Mary­land Soc­cerPlex grow­ing. It was the 90th minute of a steamy af­ter­noon, and all that stood be­tween Pugh and an equal­iz­ing goal against Or­lando was goal­keeper Aubrey Bled­soe.

Bled­soe guessed cor­rectly — and still she had no chance. Pugh, the 19-year-old ris­ing star for the U.S. na­tional team, de­liv­ered a strike low to the left cor­ner. Bled­soe dove to the cor­rect side and got a hand on the shot but could not stop it as the Spirit sal­vaged a 2-2 draw. Pugh scored both Spirit goals, while Brazil­ian star Marta matched her with a pair for Or­lando.

“I was very proud of the team — that they were able to cre­ate chances go­ing into the fifth minute of in­jury time, and a bounce here and a bounce there and we come out of here with three points,” Spirit Coach Jim Gabarra said.

Or­lando (4-5-4) came in hav­ing scored seven goals in its past two road games and was be­gin­ning to in­te­grate U.S. star Alex Mor­gan into its at­tack. Mor­gan was play­ing in just her second game of the NWSL sea­son af­ter suf­fer­ing a ham­string in­jury last month while play­ing for her Euro­pean club, Olympique Ly­on­nais. Mor­gan was taken out in the 63rd minute. De­fender Ali Krieger, the for­mer Spirit cap­tain the team sur­pris­ingly traded to Or­lando for draft po­si­tion­ing last fall, played the en­tire game for the Pride.

The Spirit (3-6-3) came in with a two-match home shutout streak. That ended in the 10th minute when Or­lando mid­fielder Camila Martins Pereira drib­bled into the box and drew con­tact from Spirit de­fender Kassey Kall­man, re­sult­ing in a penalty. Marta, not Mor­gan, stepped up and took the kick, de­liv­er­ing a blast to the up­per right cor­ner as Wash­ing­ton goal­keeper Stephanie Labbe dove left.

Four­teen min­utes later, Pugh got Wash­ing­ton even. Mid­fielder Este­fa­nia Banini stole the ball at mid­field, drib­bled down the left side, then passed to for­ward Fran­cisca Ordega. Ordega no­ticed the right side of the field was wide open. Pugh saw it, too, and sprinted into space. Ordega’s cross was a lit­tle be­hind Pugh, who set­tled it and fired a low drive to beat Bled­soe.

“I thought for the first 25 min­utes we con­trolled the game, con­trolled the tempo, and then we go up and then we self-de­struc­ted,” Or­lando Coach Tom Ser­manni said.

Eleven min­utes into the second half, Marta gave Or­lando the lead again, cul­mi­nat­ing a run of sus­tained pres­sure from the Pride af­ter half­time. With the Spirit’s de­fense scram­bling, Marta had enough room to beat a div­ing Labbe from 21 yards out for her eighth goal of the sea­son, one be­hind league-leader Me­gan Rapi­noe of the Seat­tle Reign.

But Or­lando couldn’t fin­ish the deal.

In the 88th minute, Spirit sub­sti­tute Cheyna Wil­liams sent a pow­er­ful cross into the penalty area as Wash­ing­ton’s Kristie Mewis and Or­lando’s Toni Press­ley made plays on the ball. As Mewis went down, the ref­eree blew the whis­tle and pointed to the spot, set­ting the stage for Pugh.

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