The Or­lando Pride

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Jor­dan Cul­ver Pro Soc­cer USA

hurt their play­off chances with a 2-0 loss to Port­land, dis­ap­point­ing a home crowd of more than 6,000.

Or­lando Pride coach Tom Ser­manni couldn’t be his usual up­beat self af­ter Sat­ur­day’s loss to the Port­land Thorns.

He tried. The coach tried to in­ject some hu­mor where he could. But the dis­ap­point­ment over Sat­ur­day night’s loss, dur­ing which the Pride strug­gled to start the sec­ond half, col­ored ev­ery an­swer he gave dur­ing his post-match news con­fer­ence.

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week, he was per­plexed af­ter watch­ing his club for 90 min­utes.

With a chance to cre­ate some sep­a­ra­tion be­tween them­selves and the other teams vy­ing for the three re­main­ing NWSL play­off spots, the Pride came up short.

Or­lando (8-7-6, 30 points) started strong but fell 2-0 to the Port­land Thorns (9-6-5, 32 points) af­ter giv­ing up two quick goals in the sec­ond half on Sat­ur­day in front of an an­nounced crowd of 6,012 at Or­lando City Sta­dium.

“Some­body must have drugged them at half­time,” Ser­manni said when asked what was the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two halves. “Did some­body put some­thing in the wa­ter at half­time? That’s prob­a­bly all I can think [of ].

“I wish I knew. I re­ally wish I

knew. I thought by the end of the first half the game was nicely bal­anced. We knew it was go­ing to be tight and then … just sud­denly, there’s two goals. … You think, ‘Well, where did those two goals sud­denly come from?’ I hon­estly, gen­uinely, I do not know the an­swer.” Ser­manni wasn’t done. “I know that we’ve got [a lot] of per­ceived star play­ers,” Ser­manni said, throw­ing his hands in the air when he said “per­ceived.”

“To be hon­est, the sec­ond half was abysmal in ev­ery re­gard.”

It was the best crowd for a Pride match in Or­lando City Sta­dium since more than 9,000 peo­ple showed up for Or­lando’s sea­son opener.

“I apol­o­gize to the crowd for com­ing out and keep­ing sup­port­ing us be­cause our team on the field didn’t de­serve that sup­port in the sec­ond half,” Ser­manni said.

“I didn’t see any­thing in that sec­ond half to re­ally give me much cheer.”

The Or­lando Pride’s play­off chances — at least for now — rest in the hands of other clubs.

With the loss, the Pride fall to fourth place in the NWSL ta­ble and must hope the Chicago Red Stars fall on Wed­nes­day to the Seat­tle Reign, or Ser­manni’s crew will drop out of the play­off pic­ture. Even if the Red Stars lose, they’ll still have one more game left to play than the Pride.

Af­ter Wed­nes­day’s match, the Red Stars will have four matches re­main­ing this sea­son while the Pride have just three.

A fairly even match be­tween Or­lando and Port­land Sat­ur­day gave way to a dom­i­nant sec­ond half from the Thorns.

“This is the path we’ve cho­sen,” Pride goal­keeper Ash­lyn Harris said. “We’ve got to deal with it and we’ve got to move on.”

Port­land opened the scor­ing in the 47th minute off a short cor­ner. For­ward Tobin Heath quickly played the ball in, re­ceived it back and crossed it from the left side of the penalty area. The ball bounced once in­side the six­yard box be­fore mid­fielder Lindsey Ho­ran got her foot on it and tapped it in.

Six min­utes later, the Thorns dou­bled their lead.

Christine Sin­clair won a ball in the air, head­ing it to striker Ana Maria Crnogorce­vic, who headed it to Hay­ley Raso. The winger re­ceived the ball and blew by cen­ter­backs Toni Press­ley and Alanna Kennedy be­fore beat­ing Pride goal­keeper Ash­lyn Harris in the 53rd minute.

Port­land en­joyed 64 per­cent of the pos­ses­sion in the sec­ond half and fired 12 shots (two of which were on tar­get). Ser­manni said the Pride were lucky to come away with a 2-0 loss.

Or­lando got off to a promis­ing start.

The Pride — as usual — came out fir­ing and won four cor­ners within the first 10 min­utes of the match. The early push con­tin­ued through the 15th minute, but then the Pride started to wilt and the Thorns found their foot­ing when Or­lando didn’t open the scor­ing.

“I think the first half, we were re­ally com­mit­ted to the game plan and our com­mit­ment to for­ward and our com­mit­ment to de­fend was some of the best I’ve ever seen,” Harris said. “The un­for­tu­nate part about the game is if you don’t pro­duce and you don’t put chances away, this is what hap­pens.

“We had them by the throat prob­a­bly the first 10 min­utes and we just didn’t cap­i­tal­ize. As we let the game wear on and wear on and wear on, the mo­men­tum clearly shifts and we had one lack of con­cen­tra­tion and it cost us the game and we just men­tally crum­bled.”

The Pride re­turn on Sat­ur­day against the first-place North Carolina Courage. The Pride are 0-2-2 against the Courage this sea­son and lost 3-0 to them in June.

Or­lando Pride cen­ter­back Alanna Kennedy, cen­ter, fights to poke the ball away from Port­land Thorns mid­fielder Tobin Heath Sat­ur­day night. ISI PHO­TOS

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