With a playoff spot on the line for both the Orlando Pride, it was the Pride that took the advantage in the race for the Top Four in the National Women's Soccer League, thanks to a game-winning goal by Kristen Edmonds.
Amy Rodriguez and Alex Morgan had gotten onto the score sheet in the first half but it was Edmonds' goal against the run of the play that gave Orlando a much-needed win to put their playoff race back on track.
Utah and Orlando trade goals in the first half
There was not a lot of goal-mouth action in the first half but both teams did manage to find the back of the net. Utah opened the scoring first in the eighth minute thanks to a smart finish by Amy Rodriguez. After a corner kick by Utah, Katie Bowen retrieved the ball and drove it back forward towards Rachel Corsie who brought the ball down well before looking for a teammate. She found Rodriguez with a lobbed ball and Rodriguez took it first time, chipping Ashlyn Harris for the first goal of the game.
Orlando did come back into the game despite going down so early and almost came back on level terms in the 18th minute had it not been for Abby Smith. Chioma Ubogagu jinxed her way past her marker and then passed the ball off to Dani Weatherholt who then played the ball to Alex Morgan's feet. Morgan turned and fired off her shot but Smith made a great point blank save to keep her team in front. Orlando would find their way back into the game late in the first half as Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir held Alanna Kennedy during a corner kick and referee Reyna Fonseca pointed to the spot. After a long delay and some gamesmanship from Smith, Morgan stepped forward and thumped the ball into the top corner, equalizing for Orlando.
A sucker-punch goal shifts momentum back to Orlando
At the start of the second half, it seemed as though it would only be a matter of time before Utah went back in front. They had Orlando backing further and further into their own half and honestly should have been in front in the 46th minute. Christen Press broke quickly forward on the counter and played the ball into the channel for Rodriguez to run on to. Unlike her finish in the first half, Rodriguez got her chip horribly wrong and threw away a great chance for Utah to pen Orlando back.
That miss by Rodriguez would come back to haunt the Royals as Orlando found what turned out to be the game-winning foal in the 46th minute. Ali Krieger, who was making her 100th NWSL appearance today, played the ball down the line for Kristen Edmonds. Edmonds spotted Smith off her line and lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper from a long way out. That goal took the air out of Utah's sails and they never recovered from it.
Rachel Hill was the next to presented with a great chance to score when she intercepted a pass between Sydney Miramontez and Corsie deep in their own half. However, Hill dallied too long on the ball and Corsie got back to nick the ball off of Hill with only Smith to beat. Utah's backline continued to falter and almost handed Orlando another goal through some sloppy play by Smith in the 65th minute. The Utah goalkeeper raced out to clear a ball but made a complete hash of it and substitute Sydney Leroux had the goal gaping for her. Had Corsie not made another big save, heading the ball with the slightest of touches, away from her goal, Leroux would have had her seventh goal of the season.
As Orlando's midfield began to block Utah's passing lanes and isolate Press in areas that she could not be effective, they looked to the speed of Leroux and Hill to counter against a high Utah backline. Abby Smith had to be removed from the game after a challenge in the 67th minute made her fall awkwardly on her head and she was replaced by Nicole Barnhart. Leroux went after Barnhart almost immediately, testing her at her near post but the experienced goalkeeper did not blink and made a solid block.Both teams had half chances as time wore down but neither of them could find the telling touch or finish to add another goal to the game.
With the loss, Utah are now on the outside looking in and will now have to find a way to win against a rampant North Carolina Courage next. Orlando on the other hand, are back in the top four spots in the standings and have a potentially season-defining game against Seattle Reign FC next up.