The National Women's Soccer League never fails to enthrall and tonight, the Orlando Pride and Seattle Reign FC provided late fireworks for the neutral observer. The 1-1 draw leaves Seattle still with a chance to sneak into the playoffs while Orlando will be disappointed for throwing away their chance to seal a playoff berth tonight.
Defenses stand strong in the first half
In the first half, neither team could breach the defenses in front of them on a regular basis which meant there was very little goalmouth action to note. Seattle started the game strongly, earning corner kick in quick succession but were unable to take advantage of a slightly slow start by the home side. Seattle's best chance came in the 28th minute when Megan Rapinoe let loose from a long way out and all Ashlyn Harris could do to prevent the goal was parry it out. Fortunately for both her and the Pride, no Reign player had been following up Rapinoe's shot so Harris was able to collect the rebound with any trouble.
For Orlando, both Marta and Alex Morgan were effectively shut down by the Seattle defense and midfield which meant that other players within the Pride ranks had to step up and try to find their way to goal. Rachel Hill thought she was through on goal in the seventh minute but Scottish international, Rachel Corsie, stood firm and stripped the ball away from the rookie forward. Apart from the occasional set piece, the prolific Orlando attack could not find their rhythm against a stout Seattle defense.
Orlando push for a goal in the second half but it ends all square
The second half was a different story as the Pride began to carve the Seattle defense open. Hill was once again the would-be protagonist as her header cannoned off the crossbar from close range in the 47th minute, with the goal gaping in front of her. Two minutes later, Lydia Williams proved her trade worth as she saved a powerful shot from Camila even though she was unsighted by those in front of her and had to dive late to make the save. Orlando continue to keep Seattle penned in their own half but could not beat Williams who stood tall, time and time again.
As the game began to wind down, substitute Katie Johnson had Orlando hearts in mouths as she beat the Pride defenders for pace and got to the ball before an advancing Harris. Unfortunately for the Reign, the young striker lifted her shot over the crossbar. The opening goal did eventually come as Morgan was found in space out wide in the 93rd minute and finished low into the far post, past Williams outstretched attempt. With the fans still celebrating what they thought was the winning goal, the Orlando defenders fell asleep and allowed Nahomi Kawasumi to pick out Jess Fishlock in the box. The Welsh international directed a powerful header past Harris and sprinted off in absolute joy amidst inside a now quiet Orlando City Stadium.
The result keeps Orlando four points ahead of Seattle in that final playoff spot but the pressure is on for the Floridian side. They have two games left against Portland Thorns FC and the North Carolina Courage. Their task will not be made any easier with half of their team travelling to Australia to feature in the pair of friendlies that Australia have against Brazil during the international break. Seattle will come away with renewed belief that they can find a way into the playoffs, should Orlando slip up. They face both FC Kansas City and the Washington Spirit in their final two games and will be looking to keep an eye on the Pride's results as they battle it out for fourth place.