The first match-up on the third Saturday of the NWSL regular season on May 14th saw a 2-2 draw between the Orlando Pride and the Kansas City Current, earning both teams 1 point. Both teams came to the pitch with something to prove: the Pride was riding off their first win since September of 2021 and was hoping to secure a home-opening winning match while the Current was seeking redemption after two consecutive shutouts. The tension created by these two teams and their insatiable hunger to win came to fruition in a draw, all four goals happening in the explosive and intense second half.
The kickoff prompted a strong opening presence from the Pride with an impressive run by Courtney Peterson who sent a cross towards the back post in the 2nd minute, not finding the back of the net. Peterson saw some more action in the 7th minute, as she played a ball into Darian Jenkins who was making an impressive run forward. This picked up the pace and saw a strong attacking presence for the Pride.
In the 9th minute, the Pride exploited their early dominance with their first attempt on-goal off a set piece. A free kick from interim captain Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdottir found Celia Jiménez in the box and was crossed to Sydney Leroux whose header was saved by AD Franch. This attack not only showed a confident start from the Orlando team but was also followed by some fresh defense, which had not been seen before from the team with many attacking players dropping back to defense, something coach Amanda Cromwell said the team was hoping to develop going into the regular season.
Leroux’s quick run in the 11th minute was expertly blocked by the Current’s Jenna Winebrenner. In the 14th minute, a free-kick from Kristen Edmonds served as the first real threat from the Current in the match and was saved by Erin McLeod, her first save of many in this game. Orlando continued their strong attacking streak in the 17th minute with a show by Celia that was driven wide. The quick turnaround by the Current saw McLeod saving a Victoria Pickett to McCain connection in the box.
While the Pride saw some great chances early in this first half, they gave up a chance at the first goal in the 22nd minute in a 1v1 between Leah Pruitt and Franch, missing a wide-open Leroux as the ball was driven wide.
As the first half went on the Current gained some traction in their attacking third with an impressive play in the 44th minute. Edmonds sent a beautiful cross to Lo’eau LaBonta who took the shot but was blocked out from an incredible save by McLeod. The Current was seeking to use that one minute of stoppage time to continue putting pressure on the Pride, and a dangerous corner kick in the 45th minute saw a threatening header from Addie McCain that was once again saved by McLeod. The half ended with the second yellow card of the game given to Pruitt for a reckless header, keeping the halftime score at 0-0.
The scoreless match soon changed going into the second half with both of the teams coming on the field determined to get put on the scoresheet. The Current started strong in the 47th minute with a shot from LaBonta that was fired towards the net and saved by McLeod. In the 50th minute, the first goal of the game was awarded to the Pride after an incredible play in the box. Jenkins crossed the ball to Leroux, who chipped it and found Jónsdottir’s head and into the goal, putting the pride up 1-0.
The 57th minute saw Edmonds determined to get an equalizer by chipping the ball into the back post, but the goal was denied and cleared by the Pride. The Pride responded less than ten minutes later in the 65th minute with yet again a good ball from Jenkins to Leroux into the box, but Leroux’s shot was saved by Franch.
In the 66th minute shortly after Elyse Bennett’s substitution into the game, she posed a massive threat in a run down the field towards the Pride’s net, but her chance was interrupted by an outstanding defensive play by Carrie Lawrence. KC retaliated with a series of shots: in the 68th minute McLeod saved a rocket from Winebrenner and followed it up by saving a Kristen Hamilton shot in the 70th minute. A KC corner in the 71st minute also caused some work for McLeod who managed to punch it out.
The anticipation rose around the 76th minute with LaBonta almost getting a shot in on a wide-open goal but missing. The 77th minute was what motivated the second goal of the match as Hailie Mace got the ball in the box on a good run leading to a cross from LaBonta to Bennett who scored the equalizer in the 77th minute. The Current wasn’t done with their confident attacking streak as Hamilton took an amazing shot in the 81st minute but was just wide of the goal. Hamilton continued to cause problems for McLeod in the 85th minute with McLeod leaving her line to make the save. Her impressive performance didn’t stop there as the 89th minute saw an excellent save of a Current corner.
Tides changed in the 90th minute with a goal from Hamilton after a whirl of players in the box, having the current lead 2-1. Strom attempted a shot in the 91st minute to equalize but it was saved by Franch. In the 92nd minute, there was a collision between Strom and Scott which earned Scott a yellow card. The initial call was for a free-kick but after much dispute, including angry chants of “in the box!” by Orlando fans, the call was changed and in the 95th minute, Orlando was given a penalty kick. Toni Pressley took the kick and earned the Pride the last goal of the match bringing the final score up to 2-2.
This explosive second half defined the tense game and left both teams with some notable performances. For the Current, some of the most notable performances of the night came from Edmonds, Pickett, Hamilton, McCain, and Scott. Orlando saw some equally impressive performances from McLeod, Pressley, Leroux, Jenkins, and Jónsdottir. Three match days into the regular season puts the Kansas City Current at a 0-2-1 standing and the Orlando Pride at a 1-1-1 standing. This game further exemplified the fire we’re going to be seeing from both teams going into week four.
The next game for the KC Current will be Saturday, May 21 2022 against Angel City FC in Los Angeles, and Orlando's next game will be against the North Carolina Courage in Cary on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.