It was a frustrating Sunday afternoon for Kansas City NWSL in the Orlando Pride’s Exploria Stadium.
On the one hand, KC will rue a referee’s decision — the Pride scored a questionable opener on a goal-line decision. On the other, the visitors didn’t produce nearly enough attack to challenge league-leading Orlando.
And that combination resulted in a 1-0 loss for Kansas City, whose winless streak grew to eight games across all competitions to start the season.
Orlando’s Marta was credited with the game’s opening goal in the 16th minute after a goalmouth scramble was flicked goalward by the Brazilian. The ball bounced off KC goalkeeper Abby Smith’s thigh before she swatted the ball away and appeared to have made a goal-line save.
Pide players shouted for a goal. Kansas City looked to continue play. A couple of moments of confusion followed, but referee Alyssa Nichols awarded the goal to Orlando after consultation with her assistant referee.
With no goal-line technology available in the National Women’s Soccer League and no clear goal-line angle of the moment, the 50-50 decision went to the home team.
But as frustrated as Kansas City might be with the referee’s call, the visitors also did little to help themselves on the other end of the field. Despite finishing with 56% possession, KC didn’t put a single shot on target in 10 tries.
KC coach Huw Williams made six changes from the starting lineup he used against Chicago Wednesday. The Orlando game was KC’s third in eight days.
Midfielder Victoria Pickett and forward Amy Rodriguez were relegated to the bench. The pair had been instrumental for KC so far this season, but Williams admitted before the game that the duo needed rest at some point.
That point came against Orlando, and Kansas City looked the worse for it. Despite a stout defensive performance that limited Orlando to breakaway chances, KC’s options for offense out of the midfield had to start with Addie McCain.
McCain, selected by Kansas City as the 17th overall pick in January’s NWSL Draft, was tasked with breaking down the league leaders. And KC couldn’t find that killer pass from the midfield with both Desiree Scott and Jordyn Listro sitting farther back as a pair of defensive midfielders.
By the time Pickett and Rodriguez entered the game with 22 minutes remaining, Orlando had fully hunkered down in its own defensive third.
One of the few opportunities Orlando had in the second half also resulted in a penalty after Katie Bowen took down Orlando’s Alex Morgan in the 66th minute. Taking ownership of the penalty she won, Morgan fired her spot-kick off the right post to keep the Pride’s winning margin at one.