Reign Fall in Orlando Despite Hope’s Stellar Saves

On Sunday night in Orlando, Hope Solo made some phenomenal saves to give her team a chance to win their third straight team, but in the end, the Seattle Reign didn’t have enough to hold off the Orlando Pride.

Hope rose to the challenge of an attacking Orlando squad, making multiple highlight reel stops in both halves of a hard fought game, and she finished with three total saves on nine Pride shots (five on goal). But the upstart Orlando squad managed to slip a pair of those shots past No. 1 and Seattle suffered its first loss since the season opener in a 2-0 defeat at Camping World Stadium.

The game got off to a quiet start and the opening 10 minutes were played at a quiet pace as the two-time NWSL Shield winners attempted to get a feel for the expansion Orlando squad. Those first 10 clicked off without much scoring opportunity for each side. But the Pride went on the attack in the 11th minute and it didn’t take long for Hope’s USWNT teammate Alex Morgan to set up what proved to be the game-winning goal.

The play developed quickly as Morgan chased down a seemingly harmless ball from Orlando defender Laura Alleway near the end line. Morgan was then able to corral the ball and catch the Reign defense off guard with a cross into the goal box, where Sarah Hagen had set up shop between two Seattle defenders to Hope’s left and headed home the perfect pass from Morgan past No. 1’s outstretched attempt to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.

After that early adversity, Hope was rock solid in net, making a plethora of plays that helped keep her squad within a single goal of equalizing the contest, despite Orlando’s repeated advances and attempts to add to their lead.

The Pride controlled the pace of the game for most of the first half, but the Reign did get once chance for an equalizer, when Lauren Barnes lofted a corner kick comfortably into the box, where Beverly Yanez looked to finish, however her shot sailed high, denying Seattle’s prime chance. The Reign had just one shot on net in the first half and went in down 1-0.

In the second half it took some outstanding work from Hope to keep it there. She made her first big stop in the 71st minute when she denied Morgan from getting a foot on a cross in the box.

Orlando kept on the attack and in the 74th minute Stephanie Catley had a break with a chance to make it 2-0, but Hope got an assist from the crossbar to keep the scorer 1-0. Moments later, in the 77th minute, No. 1 denied Morgan on a bit of a run when she slid to get in front of a left-foot shot from her USWNT teammate and knocked it out of play.

The Reign got their best chance to equalize about five minutes later, with time running down on their winning streak. This time, Yanez fired an arching shot from the top of the box, well outside the 18, on frame and nearly got it clear of Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, another USWNT teammate. But Harris stood tall, leaping to deflect the ball off the bar and the rebound attempt by Michelle Cruz popped over the net and out of play, ending the threat.

Hope had one more big stop in her bag in the 86th minute, when she once more denied a scoring attempt by Morgan by rushing up to the middle of the box to take away some space from her U.S. women’s teammate, who fired from near the top of the box and saw the ball stopped by No. 1. However, the rebound bounced back toward the offense and with Hope having committed to stopping Morgan, the Reign had no one in position to stop Orlando’s Lianne Sanderson, who was in the right place at the right time to send the rebound into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

The score stood there through two minutes of stoppage time giving Seattle its second defeat.

The loss dropped the Reign to 2-2 for the season, while it pushed the Pride to the same record, leaving them deadlocked in the middle of the NWSL table, four points behind the unbeaten Washington Spirit after four games.

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The Reign will return home this week and play host to their third match of the season at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night when the regional rival Portland Thorns come to town.

Seattle swept Portland in two meetings last season, including a 3-0 shutout in Seattle. But both those games were started by Haley Kopmeyer, as Hope was away from the Reign with the USWNT in the aftermath of their World Cup win. No. 1 hasn’t seen the rival Thorns since August of 2014, when a goal by then Portland star Alex Morgan lifted the Thorns to a 1-0 win over Seattle.

Saturday’s meeting between the two squads is set for a 7 p.m. PT start and can be seen on the NWSL YouTube Channel.

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