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OCT 27
3:30 PM ET
ESPN
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Marta, Mallory Pugh trade braces in 2-2 draw between Pride and Spirit
Pugh converted 90' PK for the Washington Spirit
Ali Krieger of the Orlando Pride squares off against the Washington Spirit's Mal Pugh during Saturday's Game of the Week. (Photo credit: Tony Quinn for isiphotos.com)
Ali Krieger of the Orlando Pride squares off against the Washington Spirit's Mal Pugh during Saturday's Game of the Week. (Photo credit: Tony Quinn for isiphotos.com)

The Orlando Pride and Washington Spirit settled for a 2-2 draw at the Maryland SoccerPlex in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,200 fans. The two teams traded penalty kicks and braces from their biggest names, with Marta providing a first-half penalty kick and stunner in the second, but the Spirit getting a first-half goal from Mallory Pugh, then the equalizing penalty kick in the 90th minute.

The Orlando Pride looked on the verge of a big rebound win on the road, if not for 19-year-old Pugh stepping to the spot. Spirit sub Kristie Mewis earned the foul in the box after contact from Pride defender Toni Pressley. Despite Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe guessing the correct way, Pugh made no mistakes and hit the corner of the net for the late equalizer.

Pugh was also responsible for the Spirit’s goal in the first half, providing the left-footed finish on a Francisca Ordega assist. The play started after some sustained passing from Orlando went awry, as defender Kristen Edmonds was picked off by Estefanía Banini.

Pugh played all 90 minutes, and the come-from-behind draw should help push the Spirit forward. “I think since we lost against the Breakers, getting this point is really important for us,” she said after the match concluded. “Orlando’s a great team, just getting a point against them is great. We can just continue our momentum going forward.”

Orlando opened the scoring in the 10th minute, after Spirit defender Kassey Kallman conceded the penalty with a foul on Camila in the box with shoulder-to-shoulder contact. Marta converted with her left foot, as Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé guessed to her right.

Marta scored her second of the game and eighth of the season in the 56th minute. The Spirit got careless with their own passing, as Havana Solaun was picked off by Pride defender Steph Catley. Eventually, Marta had her shot from the top of the box, and despite three bodies in red between her and goal, found the bottom right corner with a perfectly placed strike.

Marta nearly went for a hat trick and with style in the 64th minute. She saw Labbé off her line, and tried a chip from about 45 yards out that ultimately went wide, though Labbé went up for the save just in case.

The Spirit might have actually earned all three points at home if not for Pride goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, who had to come up with a massive save against Spirit midfielder Tori Huster in the 28th minute. After a precise pass from Meggie Dougherty Howard, Huster had a one-on-one with Bledsoe. Bledsoe managed to put her left hand up and block the shot from close range.

Alex Morgan made her first start for the Orlando Pride this season on Saturday afternoon. After the match, Morgan told broadcaster Cat Whitehill, “I could tell I wasn’t 90 minutes fit just yet. But I felt good on the field. I felt me and Marta were combining quite a bit; we found each other a lot.”

The Pride did enjoy a fairly significant advantage in possession, with 57.4% through the match. They also held the edge in passing, with 448 passes and 76.6% accuracy to the Spirit’s 345 passes with 71.0% accuracy. For Alex Morgan, her assessment of the match concluded that the Pride didn’t quite manage to take advantage of the space on the field. “I felt like we started off all right. Obviously, Washington was playing a little higher than they usually do. I think we could have exposed space in behind a little bit more than we did. We started to get our rhythm a little bit, especially in the second half.”

Morgan also expressed some disappointment with the final decision of Saturday’s match being decided by a late penalty call. She said, “Obviously giving up that PK in the very end — I feel like that’s been the story of this year, for every team in the NWSL. PKs have been given out way too frequently and I’m not sure if they’re all deserving or not, but it’s just unfortunate that so many games have been decided on PKs.”

The Pride will get a chance to finally find another three points when they return home to Orlando City Stadium on July 15 to face off against FC Kansas City. The Spirit will look to pick up points against the Dash in Houston next Saturday, and escape from the bottom of the table with a big away win.

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