By Official Florida FC

Orlando conceded two goals in two minutes to kick off its 2022 NWSL season in dispiriting fashion on Sunday night at Exploria Stadium.

NJ/NY Gotham FC blistered the Pride 3-0. The international quality of the visitors – including former Pride goalkeeper and native Floridian Ashlyn Harris – helped the Gotham FC outclass their youthful opponents.

Former USWNT midfielder McCall Zerboni headed Gotham into the lead in the 29th minute. Less than two minutes later current USWNT attacker Midge Purce got behind the Pride defense and deftly finished at an acute angle to double the lead.

Purce later provided the dagger for current USWNT midfielder Kristie Mewis to finish the match in the 41st minute.

“I thought we started well again. I think we had some of our best building moments out of the back, created some chances early on in the first 30 and right before their first goal we created some chances,” Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell told the team’s website after the match.

“Again we can’t let one goal affect us like that. We need to be mentally resilient in those moments. There’s obviously some frustration with those 10 minutes again and I think Seb [Hines] said it very well at the end in the huddle, we can’t let parts like five minutes or 10 minutes of games dictate how our season is going to go. We have to play a 90-minute game and we have yet to do that.”

Cromwell inherited a young squad. With Marta out for the season with an ACL tear and No. 1 Erin McLeod recovering from a knee injury of her own, two of the key contributors who were going to lead the team through its first season without veterans like Harris, Ali Krieger, Alex Morgan and Ali Riley have been unavailable for selection.

Four Pride players made their NWSL regular season debut on Sunday night: Mikayla Cluff, Kerry Abello, Carrie Lawrence and Julie Doyle. Cluff and Abello were among the starting XI that only made one change from the Pride’s final match of the NWSL Challenge Cup group stage, a 1-1 draw against NJ/NY Gotham FC on April 23.

Orlando (0-1-0, 0 points) is still looking for its first win this season.  Orlando was the only team in the league that did not win a match during the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride finished 0-4-2 in six matches with a -7 goal difference.

The Pride travel west to face Angel City FC (1-0-0, 3 points) on Mother’s Day. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. EDT.

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