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Racing Louisville ‘threw away’ a win against Orlando Pride at Daytona

Savannah DeMelo (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Orlando Pride in the first half at the Daytona International Speedway Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

Racing Louisville FC and the Orlando Pride tied 2-2 on Sunday in the first-ever NWSL match at Daytona International Speedway.

Racing Louisville got out to an early lead behind goals from Emina Ekic in the 34th minute and Savannah DeMelo in the 51st minute, needing just under 40 minutes of regulation to seal the win in Daytona Beach.

But the Pride responded later in the second half. Kylie Strom struck first for Orlando in the 59th minute, bending a shot into the bottom corner to bury a second-chance opportunity and notch her first goal with the Pride.

“I almost don’t believe that still happened,” Strom said afterward.

The goal ended a 329-minute scoring drought and an onslaught of 14 unanswered goals by Pride opponents.

Darian Jenkins scored the Pride’s second goal in the 69th minute to tie the game.

Louisville later had a chance to win the game off of a free kick, but goalkeeper Erin McLeod denied it with a diving save.

“We just have to be better at communicating what’s in front and what’s behind us, filling in our roles and doing our jobs,” Ekic said.

Each team wound up with eight shots on goal, while the Pride earned their first points since May with the draw.

“It’s more or less just kicking the ball away if you need to do it, defend with 11 players and do everything you can to win three points,” Louisville head coach Kim Bjökegren said postgame. “Sometimes it’s a little too easy for opponents to create chances against us. We need to find a way to close these kinds of games because, in my opinion, we threw away two points today.”

Outside of the result, the teams relished the opportunity to make history at Daytona International Speedway.

“Honestly, it was better than I expected — and I expected good things,” Pride defender Celia Jiménez Delgado said of the playing conditions. “When you say, ‘We’re going to build a field overnight,’ and I have a background in engineering, that is challenging, let’s be honest. Today when I stepped on the field, I thought, ‘This is amazing.'”