During the 49th minute of the Washington Spirit’s 2-0 victory on Saturday, Orlando Pride defender Kristen Edmonds heeded to the raised arms of Spirit Coach Jim Gabarra. With the ball in her possession, she stopped, and so did everyone else.
The choreographed stoppage of play came in honor of the 49 lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando less than a week ago.
“We wanted to pay respects to everything that happened back home for us,” Edmonds said. “We found out we were going to do that right before the game started. It shows a lot of character from the Washington Spirit that they’re behind us as well, and all the teams in the NWSL. It was really important for us to have something like that. We greatly appreciate it, and I’m sure the people at home greatly appreciate it as well.”
Those in the crowd at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds stood on their feet for the entirety of the 49th minute, cheering while the scoreboard displayed the logos of both teams side by side in black and white with #OrlandoUnited underneath.
“I felt that it was important for us to show a sign of unity,” Gabarra said. “To be able to do that, what we did in the 49th minute where both teams stopped the play, the ball wasn’t knocked out of bounds, the referee didn’t blow the whistle, we showed a sign of unity within the competitive environment for what’s happened.”
Before the emotional stoppage, the Spirit (5-1-2) had controlled play and had already taken its two-goal lead.
The first goal came in the ninth minute, when Estefania Banini dribbled around two Orlando defenders and knocked a right-footed strike into the right side of the net.
Washington scored again in the 39th minute, when Francisca Ordega stole the ball from Orlando’s Kaylyn Kyle, making a run to the goal from near midfield. Ordega’s shot from about 20 yards out sailed over goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’s head and in.
The goals were the first of the season for both Banini and Ordega.
“Honestly, it should have been three or four nothing at halftime and it should have been done,” Gabarra said, referencing the four saves Orlando had in the first half.
Pride captain Alex Morgan had the best opportunity for Orlando (4-5-0) during first-half stoppage time when she dribbled up the field, striking from the right side, only to have her shot deflected by Spirit goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe and bounce off the post. The ball bounced right back to Morgan, setting her up for another shot on goal, but Morgan’s second-chance shot skirted wide to the right.
“Morgan, she’s extremely dangerous,” Labbe said. “Her pace and her timing of her runs is extremely world class. . . . She got behind us a few times in the first half, which caused us some trouble.”
The match was Orlando’s first since the Pulse shooting. There were several different tributes to honor the victims during the game, in addition to the one in the 49th minute.
A half-stars-and-stripes, half-rainbow ribbon with the words “We stand with Orlando” was painted at midfield. Both teams wore purple T-shirts with rainbow hearts and #OrlandoUnited on them during warmups and when lineups were announced.