Analysis: Racing Louisville (a). Pride lucky to get a draw despite conceding victory late on.
Orlando Pride broadcasts and tickets should come with a health advisory. Seriously. A topsy turvy first-half, which was as pulsating as it was burdensome. For the first 40 minutes, you could be forgiven for thinking we were the expansion side. A Sydney LeRoux snapshot aside, Racing Louisville dominated the opening proceedings. They moved the ball around well, were snappy in possession and were a genuine threat each time they ventured forward. Orlando were lucky not to be a couple of goals down, by the time Cece Kizer raced onto a long-ball to slot the home side in front. It was as disastrous a start for Orlando, as it was exhilarating for Louisville.
Inability to take care of the ball
There's no other way to describe it. Orlando were sloppy for much of the first-half (figure 1). Sloppy in possession, in defence and going forward. There was a real disconnect between the defensive and offensive thirds of the field. Jade Moore and Meggie Dougherty-Howard struggled to get to grips with the movement of Louisville's midfield. Orlando were profligate in possession, as their 66.7% passing accuracy statistic perfectly encompassed. Oftentimes Moore and Dougherty-Howard were failing to provide an outlet to the Ali's of Krieger and Riley in the full-back positions. Which often lead to them feeding speculative balls forward, that just recycled possession for Louisville. As a result Marta was dropping deeper, and deeper in an attempt to influence the game. You don't need me to tell you, we need Marta to be further up the field.
Then. Bam. Out of the blue, some smart hold up play from Marisa Viggiano allowed the Orlando number 14 to lay the ball off to Dougherty-Howard whose superb cross found the head of Taylor Kornieck. Game on. This seemed to rejuvenate Orlando, who completed 21 successful passes before the break. The goal seemed to lift the visitors, who again tried to find the head of Kornieck from a Krieger cross shortly before the whistle. There were tentative signs of improvement.
Orlando need to protect the ball better, though. Their lack of energy in midfield allowed Louisville to get comfortable on the ball, particularly as Orlando turned the ball over more often than Marvel churns out movies. It was embarrassing. Orlando's defensive statistics, for the first half might seem impressive on the face of it. But, really, they are symptomatic of Orlando's unwillingness to keep the ball. With 29 duels and 11 tackles won in the first half, you catch my drift. Especially when you consider their poor pass success rate. Orlando would concede possession, and would then need to get it back. Again. And again. It was beyond frustrating, from a team so stacked with talent.
Figure 1 shows Orlando's unsuccessful pass matrix. This is only from the first-half.
Poor performance overall, but plenty of positives to take
If I'm being brutally honest, there was little improvement in the second half (as the graphic in figure 2 will highlight). Orlando never really got to grips with the movement of Millier, Nagasato and Kizer. Louisville created 4 big chances in the second 45, and were often a final ball away from carving out other opportunities. There is certainly a lot for them to work on. It's not all doom and gloom for the Pride, however...
Figure 2 shows Orlando's successful pass matrix from the second half.
There are undoubtedly a lot of positives to be extracted from this game, despite the overall disjointed nature of the Pride's performance. The Pride's ability to get in front, and the performance of Taylor Kornieck chief amongst them. The injury to Kornieck will be particularly concerning to Marc Skinner and his staff. Kornieck took her goal well, and put up some impressive statistics (figures 3 & 4) with precious little service. My main worry for Kornieck, is actually her physicality. She cuts an imposing figure, and is not afraid to put herself about. But NWSL referees don't seem to like that. A theory backed up by her 4 conceded fouls, and yellow card. Pardon this fully intended pun, but the challenge for Kornieck will be how she tackles that particular conundrum. That will come with time.
Kornieck had a promising debut for Orlando.
Kornieck is not just a physical specimen, though; she's a supremely gifted technician with a high soccer IQ. She was able to link up well with Marta on several occasions, and took her goal brilliantly. That was a difficult chance to take, as it can be so easy to try and flick the ball towards goal, rather than just gently cushion it back across the 'keeper. She did well to find the space, and used her imposing frame to her advantage. The ball from Dougherty-Howard certainly made it easier for Kornieck, but it's a fine goal nonetheless.
Figure 3 shows Taylor Kornieck's successful pass matrix for the entire game.
Figure 4 shows how rookie Kornieck acquitted herself on her NWSL debut.
Forming relationships on the field
Dougherty-Howard struggled to get to grips with the game in midfield. However, she provided more than a few moments of attacking quality. She showed her ingenuity, with an excellent range of passing (figure 5), as well as the assist. She just needed to tuck in a little more, and present herself as an option to the likes of Krieger and Riley at full-back, as I alluded to earlier. That was, arguably, the Pride's biggest problem. This seriously hampered Orlando's ability to play through the press. The same can also be said of Jade Moore.
There needs to be an outlet for the full-backs, otherwise you have situations whereby their only real option is to play long balls down the line. Many of Orlando's turnovers came from the full-back positions (see figure 2). That's not necessarily a criticism of Krieger or Riley, they simply had no other options, which was particularly problematic with regards to Louisville's high press.
Figure 5 shows the successful pass matrix for Dougherty-Howard across the 90.
It will undoubtedly take time for the team to familiarise themselves with the particular nuances of their teammates' play. Knowing when to show themselves for the ball, when to make diagonal runs and so on. That only really comes through time, and playing competitive fixtures. Orlando are going to need to learn quickly, though. This league only continues to get stronger, and with some tough fixtures on the horizon Marc Skinner will be hoping for better.
Though there were plenty of positives to take from this game, there were plenty of disconcerting signs too. Signs that will undoubtedly be burdensome for Marc Sinner and his staff. Once Abi Kim's fine finish had stolen the lead, Orlando should have seen this game out. But they didn't. A cheap free-kick was conceded, in a dangerous position, which eventually culminated in the home-side grabbing an injury time equaliser. The Pride needed to manage the game better, they needed to take care of the ball and stifle any Louisville hopes of a comeback. Instead, they handed a point to them on a silver platter. Which was bitterly disappointing for all concerned.
Gotham FC arrive in midweek, and Orlando will need to secure the win, if they're to have any realistic hopes of advancing in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. And despite the protestations of many, this is more than a pre-season tournament. It's a chance to win silverware, and if this club wants to win; this would be a good place to start.
*Statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com