Analysis: Angel City (a). Sydney Leroux Goal Earns Orlando A Famous Win.
I'll be honest, I didn't see that result coming. Not after last week. This was a huge win for the Pride. It was a win that was thoroughly deserved, too. The Pride had to grind the millstone defensively to weather a late storm from Angel City, but it was nothing more than Orlando deserved.
Angel City, with their dearth of attacking talent and partisan home support, will pick up plenty of wins at Banc of California Stadium. The significance of this victory cannot be overstated. It will have provided Orlando with a real shot in the arm and a confidence that they can keep clean sheets against the most difficult of opponents.
This was an all round great performance from the team. They really took the game to Angel City, particularly through the first 20 minutes where they had 62% of the possession and could easily have been 2 or 3 goals to the good. Later in the game they displayed their resilience as they shut down the Angel City attack, restricting them to 2 big chances and just 4 shots on target overall. They may have had a little bit of luck, as Christen Press saw a first half goal (harshly) adjudged offside. Still, you'd be hard pressed to argue that Orlando didn't deserve this dub.
Overall there seemed to be a synergy and belief about Orlando's play. They were finding each other playing in little triangles and were generally shifting the ball around well on offence. The pace and physicality of Darian Jenkins, Leah Pruitt and Sydney Leroux caused Angel City no end of problems.
Square pegs in round holes
One of the most impressive things to come out of this game was the performance of players having to play out of position due to availability issues. Carrie Lawrence, for example, had an excellent game in an unfamiliar centre back position. Lawrence completed 8 recoveries, 4 clearances, 2 interceptions and 1 headed clearance (figure 1).
She just looked comfortable in the middle of the back 4, her defensive positioning in transition (figure 2) and in possession (figure 3) was really interesting. In figure 2, Angel City go on the offensive and the defensive line is perfect from Orlando. The attack, subsequently is for naught, and Erin McLeod claims the ball. Lawrence immediately shifts to a wide centre back position (figure 3), which stretches the space in the middle and allows Orlando to launch an attack down the flank.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 is a game still from the first half.
Similarly, Megan Montefusco did a great job in the middle of the park. It's important to have players that can play in a number of positions. This is a mantra the likes of Emma Hayes and Marcelo Bielsa live by. If I'm being hyper critical, her forward passing was a little of. That being said her reading of the game was absolutely stellar. Montefusco made 5 recoveries and 2 interceptions, whilst also winning 1 tackle. Her presence in the middle will have undoubtedly helped her younger colleague, Mikayla Cluff who also had a solid game.
We've already seen, a number of times this season, different players play in alternate positions. Gunny Jónsdóttir and Kerry Abello are two such examples. That flexibility could certainly be an asset for the Pride in the weeks and months ahead.
As well as their organisation and overall play, their overall resolve defensively was very pleasing. Every player was willing to put themselves on the line for the win. Leroux's diving block late on embodied this dedication perfectly. Orlando posted greater defensive stats than their host (figure 4), despite the possession percentages being relatively even (51% in the Pride's favour).
Even defending from the front, Orlando were just hungry to win the ball (figures 5 & 6). The Pride recognised the importance of winning the ball high up the field, and not allowing Angel City to establish a foothold in the game. The Pride simply did not allow Angel City to play.
Figure 4 shows Orlando's (right) overall defensive statistics, whole 90.
Figure 5 is a clip from the second half.
Figure 6 shows Orlando's recovery (blue) and interception (green) positioning matrix.
Sydney Leroux is mobbed by her teammates after opening the scoring.
There may have been an element of fortune about Leroux's goal, but it was no less than her performance deserved. Leroux's energy and movement was excellent as she was a constant outball on the left flank. She was perhaps a tad unfortunate not to score a second when her rasping effort from the left edge of penalty area glanced off of the crossbar. Leroux had 5 total efforts on goal, completed 75% of her 24 passes and completed 1 dribble. As per usual she did her share defensively winning 1 tackle, 2/3 ground duels and 3/4 aerially.
As I said, she provided the Pride with an outball which was essential for the team to alleviate pressure.
McLeod -8- Made important saves at key times.
Petersen -8- Got up and down very well.
Lawrence -8- One v one defending was on point. Did well at centre half.
Pressley -8- Positioning wise she was excellent.
Celia -7- Made a few niggly fouls, but was always in position to cut out any danger.
Montefusco -8- Distribution a little off but she made some vital recoveries. Provided some steel in the middle.
Cluff -7- I prefer her higher up the pitch, but she did well.
Leroux -9- Underlined her importance to this team.
Jónsdóttir -8- Great driving run for the goal.
Jenkins -8- Intelligent pass to Gunny for the goal.
Pruitt -8- Led the line really well.
Abello -7- Added some steel to help see the game out.
Kim -6- Came in very late.
Orlando Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell: “The first win feels great. Starting the game like we did, scoring early, keeping the pressure on and almost getting another. We created corner kicks and were dangerous in the attack. I thought our midfield played great with new players in there, Megan [Montefusco] playing as a 6. Kayla [Cluff], Gunny [Jónsdóttir] in there, their ball winning and work rate was tremendous. Carrie [Lawrence] played a new position at center back, the whole back line…I could talk all day. Everyone had such an important role to fill and they stepped up in such a big way…[Coming in] we had this feeling of such positivity and knowing that it was going to be a tough game but we have what it takes.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Highlights footage courtesy of NWSL.