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  • Dan Berridge

Analysis: Angel City FC (h). Pride Turn On The Style In Entertaining Draw.

Wow. What a game that was. Genuinely, one of the most entertaining games of football I've seen lately. There was yet more frustration for this Pride team, as they needed a late leveller to salvage a point from a game they should've won.


That being said, there are plenty of positives to take from this game; particularly from an offensive standpoint. The burgeoning chemistry between the likes of Erika Tymrak and Vivianna Villacorta in midfield is great to see. The Pride were both courageous and inventive with their passing. There was a collective belief in their ability that seemed to permeate throughout the entire team. After a scrappy opening 15 minutes or so, the Pride really settled into a rhythm.


The team looked comfortable in possession across all areas of the field. There was a fluidity to their play. I'm seeing lots of encouraging things in the performances of this squad right now. The results will come. That's 4 draws in this 5 game unbeaten run, and realistically this was a game that needed to be won. Still, if they keep playing like that, the wins will come soon enough.





The performance of Julie Doyle


Julie Doyle did everything you want a substitute to do, and she didn't mess about doing it either. Within barely a minute or two of being on the field, she had the ball in the back of the net.


I really like this goal, because she makes it happen from almost nothing with just pure determination and opportunism. If you look at the clip in figure 1, keep your eye on the bottom right corner of the screen. After initially chasing a pass down into the corner flag, Doyle ghosts in from absolutely nowhere and applies a clinical finish.



She just provided fresh energy and is seemingly brimming with confidence right now. She's the Captain Marvel of the Pride. Although she doesn't have a weird section of nerds hating her for some reason, like Brie Larson does. Doyle took up some positions in wide areas (figure 2), which helped to stretch the field and give Angel City something to think about. This movement also created space for her teammates in more central areas. For example, in figure 3, you can see Doyle pealing off to the right. Instantly Paige Nielsen and Ali Riley shift their positioning left, which creates a little space centrally for Erika Tymrak. Ultimately the Pride ignore the run, and end up shifting the ball left. But, the point stands. This sort of movement keeps the opponent guessing.


Figure 2 shows Doyle's pass and cross positioning matrix.


Figure 3 is a game still from the second half.



The midfield


The midfield is really beginning to click into gear. Pride midfielder Meggie Dougherty-Howard told me in the post-game: "I caught myself mid game today thinking 'this is fun'... The longer we have the ball the less we have to defend."


And this is something that really came across in the team's possession play; the Pride completed 323 passes at a completion rate of 79%. There was a real fluidity with the central trio, and even Kerry Abello and Erika Tymrak drifting in off the flanks. The trio of Vivianna Villacorta, Jordyn Listro and Meggie Dougherty-Howard will often shift positions, picking up the ball from the back 4, playing rondos with one another and breaking out of tight spaces whilst simultaneously beating the press and breaking lines.


It's something the team has been working on, having the freedom to play themselves out of situations and generally make them more fluid. Ultimately, it will make them more potent and creative in attack. We saw tentative signs of this in this game, with Orlando taking 16 total shots and creating 4 big chances. It's football 101, really. The more fluid you are in possession, the more difficult it is for your opponent to track your movements.


So, what's the secret? Why have Orlando become so much more fluid in possession. Hines told me what he believes to be the answer: 'Trust. I trust them to get in the right spaces, and in the right areas of the field... I said at half-time we're going to make mistakes, but make the right mistakes. Make a mistake trying to penetrate the line'.


The team are becoming an entertaining watch, and I'm here for it.


Figure 4 shows the pass positioning matrix for Orlando's trio of midfielders.



Inverted full-backs


There were a number of situations, where I noticed both Celia and Kylie Strom moving inside and attacking the half spaces whilst Abello and Tymrak overlapped. I really enjoyed seeing this. Both players are just as happy attacking the half spaces as they are going on the overlap, which just gives the Pride more attacking options.


Strom, in particular is interesting in that regard as she's just as comfortable on either foot. She got into some great positions all evening (figures 5 & 6).


I'm so big on inverted full-backs. The likes of Lucy Bronze, and Joao Cancelo in the men's game, are probably the two best examples. They underlap their wingers, and make it easier to overload in wide and central areas simultaneously. They're a great way to pin opposition backlines. They also allow teams to get more players into shooting positions on the edge of the area.


It's something both players did to great effect all evening (figure 7). It just gave the Angel City defence something else to think about.


Figure 5 is a game still from the first half.


Figure 6 is a game still from the second half.


Top player


Julie Doyle



Doyle was unlucky not to play from the start to be honest, particularly considering recent performances. Hines wanted to see a positive reaction from the young striker, and he certainly got that. In her half hour on the field, she completed 2 dribbles, 1 accurate cross and scored 1 goal. It was her energy and willingness to run in behind that really caught the eye, though. She took her goal incredibly well too.


Player ratings


Starting XI


McLeod -7- Made some key stops at important times.


Celia -7- Got into some interesting positions.

Lawrence -7- Solid performance.

Pressley -6- Did OK but was lucky to remain on the pitch.

Strom -7- Looks better and better each game.


Abello -8- One of her best performances in a Pride jersey.

Dougherty-Howard -7- Seems to be really enjoying her football right now.

Villacorta -8- Looked really accomplished in possession.

Listro -7- Got about the pitch well.

Tymrak -8- Was involved in everything good the Pride did.


Jenkins -6- Looks low on confidence right now.



Substitutes


Doyle -9- Game changer.

Reiss -8- Looked bright and positive, should probably have come in earlier.

Cluff -7- Won a couple of free-kicks in good areas.

Petersen -6- Seemed off her game.


Reaction


Acting Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines:

“Entertaining [game]. It is happening more often than not. I said it in the pregame that what you will find today are two teams that both wanted to win, needed to win, to get three points. We are obviously chasing Angel City and they are obviously chasing to get to the playoffs as well. I felt that we dominated the game in possession. Even out of possession I think we were in controlled spaces. They were patient in trying to pull us out of positions, but we are allowing the right people to have time and space on the ball. There were a few little adjustments we had to make at halftime. We had to increase the energy and shift across to keep those spaces tight and the players did that. The game is all down to goals. We created a lot of good opportunities to score, but we have to take them. When we do take them, we are going to be even more of a threat than we showed today.”




*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com and nwslsoccer.com.

Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

B-roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.

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