Analysis: Chicago Red Stars (a). Orlando Unable To Kick Up A Storm In The Windy City.
I have to say, my previously optimistic view point on the progression of this team has wavered somewhat. Until this week, the Orlando Pride had managed to evade any of the controversy miring the league since last year. Not so anymore. With head coach Amanda Cromwell and assistant first team coach Sam Greene placed on administrative leave, the team are currently at a significant fork in the road.
A change in approach and formation brought about an all too familiar result; defeat to the Chicago Red Stars. The 3-5-2 formation showed tentative signs of promise, but there were more than a few question marks surrounding the starting XI.
Darian Jenkins was deployed in a right wing back role, Kylie Strom took her position as a left sided centre back and Celia sat on the bench. Abi Kim was a striker, despite the fact that the team had a striker at wing back. Amy Turner was conspicuous only by her absence. Speculation concerning the erstwhile Manchester United centre back continues to circulate. It was all rather peculiar, and posed far more questions than it answered.
Different formation, same result
As a formation I actually really like the 3-5-2. Defensively it gives you a much more even footing and allows the wing backs to push up down the sides, whilst the 2 front players can simultaneously run the channels. Used in the correct manner, it's an incredibly useful set up. I'm not convinced it was used in the correct manner in Chicago. The shape of the team was good, it was just very much a case of square pegs in round holes. Exhibit A, would be Darian Jenkins at RWB.
This selection was an interesting choice. Jenkins certainly has the athletic capabilities to play the position, but it's quite a nuanced role. Wing-backs have to be as capable in a defensive sense as they are in an attacking sense. My primary issue was that Jenkins' inclusion at wing-back adversely impacted on the team's forward line.
Jenkins actually did a serviceable job defensively, as her statistics will attest to (figure 1). There's no doubting we missed her pace and power in attack, though. Orlando couldn't make the ball stick with Abi Kim and Julie Doyle in attack. And that's no indictment or criticism on them, but they're not centre forwards. You all know I don't unnecessarily criticise. I'm not like an angry Star Wars fan, who's just watched the latest Kenobi episode. We all know why they hate Reva (I'm very much a Reva fan), right? Anyway. Moving on.
Doyle and Kim were unable to make many telling contributions in attack (figure 2). Kim was perhaps a touch unfortunate with a first half chance, but that was it. I know Leah Pruitt and Sydney Leroux were both out, but for me it would've made more sense to have Celia at RWB and have Jenkins up top. This seems like a good place to segway to exhibit B...
Exhibit B; Doyle and Kim are an odd pairing as central strikers. Neither are back to goal players, and both are much more proficient (and dare I say, comfortable) when running at players in wide areas. Doyle had 11 touches and Kim 1 more. They won only 2 of their combined 8 duels.
If you're playing with wing-backs, you need to be able to get the ball into central areas and have it stick. Particularly if your midfielders are bombing on, which barely happens, but when it does if the ball doesn't stick then you're going to get caught out in transition, particularly against teams that recover the ball as well as Chicago did (figure 3).
And finally, exhibit C; Kylie Strom on the left of a back 3. Again, no criticism of Strom. She did a good job, in fact she was Orlando's best player for me. But the absence of Amy Turner will continue to stir up speculation. Watch this space, I guess.
Figure 1 shows some of Darian Jenkins' key defensive statistics.
Figure 2 shows Abi Kim's and Julie Doyle's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Chicago's recovery (blue) and successful tackle (green) positioning matrix, whole 90.
A lack of creativity
Orlando just don't create enough. This was a big issue in Illinois; no big chances created and 1 shot on target (figure 4). The Pride never looked like scoring. More needs to come from the midfield. The midfield doesn't contribute much in an offensive sense. At all. Gunny Jónsdóttir has chipped in with a few this season, but from a more advanced position. The Pride just don't get enough bodies forward; if you look at the clip in figure 5, yes Gunny is on the ball, but no one is busting a gut to keep up with the attack.
Figure 4 shows Orlando's shooting statistics (purple, duh).
Figure 5 is a clip from the first half.
If you don't get players forward, you won't create anything. It really is that simple. Orlando rank 12th for shots on target per match, 11th for big chances created per match and 6th for goals. Unless that changes, nothing will.
Kylie Strom (back row, 2nd in from the left) had a good game in a somewhat unfamiliar position. The defender made 8 recoveries, 2 interceptions and 1 clearance as she lined up on the left hand side of a back 3. Strom had a fotmob.com rating of 7.40. Strom won all 5 of her ground duels as well as 3 of her 5 aerial duels. Her 8 total duel successes were game leading for both sides. Sturdy performance from the former Atleti player.
McLeod -6- Didn't have too much to do, nothing she could do with that goal.
Jenkins -7- Did her best, but we missed her up the pitch.
Montefusco -6- Got caught out once or twice, but was reasonably solid overall.
Pressley -7- Helped Orlando play through the press.
Strom -8- Played well as a left sided centre back.
Petersen -7- Flung a few dangerous crosses in.
James -7- Anchored the midfield well.
Villacorta -6- Needs to be braver in possession.
Jónsdóttir -7- Tried to make things happen.
Doyle -5- Toiled, but that's not her position.
Kim -5- As above.
Abello -6- Hardly got into the game.
Tymrak -6- Couple of decent passes and a shot on target. More than can be said for some.
Reiss -6- Got her first appearance.
Listro -7- Came in too late.
Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Seb Hines: “I feel like it’s come down to one moment of brilliance from a great player [Mallory Pugh]. That goal is worthy of winning any game and it’s very apparent she’s on form right now and she’s playing well. And it’s come down to the fine margins. We stuck to the game plan, we didn’t want to give anything up early in the game. With the way that Chicago play, they like to play through the lines so we kind of clogged the middle up and were really disciplined with our pressing to win the ball in transition with the speed of Abi Kim and Julie Doyle. So, the game plan was there, like I said it came to a moment of brilliance that defined the result.”
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.