Analysis: Chicago Red Stars (h). Defeat in the Windy City as the Pride's play-off chances blown away
This was an enthralling game, the archetypal 'great advert for the league' game. Orlando certainly gave it their all, but ultimately came up short. With 2 games left to play and a 4 point deficit to the final play-off spot you have to say Orlando's chances of earning an invitation to the post-season party look incredibly unlikely now. A season that promised so much looks set to flitter into nothingness
This was a game that had to deliver 3 points for Becky Burleigh's team. The Pride certainly had their moments, but few could argue that the Red Stars were undeserving of the spoils. The movement of the home team's troublesome triumvirate, consisting of Rachel Hill, Kealia Watt and Mallory Pugh,caused constant issues for the Pride defence. The hosts created chance after chance, but ultimately 1 goal was enough.
Whilst the Pride did threaten for periods of the game, they looked a shell of the team they were a few weeks ago. The defeats to OL Reign and Gotham have really taken the wind from their sales. At this point it's difficult to make a plausible argument for Becky Burleigh's continued leadership in the Orlando Pride hotseat. She came in at a difficult time and steadied the ship. We thank her for that, but ultimately this club needs play-off football. With that objective seemingly out of reach, I personally believe it's time to go in another direction.
Pride's defensive woes
I realise the 1-0 score line isn't usually indicative of a team that is struggling defensively, but there's a little more to it than that. The Pride were very fortunate not to lose by a few more, having allowed 17 shots with Ashlyn Harris having to save 8 of them. People will talk about her being 'Save Of The Week Queen', and rightly so; but these sorts of numbers aren't OK. The Orlando Pride headed into this game, ranked 3rd in the league in terms of XGa with 1.34 (figure 1). Away from home it's worse, at 1.63. That's too high. They need to stop relying on their bloody goalkeeper to pick up points. This team has to do better defensively.
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My ernest belief is that the midfield has a lot to answer for in regards to the teams current defensive malaise. Just as with the game against Gotham, there were wide open spaces in the Pride's midfield for Chicago to exploit (figure 2). This is particularly problematic when you play against teams like Chicago, who have players that like to run at defences. The midfielders need to track their runners, and that's something that the Pride didn't do well enough in this game, on multiple occasions.
Figure 1 shows the 'top' 5 teams in terms of XGa.
Figure 2 is a game still from the 80th minute, depicting how much space Chicago had, at times.
Lack of killer instinct in front of goal
This has been an issue, on and off, for pretty much the entire season. Sydney Leroux has stepped up with her 8 goals, but the rest of the team just isn't clinical enough. The Pride have a modest conversion rate of 13.8% on the season, and an XG of 0.87 which ranks them 8/10. The Pride don't create a huge amount of chances, and they don't always capitalise when they do. This game was another example of that.
There were chances for Orlando in this game, chief amongst them the penalty kick for Alex Morgan. She has to score there. In the end it's a dreadful penalty. Erika Tymrak and Leroux both spurned decent chances late in the game, chances that just needed a cooler head. The Pride had an overall XG of 1.69 for this game. They scored 0. We have to learn to bury these chances. Period.
Ashlyn Harris is to the Orlando Pride, what R2-D2 is to the Star Wars saga. Without her, the whole thing falls apart (seriously, Artoo is central to that whole damn story). The veteran stopper posted an 88.9% save rate and distributed the ball well.
Crazy talk klaxon. We need to stop celebrating how great she is. I know that's crazy talk, I know. But we need to start asking, 'why are we always asking her to bail us out?' Why? Harris has made 71 saves, ranking her 3rd in the league. That's not OK. Currently, 4 of the 5 league leaders, in terms of saves, play for bottom half teams. It's obvious why that would be. Top teams don't allow shots at the alarming rate we do. Fact. She's an amazing goalkeeper, but can we give her a ruddy break already?
You guessed it. The veteran Orlando goalkeeper takes the top player award, yet again. It's great, but also not so great.
Harris -9- Another huge game for the skipper.
Riley -6- Not her best game, conceded possession quite a bit.
Krieger -6- Often backed off too much, rather than getting touch tight.
Turner -7- Steady improvement compared to recent weeks.
Petersen -7- Tried to make things happen.
Viggiano -6- Industrious performance, but had little midfield support.
Jónsdóttir -5- Needs to be removed from the limelight, poor form.
Marta -6- Quiet game from the GOAT.
Morgan -6- Shocking penalty but worked hard.
Leroux -6- Lots of running, but not as clinical as usual.
Taylor -6- Lively performance.
Tymrak -7- Probably needed to start.
McClernon -6- Came in late.
Pressley -6- Helped to steady the ship.
Kornieck -7- Was bright.
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