Analysis: Chicago Red Stars (h). Orlando Pride Welcome World Cup Stars Back With A Bang.
The Pride handed debuts to Rafaelle Souza and Mariana Larroquette, whilst also welcoming Adriana and Marta back to the starting XI, after the quartet's exploits at the 2023 FIFA World Cup.
The Pride then proceeded to blow away the Red Stars with their most devastating display of the season. The Pride looked confident in possession, their movement was excellent and they were defensively very solid.
This win was just what the Pride needed, after a rotten run in the NWSL Challenge Cup. There can be no doubt that the returning World Cup stars provided a real injection of both energy and quality; Adriana provided 2 assists, Marta another, whilst Rafaelle Souza and Larroquette both notched debit goals for the Pride.
After the game Pride head coach Seb Hines spoke of their importance: "It's massive. They've come in and they've settled in really well. Obviously, Rafa is a world class center half and she's been threatening in her career off set pieces. And it's nice to get that early goal, nice for her to get that goal early [in her Pride career] on as well. But just [she’s] so comfortable in possession and out of possession. So yeah, for her to settle in and get a goal and a clean sheet is pretty remarkable. And same for [Mariana] Larroquette, coming in and you can see the hunger that she brings to try and score every moment. She wants to score. And like I said, they fit in really well to the group and what we expect from them.”
The movement of Messiah Bright
Messiah Bright was key to this victory. The young forward has struggled for consistency of late, but you could tell that the return of the likes of Adriana and Marta have given her the confidence she needed to get back to her best. She was physically strong, she ran well and she got into some great areas (figure 1).
Her performance was perfectly encapsulated in her first goal, and Orlando's second. She arcs her run perfectly, down the left flank, before having the presence of mind to cut inside and hit a beautiful curling shot inside the far corner and leave Alyssa Naehar clutching at thin air (figure 2).
For her second goal, she occupies the half space between the right centre-back and right-back, operating on the blind side of the centre-back before darting in behind to get on the end of Marta's pass. She then rounds the 'keeper and applies an excellent finish (figure 3).
Bright knows, that with Adriana, Doyle and Marta behind her, if she makes those runs they will find her. As proved to be the case with both her goals. Getting her firing again (she moved to 6 goals on the season) is going to be absolutely key to this teams' success this season.
Figure 1 shows Bright's shot positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Bright's first goal.
Figure 3 shows Bright's second goal.
Marta is essential to the way this team plays
One of the idiosyncrasies of this team is how much stronger they are with Marta in the team, which, now I type it out seems something of an oxymoron. Of course, if you take the greatest playmaker of all time out of a team, they're going to feel the impact. She is, to this team, what the Skywalker lineage is to the Star Wars franchise. Take her out, and the whole thing doesn't seem to work.
Orlando did a great job in possession of the ball, completing 85.6% of their 424 passes. The Brazilian dropping deep and getting on the ball was key to this, as everything went through her (figure 4). Her movement created space, which meant she could get the chains moving by playing the ball wide and between the lines.
The Pride has to have a long term plan for replacing her, because they're going to feel it when she eventually hangs up her boots.
Figure 4 shows Marta's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Bright will undoubtedly take all of the plaudits, and rightly so, on a night where any member of the Pride attack could have claimed our coveted top player accolade. As we've already touched upon, her movement was excellent. But, I'd be remiss not to talk about the quality of both finishes. Both efforts had laser like accuracy. Top drawer stuff.
Moorhouse -7- Quiet evening for her.
McCutcheon -7- Got up and down the line very well.
Souza -8- Very solid debut.
Madril -8- Seemed to enjoy playing alongside Souza.
Strom -7- Solid as ever.
Abello -8- Industrious in the centre of the park.
Villacorta -8- Possessed the ball well.
Doyle -8- She seemed to enjoy getting forward.
Adriana -8- Had fun out there.
Marta -9- Essential.
Bright -9- Star of the show... Just.
Larroquette -7- Great goal.
Cluff -7- Great finish off the bench.
Yates -7- Looked lively.
Listro -7- Kept possession well.
Montefusco -7- Unlucky to miss out.
Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines
"The players were brilliant today from start to finish and the intensity of how they did everything from attacking to defending. We talked heavily about taking our opportunities and end products in the final third and they were brilliant. I can’t speak highly enough of them. We've felt like that performance has been coming, but it's nice to finally get a good scoreline at the end of it.”
All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com.
Top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Game play footage courtesy of NWSL/CBS Sports.
B-Roll and media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.