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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis. Houston Dash (a). Plenty of positives to take from 3-1 reversal in Houston.

There was something of a wake-up call in store for the Orlando Pride, in Houston, on Saturday evening. A bouyant Houston side bested the Orlando Pride, with goals from Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt (pen) and Shea Groom sandwiching a Marisa Viggiano strike just before half-time. The Dash, to be truthful never looked like relinquishing their grip on this game.

There were bright spots for the Pride, however. The return to goal scoring form of Marisa Viggiano being chief among them. Rookies such as Carrie Lawrence and Courtney Petersen continued to give a good account of themselves. So, it wasn't all bad for Marc Skinner's team. There was a lot for the Englishman to ponder from this game; you can learn just as much about a team's mentality from defeat as you can from victory. This is particularly useful in the situation Orlando currently finds itself in, when attempting to identify players who can help the team moving forwards.

Marisa Viggiano can be a star for this team

Marisa Viggiano was fantastic on Saturday. However, there is an elephant in the room. Before I delve into that, let me just preface it by saying I'm about to speak, at length, about how great Marisa Viggiano is. I'm not ignoring the elephant. I can't. So here it is. That penalty call. I'm just gonna go ahead and say it how it is. That was a joke call. Viggiano stands her ground, and Shea Groom goes to ground. It was nothing short of a pathetic decision. Regular readers will know that I don't mince my words. And they will also know, I usually punctuate situations like this with a Star Wars reference. That penalty call was the Clone Wars movie of all penalty calls. It was that bad. And then to compound things, the referee books Viggiano for dissent? Umm, are you really surprised she is dissenting? Really? Anyway, let's move on before I give myself a coronary.

Marisa Viggiano really underlined her tremendous potential, and is steadily become a more complete midfielder. Just look at her heatmap in figure 1. She got all over the pitch, and really moved the ball around well. She has a great engine and gets up and down the field well. She was richly rewarded with a superbly taken goal, one that epitomised her engine and movement.

Ok, so we probably need to talk about that goal a little more right now. I'm still a bit edgy after thinking about that penalty call. Viggiano actually starts the move by popping the pass off to Pressley in the defensive third, before exchanging passes with Petersen and Uveges. She then runs onto a through ball from a give and go with Washington, before skipping inside and cracking a low drive into the bottom corner. It was a fantastic team goal, that will give the Northwestern graduate immense confidence.

Figure 1 shows Marisa Viggiano's heatmap from the defeat to Houston.

Orlando's rookie full-backs provide cause for optimism

One positive facet of the Pride's play, which will have really pleased Marc Skinner, will have been the performance of Carrie Lawrence and Courtney Petersen. Both rookie full-backs really impressed in this game. Both Lawrence and Petersen were defensively solid. They both seem to have good positional sense; both are good with the ball at their feet, and both seem to play with a maturity that belies their years. They don't look as if the step-up has fazed them too much. They look assured in possession, and not afraid to advance forward into areas where they can impact the Pride's offence. If you take a look at figure 2, you'll see their passing map which gives you an idea of how often they were able to get into forward areas and affect the game.

Marc Skinner has often spoken of wanting to play a fluid style, with players being interchangeable all across the field. Full-backs are so often crucial to any team that wants to play this 'total football' style, as they are often a great outlet for attacks. Right back is an area of the team that has yet to be locked down. Erin Greening had shown promise there, but has since been waived. That position, you feel, is Lawrence's to lose right now.

The same can arguably be said of the left back position. Carson Pickett is a fan favourite, and for good reason. However, there were concerns over her performances at times last season. Depth is definitely required in that position, and Petersen could be the woman to provide that depth. That depth will also, inevitably, bring the best out of Pickett when she returns.

I realise, we're only 2 games into this NWSL Fall Series, but I've liked what I've seen from Lawrence and Petersen thus far. Both seem to want to prove themselves. Lawrence in particular; she was initially waived in June. You get the feeling, from her combative play, that she feels she has a point to prove.

Figure 2 shows the pass maps from both of Orlando full-backs.

Top player

Marisa Viggiano

Marisa Viggiano is a player with bags of potential. Much of it unrealised. She had a very positive rookie year, but you get the feeling the best is yet to come. She posted an 82% pass completion rate in this game (many of them forward balls), and chalked up 1 goal. One of her greatest characteristics, is that she gets up and down the pitch so well. She was always available for a pass on Saturday evening. She again showcased that she has the ability, and potential, to really make this team tick. Houston had a hard time tracking her movements, and on another night she may have contributed to more Orlando goals.

Player ratings

Starting XI

Harris -7- Was bombarded a little at times, and couldn't really do much about the goals.

Lawrence -8- Another very promising performance from the young defender.

Krieger -7- Composed performance from the experienced defender.

Pressley -7- Got caught out a little for the first goal, but solid aside from that.

Petersen -7- Got up and down the field well, and displayer positive ball distribution.

Viggiano -8- Looks to be coming into her own.

Washington -7- Steady performance. Great ball for the goal.

Listro -7- Looks very capable, strong and intelligent in possession.

Uveges -6- Didn't get into the game all that much, but showed a few positive glimpses.

Marta -7- Even when not at her best, she's still class.

Elinsky -5- Largely anonymous.


Blackwood -6- Showed some nice touches. Looked confident.

Plummer -6- Great block to deny Prince late on.

Haran -6- Came on in the dying embers, so no chance to affect the game.

All statistics and graphics courtesy of


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