Analysis: Houston Dash (h). Pride Win But Ultimately Fall Short.
Decision day was never going to be anything but incredibly stressful. That first half was fraught, frenetic and just downright chaotic at times. The second? Frustrating and rather depressing.
The Pride probably had the better of the half, but the Dash had the two best opportunities with Nichelle Prince firing straight at the nervy Anna Moorhouse and Andressa Alves clipping the post with arguably the chance of the game, right on the stroke of half-time.
The second half was poor, however. It was very flat until the final ten minutes or so, but, by that point, they had a mountain to climb. Angel City's huge win over Portland, with results elsewhere, meant the Pride were faced with an impossible task.
That being said, Orlando were the better side in the first half, instigating 18 dangerous attacks (FlashScore.co.uk metric that measures final third entries). The Pride had 10 shots and generally looked the more threatening of the two sides, with Adriana looking hugely impressive.
The second half, however, as I've already said, was just lacklustre. There was a clear lack of urgency. Even in the 92nd minute, Anna Moorhouse was taking an age over a goal-kick... Defenders were knocking the ball back and forth... It was a hard watch.
With 10 minutes remaining, there was a disparaging lack of urgency. It was almost like they weren't aware they needed more goals; which was troubling to me. Their passing was slow and laboured. Their attacking play could almost be described as timid.
Whilst the Pride had 21 shots in total with 9 on target, many were speculative, and the ones that weren't found an in-form Jane Campbell. When all was said and done, the Pride only created 1 big chance from open play (the second half chance for Summer Yates).
There was a late flurry of shots in the box (figure 1), but they had left things too late. For much of the second half, their performance was just dour... And as the Angel City goals rained in, there seemed to be no noticeable shift...
As a game in isolation they did just about enough to win the game, which they obviously did. But it just wasn't enough in the overall context of the play-off hunt. Houston were there for the taking and the Pride seemed afraid to commit too many bodies forward. Orlando seemed so worried about conceding (even though Houston offered nothing in the second period, figure 2). Their every move was laced with trepidation; they were scared to fall behind. But the situation dictated they throw caution to the wind, they just chose not to.
I'd love to honestly say to you that the reason Orlando's season is over is because there was an obvious tactical issue. We all know the amount of defeats is what ultimately cost the Pride; only the bottom 2 lost more than Orlando's 11 games. Whilst the Pride had more wins than everyone but San Diego Wave and Portland, their inability to pick up the odd point (1 draw all season) has cost them.
This has been a real Jekyll and Hyde season. Although, there are plenty of promising players at the club. A good off season, and we won't be a million miles from where we want to be. Not that, that makes me feel any better about the way this season ended.
Alas, the team had a clear objective against Houston. Win (probably by a few goals) or bust. So I had a really hard time understanding exactly why they were so hesitant in their passing, their movement, their willingness to take people on and drive the ball forward. Campbell had to make a few saves late on, but for Orlando to have only 5 shots on target (figure 2), in a game they needed multiple goals from... It was frustrating.
Until the last few minutes I found the game very... Flat. Almost, boring.
We needed more. It's going to be a long few months.
Figure 1 shows Orlando's shot positioning matrix, second half (🔵 blocked, red🟥 off-target and 🟢 on target.
Figure 2 shows Orlando's second half shooting statistics (left).
Adriana was the only Pride player who seemed to understand the urgency of their situation as the game wore on. She was perhaps guilty of overdoing it at times, particularly when isolating her full-back. Still, she looked capable of producing a moment of magic. Her rollover to create space for a shot late on was particularly inventive, even if the shot went straight into Campbell's grateful grasp.
Moorhouse -6- Didn't have much to do.
McCutcheon -7- Worked hard.
Madril -7- Played the ball out well.
Rafaelle -7- Commanding presence.
Strom -7- Solid.
Listro -6- Worked hard.
Abello -6- Full of running.
Adriana -7- Looked dangerous at times.
Marta -6- Somewhat hamstrung by the team's lethargy.
Tymrak -6- Looked uncharacteristically timid.
Bright -5- Anonymous.
Watt -6- Couldn't get into it.
Cluff -6- Needed more time.
Doyle -7- Should start.
Larroquette -6- Too late.
Yates -5- Missed a golden chance.
Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines
"We won the game, but we lose, so it is difficult. I thought we started a little bit slow and not as threatening as I would have liked us to be, but I get it, there was a lot at stake in this game and a lot of pressure. I felt like in the second half, we were more aggressive. The goal comes from a terrific ball from Julie [Doyle] and a great run from Marta and gets in behind the backline and gets brought down and you think you are one-nil up and looking towards next week, but it wasn’t meant to be. It is a tough one.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Media availability footage and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.