This was a game, in all honesty, where the scoreline probably didn't reflect the complexion of the game as a whole. It was near total domination from the visitors during the first 45 minutes (see figure 1). Absent minded defended allowed Shea Groom and Veronica Latsko to give the Dash a 2-0 lead. The Pride were utterly rudderless in all facets of their play, during a disastrous first period. It was like chalk and cheese from their series opening performance against North Carolina. In that game the Pride were determined, dogged and well organised. Here they were disjointed, disorganised and dis*insert any negative adjective*. It was that bad. And there is no point sugar coating that display during the first 45. The second half was an improvement; it couldn't really get any worse. Sydney LeRoux hauled the team back into the contest with a well taken goal, late on. That's as good as it got.
Figure 1 Dash dominated in the first half.
Orlando's defensive fragilities
This goal will have been a huge concern for Marc Skinner and his coaching staff. I'm going to use an adjective to describe the defending for this goal, and some of you may not like it. Lazy is not a term I use lightly, but it certainly fits here. Brianna Visalli picks the ball up in her own half, and strides forward totally unchallenged (figure 1). She hits a ball into the left channel for Kristie Mewis to scamper after. The pass is hugely over hit. Despite that, Mewis manages to make it all the way to the byline before pinging in a cross that Shea Groom heads home, completely unchallenged. How is it, that Visalli is able to run a third of the length of the field, completely unchallenged? How is it, that Mewis is able to pull over a cross, from a pass that was so badly mishit, completely unchallenged? Where was Carrie Lawrence? And, finally, how is it that Shea Groom is able to meander from the edge of her own D (scrub back the tape, if you don't believe me) all the way into our area, with no one picking her up? It's embarrassingly lazy defending. You may think I'm being hyper critical, but i'm sorry it's not even amateurish. It's schoolyard stuff.
Figure 1 Visalli strides forward with the freedom of Osceola County.
If you thought I was being harsh for the first goal, you may as well either strap yourselves in or stop reading right now. The second goal is a joke. Yes, a joke. It's the sort of defending that makes you wonder what a team does all week in training. But it's a team full of rookies! I hear you scream. You are absolutely right, but even rookies have to understand basic defensive shape and positioning.
When Houston pick up the ball in a central area, on 29 minutes, Ali Krieger steps up in line with Konya Plummer. Petersen and Lawrence don't move, in the full-back positions. In my opinion, it looked like Krieger and Plummer were executing a pre-planned offside trap. Veronica Latsko sees Petersen's lack of movement and darts into that space behind Krieger. Both Lawrence and Petersen are playing the Virginia graduate onside. It's so, so basic. The sort of thing you rehearse so often in training.
As a full-back you should always be aware of your central defensive partner's positioning. Krieger literally steps in front of Petersen, and the youngster does nothing. Yes, I know she's a rookie. And she will learn. She's shown a lot of defensive solidity so far in this series. This, however, is so, so poor. The same can, and should, be said of her compatriot on the other flank.
Figure 2 the Pride's defensive shape is all over the place.
Brittany Wilson acquitted herself well, particularly when you consider this was her first ever professional appearance. Wilson made 5 saves, and looked confident in commanding her area and berating some of her more experienced teammates in front of her. She looks a safe pair of hands, who could provide solid competition for Ashlyn Harris and Erin McLeod. If given the chance. She certainly did herself no harm in this game. There wasn't too much she could do with the first goal, and was left hopelessly exposed for the second goal. Solid debut.
Wilson -7- Solid debut for the youngster. Should be pleased with her first professional performance.
Petersen -6- Major mistake for the first goal, needs to learn positional sense.
Krieger -6- Experienced head amongst a rookie backline, will have been very frustrated with her teammates.
Plummer -6- Seemed to really struggle with Houston's pace.
Lawrence -6- Let herself down with her positioning for both goals. Not enough desire to get back for the first goal. Left the game on 25 minutes.
Washington -6- Didn't quite have the same impact as Listro had.
Edmonds -5- Not sure what her best position is. It's not midfield.
Viggiano -5- Struggled to impact the game.
Blackwood -6- Starved of service, but showed her ability with a few decent touches before leaving the game earlier.
LeRoux -7- Like Blackwood, starved of service. But never gave in. Great finish for the goal.
Marta -6- Didn't see enough of the ball, but showed her quality in the second half.
Elinsky -6- Excellent cross for the goal, plenty of endeavour.
Howarth -6- Full of running, but unable to impact the game.
Pressley -7- Helped to solidify a porous defence.
Uveges -6- Came in too late to have an impact.
*Statistics courtesy of NWSLSoccer.com