Analysis: Kansas City (a). Much changed Pride take all 3 points with professional performance.
The Orlando Pride are the real deal. I'm gonna say that right off the bat. I think we've all known that for a little while now, at least since the start of the regular season. I don't think too many thought of the Pride as title contenders, but most saw enough in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup to think this team could make the play-offs. I know it's still early doors, but I think we might be beyond that now. We're over a quarter of the way through the season now, and Orlando is currently perched nicely at the top of the table. They rang the changes for this battle, and it was a battle, against KC and swept their opponents aside. It was a huge statement win.
It was a thoroughly professional performance, where they matched the home team's endeavour, and scored some great goals along the way. In a lot of ways, for me, this is a bigger statement than the Portland win. Seriously. This win showed that, even without Ashlyn Harris, without Alex Morgan that this team can roll up their sleaves and get the job done. People might point to the fact KC is winless, but a team with Amy Rodriguez in it can never be taken lightly. This was a good win, and one that puts Orlando 3 points clear at the top. At least for a few days.
The importance of Sydney Leroux
Right now, saying that Sydney Leroux is important to the Orlando Pride is akin to saying that milk is important to a good cup of tea. Yes, before you say anything that is the correct way to do it. And don't you dare put the milk in first, you maniac. Aside from her 2 very well taken goals, Leroux worked very well on the defensive side of the game, winning 3 tackles and winning 3 recoveries in the attacking forward. That's defending from the front, right there. She just generally gets around the pitch well, and is leading by example whilst doing so.
On the other side of the ball, her quality is clear. She doesn't let up, and is constantly on the move. I think she may have found her niche as an inverted left-forward; and it's showing. I criticised her last week, for openly questioning the manager on the field of play, but there can be precious little criticism of her play on the field. She has established herself as an integral member of this squad. Her ability to pass and move was essential in this win, as it allowed the Pride to alleviate pressure on their back-line. Leroux was consistently dropping into space to receive and pass the ball (figure 1). She also got into dangerous forward areas, and hit the target 6 times from 6, scoring twice (figure 2). Need I say more?
Figure 1 shows Sydney Leroux's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Sydney Leroux's shot positioning matrix, whole 90.
Erin 'St.' McLeod
I don't think we appreciate Erin McLeod as much as we should do. And I don't say that facetiously, we are just blessed with a lot of goalkeeping talent, and I think we take that for granted as a fanbase at times. Our number 2 is an experienced, top quality, performer. One who would probably walk into most NWSL starting line-ups. Having not played for a number of weeks, Erin stepped in and performed as though she was the number 1, week in, week out. Her distribution was excellent (figure 3). You might see a lot of red lines in the graphic, but remember many of these are long goal kicks. She consistently put the ball into good areas. From then on in, she's relying on her midfielders and forwards to win the aerial duels. Something that's not always easy when you're facing Rachel Corsie. So, don't let the graphic fool you. McLeod also saved 3 of the 4 shots she faced. She's as reliable a back-up as you're ever likely to see.
Figure 3 shows Erin McLeod's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Let's be real here, we don't need any lengthy, profound analysis of what Marta did here. Let's just sit back and enjoy it.
Sydney Leroux was just on fire. Her two goals were reflective of her overall performance. She was a constant threat down the left-flank, and one that Kansas City seemed to have no answer to. In total she had 6 shots, converting 2. All 6 shots were on target, giving her a very impressive 33.3% conversion rate. The Pride posted a cumulative XG score of 1.01. Which attests to how clinical Leroux was. To score 3 goals from 10 shots on target is a steady rate. Orlando has scored 11 times so far this regular season, for an overall XG of 0.64. Leroux has 4 of those. She's absolutely vital to this team, and will be even more important when Alex Morgan heads off to the Olympics.
McLeod -7- Solid performance. Would start for most other NWSL clubs.
Petersen -7- Got up and down the field well, another solid performance.
Krieger -7- Solid defending, always talking Petersen and McClernon through the game.
McClernon -7- Another solid display, won most of her challenges.
Jónsdóttir -7- Experience display from the Icelandic international.
Viggiano -5- Seemed to really struggle. Uncharacteristically anonymous.
Dougherty-Howard -7- Kept possession well and helped to alleviate early pressure on the back 4.
Tymrak -6- Seemed to pop up in some good areas. Unlucky not to score.
Leroux -8- Superb performance, excellently well taken goals.
Kim -6- Lively, but end product was missing at times. Unfortunate injury.
Washington -6- Ran well, and didn't seem afraid to take players on.
Kornieck -7- Seemed to inject some pace and urgency into the game. Another unfortunate casualty.
Marta -7- Lobbed the 'keeper from halfway. Says it all.
Riley -7- Gave Orlando greater width, and allowed Jónsdóttir to impact the midfield.
Thomas -6- Provided fresh legs to help see the game out.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com and footystats.org