Going away, especially to a quality team like Gotham, with such a lengthy injury list is a daunting prospect. The Orlando Pride, however, did not seem fazed. Back to back heavy defeats would've undoubtedly knocked the team's confidence a little, but you wouldn't have known it. During the first half in particular, the Pride were much the better side. They were shifting possession well, playing with confidence and intricacy.
The Pride were rewarded with a well taken goal from Gunny Jónsdóttir. The Icelandic midfielder attacked a delivery from Angharad James' corner-kick to nod the Pride in front. James whipped the ball into the front post, and Jónsdóttir was able to send a thumping header past Ashlyn Harris in the Gotham goal.
Mandy Freeman's theatrics earned Kristie Mewis the chance to equalise from 12 yards, on 46 minutes. It was a goal the home team simply did not deserve. The goal seemed to lift their spirits and they came out with all the ferver of Arkham Asylum in the second half. Obligatory Batman reference there. I'm not even sorry.
Anyway, the Pride weathered the storm well; some defensive excellence and smart stops from Kaylie Collins kept Gotham at bay. The Pride had opportunities to steal the win, but should still be pleased with their performance on the whole.
Confidence in possession
There seemed to be a confidence about Orlando as they knocked the ball around, which was perhaps indicative of a greater chemistry and synergy within the team. There were a number of examples of Orlando passing the ball around, finding each other with intricate passing moves in tight areas. One such example can be seen in figure 1. Gotham had pushed up right against Orlando down the Pride's left. Orlando had won a throw in and were able to play their way through Gotham's press with relative ease.
This was something we saw a lot of, particularly in the first half. Orlando's midfield partnership of Angharad James and Kerry Abello were essential in that regard. Both of which were particularly adept at dropping into the space in front of the back 4 when Orlando wanted to build out of the back (figure 2). This allowed them to open up passing lanes in the Pride's half and give them the opportunity to play through Gotham's press.
Figure 1 is a video clip from the first half.
Figure 2 shows Abello's and James' pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Orlando also demonstrated their ability to play through Gotham in the attacking third. The Pride's movement in forward areas (which we'll talk about shortly) helped to open gaps between the Gotham defence and midfield, as well as between their centre-backs and full-backs. Orlando caused Gotham a number of problems playing this way, particularly in the first half. In figure 3, you'll see a good example of Orlando playing between the lines, particularly when Leah Pruitt finds Darian Jenkins in a good position with a neat pass with the outside of her foot.
Now, in this instance, Jenkins ends up running into a cul-de-sac, but what we then see is some great anticipation from James, who picks up the loose ball and then finds Courtney Petersen in an advanced position thus keeping the attack going.
Amanda Cromwell spoke, in the post match presser, about wanting to be aggressive and push the full-backs high. This helps with the overall team chemistry and passing as it stretches the field, which leaves gaps. The person on the ball just always seemed to know where their teammates would be. There really were some promising signs in this game, at least in terms of the possession game.
Figure 3 is a game clip from the first half.
Movement in attack
As I alluded to earlier, the Pride's attacking movement was a key component of their positive play in possession. Jenkins and Pruitt were pivotal in this regard. For example, look at the game still in figure 4. The movement from both players here, when Mikayla Cluff gets the ball, is so clever.
Pruitt drops to a position just outside of the area, which drags a defender out of position. And, because Jenkins is holding her position on the right, Gotham are already stretched. Pruitt's movement leads to a huge gap opening up in that half space between Caprice Dydasco and Freeman. As a result Cluff is able to play an excellent pass into that space which Abello does a great job of attacking, by twisting her run around Dydasco. She is then able to force a good save from Harris.
Figure 4 is a game still from the second half.
Collins had a solid debut for the Pride. She saved 4 of the 5 shots she faced (figure 5). She just generally looked quite assured when commanding her area and distributing the ball. It was just a solid professional debut for the 'keeper. She can be proud of her performance.
Figure 5 shows Collins' stats, whole 90.
Her stats don't tell the whole story. On the face of it they're not particularly impressive (though they're hardly poor either). Pruitt had 34 touches and completed 68.4% of her 19 passes. She also, somewhat surprisingly, only drew 1 foul. Her movement, however, was excellent. She moved with pace and intelligence. Her darting runs in that half space between Ali Krieger and Estelle Johnson caused no end of issues for the Gotham defence.
Pruitt is quick footed and highly intelligent with her runs. Her pace, alongside that of Jenkins', seemed to frighten Gotham. She also displayed excellent control and seemed adept receiving the ball on the half turn, which allowed her to get away from challenges. She also whipped in a number of devilish crosses. In my opinion, we look so much more dangerous when she plays.
Collins -8- Acquitted herself really well; has to be in the thinking for the starting role.
Petersen -7- Much improved from last week.
Pressley -7- Unlucky to give away the penalty, had a solid game.
Montefusco -7- Is becoming a real leader on this team.
Celia -7- Got up and down the flank well and played some dangerous crosses.
James -8- Had an excellent game in the centre. Her set pieces were great too.
Abello -7- Provided balance with the left foot and used the ball well.
Cluff -7- Played some really intelligent passes, particularly the one to Abello in the second half.
Jónsdóttir -8- Took her goal well and showed intelligent movement.
Jenkins -8- Constant threat with her direct running.
Pruitt -9- It's a shame she wasn't able to get on the score sheet, she was excellent.
Doyle -7- Showed confidence when she came on.
Kim -6- Unfortunate not to win the game late on.
Strom -7- Hopefully James isn't too badly hurt, but Strom filled in well.
Washington -6- Provided fresh legs late on.
Orlando Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell
"I thought we started really well, getting the ball early. We’ve been working a lot on set plays and being more dangerous, especially on corner kicks, so that [goal] was really encouraging. I thought our possession was really good and we had a lot of confidence. This game is funny, you need to follow that up with getting a second one to continue the confidence building. We gave up the penalty right before half so that set the stage for the second half, not being able to keep it like we were but we were really shorthanded today. We were dealing with some injuries during the game, as well, so I was really proud of the effort. I thought Kaylie [Collins] in goal was spectacular so I’m really proud of some of the bright spots tonight. And we got a point so you have to celebrate the little wins, even the ties.”
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Highlights and post match press conference video courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Game stills courtesy of CBS.