Analysis: NJ/NY Gotham FC (a). Tymrak scores cheeky lob, as Pride takes all 3 from the Garden State.
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I've been to New Jersey, it's lovely. My wife and I ate at a delightful little restaurant called the Chart House in Weehawken, whilst on our honeymoon. The view overlooked downtown Manhattan from over the Hudson River. It was a spectacular view, wondrous to behold. As beautiful as that view of new York City was, it didn't have anything on Sunday evening's scoreline in New Jersey however.
Make no mistake about it, this was a huge win; not just in terms of the overall play-off picture, but also in terms of instilling a belief in this team. A belief that they can go anywhere in this league and pick up a win. The win has Orlando ideally placed in 4th, with home games against the Dash and Louisville coming up. I don't want to tempt fate, but it would be a brave person that bets against this team making the post season party right now.
This performance was what I would call a real 'smash and grab'. The home side had the lions share of the play, which we expected, but the Orlando Pride defence stood firm. We might as well call them Jedi Knights, as they were the guardians of peace and justice in the Orlando Pride penalty area. Whilst Gotham undoubtedly had their opportunities, Ashlyn Harris was remarkably under worked, relative to the amount of possession and shots the home team had.
Orlando's rearguard action
Defensively speaking, the Orlando Pride were outstanding on Sunday. There's really no other superlatives that would do them any justice. And it all comes from effective leadership and decision making. Shifting Ali Riley to left-back, in the absence of Courtney Petersen was genius. Riley's pace and tenacity was always going to be an ideal counter-measure against the pace of Ifeoma Onumonu.
The Pride's overall defensive organisation was nothing short of stellar. As Becky Burleigh said after the game, Ali Krieger was central to that. She was vocal throughout the game, organising her back-line and making sure her midfield dropped in to help out. Every time Gotham went forward the back 4 assumed a rigid line and the midfield dropped deep to help clog up the space (figure 1). What would then happen, further up the field, is Marta would move into a central position, as Sydney Leroux dropped back to reinforce the midfield. It meant there was always an outlet to feed Jodie Taylor when Gotham turned the ball over. It was a defensive masterclass in many ways. There was no deviation from this when Taylor Kornieck came in, and Gunny Jónsdóttir moved to right-back. Everyone knows their role.
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This defensive organisation allowed the team to get themselves into positions where they won tackles (figure 2) and defensive blocks in key areas (figure 3). Gotham never really got in behind the back-line. Everything was in front of them, which is always preferable as a defender. If the Pride continues to defend like this, they won't concede many goals at all between now and the end of the season.
Figure 1 is an example of Orlando's perfect defensive set-up.
Figure 2 shows Orlando's tackle positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 3 shows Orlando's defensive block positioning matrix, whole 90.
The Erika Tymrak supposition
Erika Tymrak was superb in this game, and I'm not just referring to the outrageously disrespectful goal she scored. I mean, it was beautiful. Part of me feels like she should write a sincere letter of apology to the Gotham organisation for even trying that. But then the other part of me thinks she should sign it 'Sorry, PSYCH!'. It was pure unadulterated filth and there's no doubt she meant it; the quick glance towards the 'keeper says it all. If there's been a better goal scored in the NWSL so far this season, I've yet to see it.
Her overall performance, though. It was just... Classy. She was all over the pitch, breaking lines and linking the play. She had 30 touches, 1 shot on target, 1 goal, 15 passes for a 66.7% success rate (figure 4). Which isn't bad at all when you're up against one of the best recovery teams in the league; there's going to be an element of risk with every forward pass. She also did some key defensive work with 2 tackles, 2 interceptions and 4 recoveries. She was just superb. You can see she's visibly growing in confidence. You'd be a fool to back against her scoring another outrageous lob in the coming weeks.
Figure 4 shows Erika Tymrak's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Ashlyn Harris is the GOAT
I mean, we knew this already, right? Now it's official, however. Ashlyn Harris is the all-time leading NWSL goalkeeper in terms of saves made. A second half parry to deny Carli Lloyd sealed the record for the native Floridian shot stopper on what was, somewhat ironically, not one of her busiest nights.
Nevertheless, she made 3 crucial saves on the night, including 1 inside the first minute. Harris was as solid as ever in her all round game, claiming 2 crosses and going 10 for 15 on completed passes. There is no better goalkeeper in world football. It's insane how underrated she is, which is a funny thing to say about one of Forbes' top 10 most marketable athletes.
We are so blessed in Orlando. I know her family is in Central Florida, but it's staggering that some of the world's biggest clubs have never tried to sign her. I for one am glad they never bothered.
Not sure she's been getting the credit she deserves, particularly since Becky Burleigh's appointment. The former Gators have both been central to Orlando's recent revival. I spoke in my preview, about the importance of looking after the ball against a team like Gotham. Whilst Freya Coombe's team (well, ex-team now) had 58.3% of the overall play, you have to think they'd've had more if Dougherty-Howard didn't play as well as she did.
The erstwhile Washington Spirit player made 1 tackle, had 51 touches, played 40 passes at a success rate of 80% and drew 2 fouls (figure 5). Only Marta made more successful passes for Orlando. Dougherty-Howard was effective in terms of shielding the back 4. She also did a great job of breaking Gotham's lines with her passing, with 14 of her 40 passes finding a teammate in a more advanced position. Top drawer performance.
Figure 5 shows Meggie Dougherty-Howard's overall performance statistics, whole 90.
Harris -7- GOAT.
McClernon -7- Solid display in an unfamiliar position.
Krieger -8- Leader.
Pressley -7- Her long ball distribution was first class.
Riley -7- Did well to stifle Onumonu.
Dougherty-Howard -8- Classy performance.
Jónsdóttir -7- Broke up the play nicely, and provided some grit in the middle.
Tymrak -8- Outrageous goal.
Marta -7- Classy as ever.
Leroux -7- Her defensive work was superb.
Taylor -6- Never stopped running.
Kornieck -6- Helped see the game out.
Strom -6- Came in very late, not much time to do anything.
Viggiano -6- Provided fresh legs in the middle.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
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