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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: NJ/NY Gotham FC (h). Chastening Defeat In The Challenge Cup.

This is a new Orlando Pride. A confident Orlando Pride. Well, at least it was till a point in this game. Around about the 35th minute if I'm being honest.


A small raft of changes were made to the starting XI, as the Pride continue to use the NWSL Challenge Cup to give minutes to some of the fringe players.


That being said, there were a smattering of starters in the XI with the likes of Julie Doyle, Megan Montefusco and Emily Madril taking their place in the line-up.



It was, largely, a strong performance from the Pride during an entertaining first half. After Montefusco had headed the Pride into a 1-0 lead, Gotham replied through a Jenna Nighswonger penalty. A penalty that was gifted to the visitors after a clumsy challenge on Midge Purce from Brianna Martinez, who had otherwise played well.


From that moment on Gotham just wrestled control of the match. A second half golazzo from McCall Zerboni was immediately succeeded by a smart finish from Yazmeen Ryan and the game was gone.


The Pride weren't helped, at all, by the officials, who seemed intent on making it all about them. As per the usual.


Still, head coach Seb Hines won't use that as an excuse:


"You have to look at it, there are a couple of players who have not played significant minutes throughout the season and they are coming into the team. We’ve got a couple of injuries as well so here is an opportunity for them to play in a competitive game. My standards will always stay the same, it doesn't matter if you’ve played the last couple of games or you haven’t. We’ve set a high bar for everyone, and you have to reach that bar. I guess it was just down to not as many minutes as both players would have hoped for going into this game. Like I said, the team has been brilliant at setting such a high bar of standards and expectations and you don’t want to drop that, and you don’t want to compensate for players who’ve played. It’s one game after the break, we’ve got multiple games coming up and we want to get the ball rolling and have that momentum towards the end of the year. We started slow, but I’ve seen what the players are capable of doing and I know it's in them. I'm demanding, but I know what they're capable of doing. I've got full belief in them and what they can do.” 


There's no doubt that the concession of a penalty swung the momentum in the visitors' favour. Martinez, otherwise, had a promising night, but her challenge for the penalty was clumsy and unnecessary to say the least. If that doesn't happen, then maybe there's a different outcome to this game.


That being said, there are lessons to be learned about concentration and mentality for the whole team.



Mentally switching off


After the game, the Pride's Jordyn Listro spoke about how she felt there was a collective drop in energy either side of the half-time interval, which she felt led to the team's demise:


"We always talk about the ‘big five [moments]’ and that is the five minutes after a goal is scored or the five minutes after halftime an I don’t think we were mentally prepared enough for those five minutes. Those were crucial moments in the game that we should have locked in and stayed focus. It is unfortunate, but we will learn from it.” 


It's hard to disagree with her assessment, there was a noticeable difference in their performance either side of the break, by comparison to the first 35 minutes.


Up until Gotham's equaliser, the Pride were by far the better team. They got themselves in front with a very well taken goal. They looked confident in possession, they were playing through Gotham's press with relative ease, they were pressing well themselves... They looked every bit a team that could score every time they went forward.


You know I always like to deep dive into the way the team played, go through the numbers and so on. But this was one of those games where want wrong wasn't at all tactical. It was clearly a mental issue.


When I asked her what she would attribute that mental drop off too, be it rotation, the break, Listro told me she felt it to be a mentality issue that the team needs to work on:


"I think no matter who is on the field, everyone trusts each other, so I honestly think it was just a mentality thing. I think we kinda got upset (when the penalty was awarded, and obviously they scored (it), so I think that it was a mentality thing, and we're definitely going to learn from it. Obviously we did have that week off, but we're gonna get going and take the right steps forward."


So, it's difficult to pinpoint any tactical shifts, or anything that changed which led to the team losing control of this game. It seemed to be just a collective switching off.


In all honesty, with how well the Pride have been playing recently, it's easy to forget just how young this team is. So periods, in game, such as these are perhaps to be expected.


I would imagine there will be a lot of soul searching at the training complex this week, with the aim of getting back to winning ways against a North Carolina Courage side that just hit Washington Spirit for 6.


Easy.



Top player


Megan Montefusco



There were a few encouraging performances, mainly during the first 35 minutes. But I'd be remiss to not give it to Megan Montefusco. With that bullet header in the first half, she ended a 5 year goal drought and notched her first for the Pride. Getting goals from defenders can only be a good thing for this team. Let's hope there's many more to come.


Player ratings


Starting XI


Moorhouse -6- Needed to do a lot better with the third goal.


Celia -6- Looked rusty.

Montefusco -7- Took her goal well.

Madril -7- Reasonably solid.

Martinez -6- Learning curb.


Listro -7- Got about the pitch well.

Cluff -7- Particularly bright in the first half.

Villacorta -6- Essential in playing through the press.

Doyle -7- Looked Orlando's biggest threat all night.

Tymrak -6- Excellent delivery for the goal.


Watt -6- Starved of service after half time.


Substitutes


Yates -7- Caused problems when she came on.

Reiss -6- Found it tough to impact the game.

Bright -6- Missed a great chance to haul Orlando back into it.

Allen -6- Looked bright.


Reaction


Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines


"We did not look like ourselves tonight. You can put multiple things on it, but we set a high bar from the last couple of games and the standards have been extremely high and you have seen the performance. We have just dropped that a little bit, whether that is down to the break, because we had so much good momentum and it probably came at the worst possible time for us, but I don’t like to make excuses. Performance wasn’t good enough. We had a good start, but then it is seeing it out throughout the whole game. Gotham took their goals well. Two goals from outside the box, but I think we will have to look at ourselves as we know we can do much better.” 





*Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Media availability and B-Roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.

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