Analysis: North Carolina Courage (a). Harsh Lesson For The Pride As They Are Beaten By The Courage.
I said, in my preview for this game, that this game would prove to be a decent measuring stick for the Pride. And so it proved to be. The narrow margin of the defeat is a little misleading; this was a game that the Courage dominated from start to finish. In all honesty they could, and probably should, have won by more than the Merritt Mathias penalty to nil.
I don't think there's any reason to be down on this team, though. This Pride squad is young, and it's going to take them time to gel. Experiences like this are going to help this squad build character and to keep them grounded. The rebuilding of this team is going to take time. It's unlikely we'll see success this season. For Amanda Cromwell it's all about establishing a culture at the club, one that can hopefully be used as a building block for success in the future.
Inability to keep hold of possession at key times
A common theme throughout the game was Orlando's inability to maintain possession for long periods; they posted a pass completion rate of 69.3%, whilst playing significantly less passes than North Carolina (326-499). They were just too frantic in possession and needed calmer heads, which is something Cromwell spoke to after the game (see Reaction section). The Pride just needed someone to put their foot on the ball and take the sting out of the game, particularly when the Courage were pressing them.
A prime example of this game within the first 5 minutes of the game (figure 1). Parker Roberts is guilty of misplacing a simple pass in the middle of the park that forces a needless turnover, and the Courage are able to get on the attack.
Figure 1 is a game still from the opening few minutes when the Pride concede possession.
This was something that continued to happen throughout the game. The Pride just couldn't seem to find one another; see the unsuccessful pass positioning matrix in figure 2. This is something that the Pride needs to work on.
Figure 2 shows the Pride's unsuccessful pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Low attacking output
A natural consequence of Orlando's inability to keep hold of the ball was their non-existent attacking output. They've obviously been watching too much Star Wars, and they now think they are Jedi, for whom attachment and possession are forbidden. I realise I kinda shoe horned that in there, but I've forgotten my pointless nerdy references a few times this season and have received comments. I'm glad.
Anyway, in terms of an attacking presence, the Pride offered nothing. The closest they game was a late snap shot from Mikayla Cluff that never looked like troubling the 'keeper. Their attacking stats don't make for pleasant reading (figure 3). They just couldn't hold on to the ball for long enough to allow any of their attacking players to get into dangerous areas.
I wish there was a more complicated or nuanced reason for the Pride's performance, but there just isn't. They just couldn't keep the ball, and that was the bedrock of their issues.
Figure 3 shows both team's attacking stats, whole 90.
McLeod made a few smart stops, saving 3 of the 4 shots she faced. She also claimed 2 crosses. Her distribution was solid. Losing Ashlyn Harris was a blow, but I honestly think McLeod's presence has cushioned the blow considerably.
McLeod -7- Solid performance.
Lawrence -6- Never hit the heights she did vs Washington, but who did?
Petersen -6- Defended well 1 v 1.
Montefusco -7- Helped to keep the scoreline down.
Pressley -7- Was a solid presence in the back 4.
Marta -7- Was a blow to lose her.
Dougherty-Howard -6- Couldn't get into the game.
Roberts -6- Struggled.
Jónsdóttir -6- Passing was poor.
Jenkins -6- Starved of service.
Leroux -6- Same.
Cluff -6- Couldn't make much of an impact.
Strom -6- Defended well but struggled in possession.
Tymrak -6- Barely got a kick.
James -7- Kept possession well.
Pruitt -7- Looked lively.
Orlando Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell
"Not a great match for us, obviously, in possession. I still think we worked really hard, defended pretty well only giving up a penalty. Marta going down in the first half didn’t bode well as far as our possession. She helps so much with our composure on the ball and our ability to keep it in tight spaces, but we were able to get subs on the field to get some looks on some players. I think they broke our pressure way too easily, which we changed in the second half and got a little bit better. In the end, we just didn’t hold the ball well enough and going forward we’re going to need to build better to break lines.”
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Post match comments video asset and B-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.