• Dan Berridge

Analysis: North Carolina Courage (a). Pride Over Courage, As Orlando Record Victory In Cary

The Orlando Pride seem to have found a bit of confidence, don't they? For the second road trip in a row, the Orlando Pride escaped with a vitally important 3 points.


Fresh from their victory in the NWSL Challenge Cup, the North Carolina Courage were heavily favoured to get their regular season off the ground with a victory over Amanda Cromwell's team. The Pride, however, had other ideas.


Make no mistake, this was a thoroughly deserved win for the Pride. They continuously exposed Jaelene Daniels down the Courage's left flank. Another goal from Sydney Leroux, and a maiden goal for Mikayla Cluff were enough to seal the 3 points. The Pride can now head into the weekend, knowing a win could take them to the top of the league. At this early stage of the season, the standings do not matter, but such a lofty position, even at this early stage, could undoubtedly help to tether this squad's new found confidence.

Julie Doyle's full regular season debut


The game represented Julie Doyle's first regular season start for the Pride, and she certainly acquitted herself well overall. Doyle led the line well and made some useful runs in an attempt to stretch the backline and exploit the space in behind. Her stats weren't amazing, but you could see her talent as she had the confidence to try and take players on. She was often trying to move on the outside of her full-back, which helps to create space in the centre (figures 1 & 2).

Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.

Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.


The point is, as regular season full debuts in one of the league's most difficult venues go, this was a solid one. Doyle's fotmob.com rating of 6.9 is indicative of her performance. She didn't seem to lack confidence in taking players on and made some clever movements to get into goal scoring positions. She also pressed well when North Carolina were attempting to play the ball out from the back (figure 3). Overall, an encouraging full regular season debut for Doyle.

Figure 3 is a game still from the first half.


Orlando's dominance of the right flank


It's well known that Orlando have pace in wide areas, and that they like to stretch the play. You would think the Courage would be wise to that, but it seemef like they weren't. Time and time again, Orlando were able to find Celia and Abi Kim (later, Darian Jenkins) in space, particularly after they won the ball high up the pitch (more on that later). Both goals came from that side of the field and, truthfully, the Pride could easily have had more.

Jaelene Daniels didn't seem to care about covering that left-back slot for the Courage. The polarising defender seemed more concerned with her offensive duties and Orlando made her pay for that. Abi Kim may have been subbed at the half, but she still managed to launch a plethora of balls into the box, as did Celia (figure 4).

Figure 4 shows Celia and Abi Kim's cross/pass positioning matrix, whole 90.


Orlando's high press


Orlando's press was just excellent. They hunted in packs and did a great job of cutting out passing lanes. This approach ensured that the Courage were never able to settle on the ball and that the Pride were able to win the ball in advantageous positions. The chemistry between the team was apparent for all to see, they pressed with high levels of intensity and synergy. This was a very pleasing aspect of the Pride's performance.


Their readiness to press and their starting shape is what made it all work so well. Take a look at the still in figure 5; the forwards are ideally placed to cut off passing lanes, whilst the midfield is holding a high line and cutting out the space behind the forwards. It was very difficult for North Carolina to play through it, which led to a high number of turnovers in Orlando's favour (figure 6).

Figure 5 is a game still from the first half.

Figure 6 shows Orlando's recovery and successful tackle positioning matrix, whole 90.

Top player


Mikayla Cluff

This was Cluff's best performance so far; a fact portrayed by her 8.4 rating on fotmob.com. In addition to her goal, the forward had 4 shots on goal. She also had an impressive pass completion rate of 75%, with many of them being riskier passes. Cluff also made 5 recoveries and 2 tackles as she benefitted from more of an advanced position. This game will surely give her a bit more confidence moving forward.


Player ratings


Starting XI


McLeod -7- Made a couple of key interventions to safeguard her shutout.


Celia -8- Provided solid support for the attack down the right.

Lawrence -8- Very accomplished performance.

Montefusco -7- Slotted back into the defence very nicely.

Strom -7- Held it down at left back.


Villacorta -7- Showed a maturity beyond her years.

Listro -8- Destroyer in midfield. This week's Drax... Thanos wouldn't stand a chance.


Cluff -9- Best game yet.


Kim -8- Very lively.

Doyle -7- Solid debut.


Leroux -8- What can I say?


Substitutes


Jenkins -7- Provided fresh legs after the interval.

James -7- Did a great job protecting the back 4.

Abello -7- Defended well.

Pruitt -7- Fresh legs in attack.

Petersen -6- Came on too late to make an impression.

Reaction


Orlando Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell: “[It was] very exciting, my adrenaline is still going from those last six minutes of injury time. North Carolina is a very good team. They won the Challenge Cup, they have a lot of great attacking pieces, so holding onto a lead was really hard to do and I was really proud of our effort. Getting the early goal and getting a second goal is just so important to back up the goal scoring and try to solidify your lead. I think we were unlucky not to get a third but really, really proud of the effort. It’s a midweek game and we were able to rest a few players that needed it and you saw the lineup was different, but it was really important that we got players some rest and they were then able to come on either at half or didn’t play at all. It was a really good tactical game for us to get the win and get the three points.”

*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com and nwslsoccer.com.

Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Game stills courtesy of NWSL.