Analysis: North Carolina Courage (h). More Late Disappointment For The Pride.
It was ultimately another deflating evening for the Orlando Pride, as another late equaliser stretched their winless start to the season to 4 games across all competitions. The Pride's 2023 is much like the storylines in Ted Lasso season 3 so far; yet to fully get going and a little underwhelming at times. That being said, it's not all doom and gloom just yet. For the Pride at least. Not sure I can say the same for Ted yet.
Whilst the lateness of Denise O'Sullivan's volleyed equaliser will leave a bitter taste in the mouth for everyone of a Pride persuasion, it was probably justified, with the Courage being much the better side in an attacking sense. There were plenty of positives for this Pride team, however; which we'll get into shortly.
There will be plenty of aspects of their play which will have frustrated head coach Seb Hines too. Orlando were way too profligate in their passing, particularly between the lines. They also struggled to prevent the Courage from flinging crosses into their area, which led to a rather busy evening for the debutant Carly Nelson.
It's still early in the season, but there can be no doubt performances need to improve.
As previously alluded to, the Pride were too loose in possession. They completed only 73.3% of their 333 passes overall. Which is a comparatively low number generally, but especially when you consider the Courage completed 86% of their 613 passes. They played almost twice as many passes and were way more efficient.
Now, I would caveat that with how long this Courage squad has been together. We all know what they are about; they're one of the better teams in this league. There can be no doubt about that.
Still, we have to find a way to look after the ball more carefully. Just look at the graphic in figure 1. It's not like we were turning the ball over in advanced areas all the time. It was happening all over the park, leading to the Courage recovering the ball in advantageous areas. All of this led to the Pride only maintaining 34.9% of the possession, and having to do the majority of the defending.
Figure 1 shows the Pride's unsuccessful pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Defending the wide areas
Orlando did a poor job of stopping crosses at source, as you'll see from the graphic in figure 2. Whilst they were generally defended quite well by the likes of Megan Montefusco and Tori Hansen, the Pride's defence spent a lot of time under largely avoidable pressure.
I just felt both full backs were a little too passive in terms of charging down crosses and getting touch tight to the Courage's wide players. Having said that, the movement of the likes of Tyler Lussi was very good. Which at times led to Lussi darting into the half spaces as she does in figure 3, blind sighting Kylie Strom in the process and attempting to force an opening.
Emily Madril has looked very promising in the centre of defence, but didn't look entirely comfortable at right-back. But she did a serviceable job. She looked after her side well. Kylie Strom struggled, but she's a reliable performer. So I'm not concerned.
Figure 2 shows North Carolina Courage's cross positioning matrix.
Figure 3 is a game still from the second half.
An improved performance from Mikayla Cluff
Mikayla Cluff had a much improved performance overall. In the last few games she's not been aggressive enough, both in and out of possession. She hasn't really been winning the ball very well and has looked unsure of herself on it. She's a good player, though. And she showcased that against the Courage.
Cluff posted some impressive stats (figure 4), completing 86.7% of her 30 passes and winning 2 tackles. Her passing was crisp and incisive and she played the ball into some good areas (figure 5).
Here's the thing with Cluff, I think she has real potential to be a sort of Kim Little-esque box-to-box midfielder. She can add goals and assists. She just needs to believe in herself a bit more, because confidence hasn't been coming across in her game recently.
Figure 4 shows Mikayla Cluff's statistics, whole 90.
Figure 5 shows Mikayla Cluff's successful pass positioning matrix.
The 'keeper, making her first competitive start for the Pride, was in imperious form between the sticks. She saved 5 of the 6 shots she faced. Caught a bit flat footed for the goal, but that was probably more to do with a) the ferocity of the strike and b) the fact her view was significantly impeded. Looks set to be a fight between herself and Kaylie Collins for the number 1 jersey currently.
Nelson -9- Impressive first display.
Strom -6- Not her best work, and you all know what a big fan I am.
Madril -7- Dealt with most things well, but scuffed her clearance for the goal.
Montefusco -7- Solid display.
Hansen -6- Competitive debut.
Cluff -8- One of her better games so far.
Villacorta -6- Rusty, but it's great to have her back.
Yates -7- Did well for the goal.
Tymrak -7- Drew fouls in useful areas.
Watt -8- Full of running and took the goal well.
Bright -7- Worked hard, but didn't have much to work with.
Adriana -6- Should have sealed the game late on.
Abello -6- Unfortunate that she had to come off.
Morris -6- Worked hard.
Hanson -6- Helped shore things up a little.
Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines
"It’s the mentality for me. It's the mentality, although it's waves of attacks coming out, I do you have the mentality to step up in moments and put fear in them that they aren't going to score? And I think we're falling short in those moments. I think there's an element of fear, because we're almost thinking this is going to happen again and we have to get over that. We have to get through that. There were moments that I thought today would have been a great opportunity to get through and put the past behind us in the last couple of games. Yes, it is a positive result because we took the lead but it feels like another defeat and we have to learn from it. We have to get over that mentality because, again, we're talking about fine margins. The last couple of games were defined by fine margins towards the end. We could be looking at a couple of draws and wins, and [instead] we're looking at a draw and two losses. It's frustrating. We have a young group, and I'm pleased with the young players. The players that have come in, they were terrific. The players who haven't played in a couple of games as well. Their effort and commitment that they are all bought into what we're trying to do and I just want them to reward themselves for all the effort that they're putting in by getting points on the board.”
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.
B-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Game still courtesy of NWSL/CBS Sports.