• Dan Berridge

Analysis: OL Reign (a). Lacklustre Orlando wilt in Tacoma.

Sleepless in Seattle. Tired in Tacoma. Did the Pride get any rest before the game? Seems not. That's all I can assume happened on Saturday evening, before the game. Because this was an uncharacteristically sloppy performance from this team. OL Reign are a very good team, so I'm not going to take anything away from Laura Harvey's team, but we were poor. There was an energy and verve to this team's play. The link-up play between the likes of Jess Fishlock and Rose Lavelle was admirable. They popped the ball around with consummate ease and confidence.

As good as the Reign were, however, there can be no doubt that Orlando were the architects of their own downfall. All 3 goals were the result of disastrous errors on the part of the Pride players. An early goal from Bethany Balcer was followed by a well taken brace from Eugenie Le Sommer. The Reign capitalised on the Pride's defensive malaise with a ruthless brutality only brought about by a winning run.

I don't believe that this result will be too detrimental to the Pride's play-off hopes but it has probably put paid to their hopes of a 2nd place finish. The Pride have an integral match coming up in Chicago, somewhere where they've already enjoyed some success this season. They can win there, they just need to shake this performance off.

Awful defending and a woeful start

Conceding so early on, against a team that's in top form, is always going to make your task exponentially more difficult. The defending for this goal was just... Well, there wasn't any. Not really. The defensive issues with this goal are two-fold; 1, nobody gets to the initial cross quick enough and 2, the marking is non-existent. The ball gets shifted into a wide area towards Sofia Huerta. I identified Huerta's crosses as a likely threat in my preview. The team clearly didn't read it. Tsk. Tsk.

The Pride didn't do enough to address this issue throughout the game, with OL Reign able to supply 23 crosses across the 90 minutes. I think the idea was for Ali Riley and Courtney Petersen to push up on their wide players and pen them in. It just didn't work out, as we see see with the first goal.


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The Pride's shape is all wrong for the opener, they're far too narrow. Petersen should be attacking the space that Huerta runs into (figure 1). Instead Huerta has all the time and space in the world to pick out a cross. The second issue lies at the feet of both Alex Morgan and Meggie Dougherty-Howard. Both players are at the back post, but both are caught ball watching. Balcer then darts into the space between the two Pride players and applies an easy finish. It was a disastrous start.

Figure 1 shows just how much space Huerta had to deliver her cross for Balcer.

Figure 2 shows how both Morgan and Dougherty-Howard are caught ball watching.


The second goal was equally as shambolic (figure 3). The usually dependable Amy Turner had, what can only be adequately described via an English colloquialism as, a mare. Turner just isn't concentrating and attempts to play the ball out from the back. Eugenie Le Sommer and Dzsenifer Marozsán take up quite a high position, which allows them to capitalise on the error.


It was a shocking error from Turner; she has to shoulder the blame, although Ashlyn Harris should save the shot. Whilst Harris was undoubtedly caught by surprise, she should still be saving that attempt. I'm probably going to get lynched for that, but it's true. She makes the dive, and is seemingly unable to get her arms out. It's a poor dive. The shot should have been saved, as it's not even that great of a hit. Then, the Pride has a mountain to climb.

The third goal was, in all likelihood, a side effect of the other two. The Pride defence were so beleaguered that they were chasing shadows by that point. The OL Reign offence just carved through the Pride's backline like a hot knife through butter. Ali Krieger gets caught out of position and Le Sommer ends up with an easy finish. The Pride certainly improved and tightened things up at the break, but the damage was already done by then.


The Pride's failure to take care of the ball


The Pride really struggled in possession of the ball. There was just a general malaise about their play. The Pride had a fair amount of the ball, playing 438 passes in total. It's what they did, or rather didn't do, with it that was the cusp of their issues in both an attacking and defensive sense. The Pride toiled to 43.8% of the overall play, with only 73.8% of their passes finding the target. That's not good enough against a team like OL Reign.


The Pride were guilty of turning over possession ad nauseam in difficult areas (figure 4). I don't think there were any particular tactical nuances that had any sort of cause and effect on the Pride's sloppy play. I actually believe the set up, in theory, was good. The plan just wasn't executed well. I genuinely think it was just a bad day the office. The Pride can't afford to have too many more of them, though.

Figure 4 shows Orlando's unsuccessful pass positioning matrix, whole 90.


Quinn


Orlando never got to grips with them, and their failure to do so was hugely detrimental to their ability to get any sort of foothold in the game. Quinn played the quarterback role superbly, circa Sergio Busquets in his Barcelona heyday. Quinn posted an 88.7% pass success rate from 53 passes. The Pride just didn't get close enough to them. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps including Marisa Viggiano rather than Dougherty-Howard would've been more prudent. Viggiano would, possibly, have been more tenacious with Quinn, not allowing them time on the ball to start attacks. We saw that in the second half. Often, what they (Quinn) were doing was feeding the ball to the likes of Fishlock and Lavelle, who were playing on the half-turn and running at the Orlando defenders. Orlando struggled with that.

Figure 5 shows Quinn's statistics, whole 90.


Top player


Ashlyn Harris


Whilst Ashlyn, being the consummate professional she is, will be disappointed with the second goal she undoubtedly kept the score down. Harris made 5 saves overall, including 1 particularly impressive one to deny Marozsán. Harris had a save percentage rate of 62.5%. Not her best game, but that's probably a mark of how high her level is.


Player ratings


Starting XI


Harris -7- Should save the second, but had no chance with the rest and made several good stops.


Riley -7- Probably one of Orlando's better players. Got up and down the line well.

Krieger -6- Not her night to be honest.

Turner -5- Had a mare.

Petersen -6- Defensive positioning suspect at times.


Jónsdóttir -6- Quiet game.

Dougherty-Howard -6- Caught napping for the opener.

Kornieck -6- Got into a few decent areas.


Taylor -6- Anonymous but toiled well.

Morgan -5- See above, but probably take the 2nd bit away.

Leroux -6- On an island but worked hard.


Substitutes


McClernon -7- Provided a bit more stability at the back.

Viggiano -7- Fresh legs in midfield helped to tighten things up.

Tymrak -6- Came in late.

Marta -7- Provided a bit of spark.

*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com.

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