I think, under the circumstances, the Pride did well to escape Lumen Field with a 1-0 defeat.
They would have headed to Washington, looking to get back to winning ways, after their recent defeat to San Diego Wave. Had they had XI players on the field for entirety of the game, they may well have been able to do something. However, that's not what happened.
A, frankly, foolish challenge from Anna Moorhouse in the third minute gave referee Ricardo Fierro no choice but to brandish the red card.
I feared the worst at that point, as I couldn't see any other result than an emphatic OL Reign win. To basically play an entire game with 10 players, away from home, on turf, against one of the better teams in the league is a nigh on impossible task.
As such, I want to focus on the goalkeeping department here. Playing literally, an entire game with 10 players is so difficult. It's about the most difficult thing you can do in the sport. And it literally never happens. This was the earliest red card in NWSL history, with the previous record being the 4th minute red card, ironically, being picked up by an OL Reign player in 2017. Defender Lu Barnes was given her marching orders after hauling down Shea Groom (then of Kansas City) on a breakaway.
It's truly difficult to discern anything tangible from tactical set ups, when you're a player down for an entire game. So too over analyse that, would be disingenuous and, honestly, just unfair.
A story of two goalkeepers
I hate to just point the finger of blame at one player for a defeat, but losing your goalkeeper in the 3rd minute annihilates a team's entire game plan. And, as a matter of fact, I think the 9 outfield players and Carly Nelson did a tremendous job in terms of keeping the score respectable.
I don't quite know what Moorhouse was thinking? There was certainly danger as Bethany Balcer bears down on goal. Moorhouse rushes out and doesn't commit to the challenge at all. It's a half-assed attempt at playing the ball, where she just left her foot in. It's a red card every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
She needs to stay on her line here. She starts down a dark path, and we all know that it will forever dominate her destiny. Consume her it will. OK, it was cooler when Yoda said it, but you catch my drift. Once she makes that decision to come out she has to take the ball, and you don't do that by charging out and lazily leaving a foot in.
It was an horrendous decision from a goalkeeper who is clearly suffering from a crisis of confidence.
Carly Nelson, however... She put in a stupendous performance, and is the only reason the Pride didn't get absolutely hammered. She made 6 saves, 1 high claim, 11 recoveries and completed 78% of her passes.
It's time for a change in goal, and it looks like Seb Hines' hand has been forced with Moorhouse now set to serve a suspension. It's time for Nelson to grasp the opportunity with both hands (pardon the keeper pun).
Nelson, aside from the saves, just looked a lot more assured between the sticks than, I would argue, Moorhouse has looked all season.
The defeat also leaves the Pride in a tricky spot. The Pride find themselves 4 points adrift of the play-offs with 4 games remaining (below). They're now, at least to a certain extent, relying on the results of others.
I can't see us making it to be honest.
And then what? Questions have to be asked, for sure.
The only reason this game didn't get ugly. The outfield players put in a huge shift, and everyone did their part in trying to get something from this game. But the hosts eventually wrestled the game away from Orlando, attempting 18 shots on goal, with 7 finding the target. Nelson's 6 saves, saved the Pride from a much greater margin of defeat.
Moorhouse -3- Costly error.
McCutcheon -7- Put in a good shift.
Rafaelle -7- Solid performance.
Madril -7- Couple of classy touches.
Strom -7- Worked tirelessly.
Listro -6- Subbed after the red card.
Cluff -7- Worked very hard.
Abello -6- Pressured the ball well.
Marta -7- Tried to make things happen.
Doyle -6- Worked hard.
Bright -6- Was on an island.
Nelson -9- Kept the score down.
Martinez -6- Fresh legs.
Watt -6- Couldn't make anything happen.
Villacorta -6- Fresh energy.
Larroquette -6- Little she could do.
Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines
"I think everyone could see there was a real togetherness here today after going down a player so early on. You do all the preparation to win a game of football and then within two or three minutes you are down a player, so then you have to be adaptable, and you have to adjust. It really challenged our players defensively and, coming into an environment like this against some of the players of the opponent, is difficult but I am really proud of the players and how they coped with a lot of difficult moments and their real togetherness. Obviously disappointed with the result, but not too much on the performance.”
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com
Top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Media availability and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.