Analysis: OL Reign (h). Rapinoe Strikes Late In Crucial Win For OL Reign.
Gutting. The Pride have done us really proud this last few weeks of the season. That result, however, was a gut punch. OL Reign are a very good team, and I don't necessarily blame the Pride... They put up a good fight, but in the end it just wasn't enough.
That being said, there are so many positive things to focus on with this team. And that's what I want to do here.
OL Reign are a team stacked with quality, though. Rapinoe, Lavelle, Fishlock... All supplemented by players like Bethany Balcer and Sofia Huerta, who are class in their own right. The Pride can be proud of the fight and determination they showed in this game.
This is why I want to take a different approach with this piece. There are tactical nuances embed into the fabric of this match, which could help us understand why the Pride lost this match. Sure. But I don't want to be unfairly critical of this squad. Not at this point.
We faced an opponent that is much further along in their development than we are. They're a team that have a lot more established talent than we do. They're a team that have been together longer, and a team that have a more established identity.
These are just facts.
They don't have the determination or strength of character the Pride has, though.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think that character is enough in the long run. Of course it isn't. But for now, it just might be enough.
This is a club that's lurched from one disaster to another over recent seasons. This team has disspelled that nonsense. It's given us hope. It's given us belief.
Seb Hines, Giles Barnes, Miguel Gallardo and the players have established a culture of freedom and expression on the field. They're a team with identity; an identity that is firmly ensconced in the age old notion that football is meant to be fun.
The players are given licence to get on the front foot, use their skills, create goals, dribble, score goals... They've built a culture of expression. A culture of expression that allows for mistakes. Seb Hines recently told me he'd rather his players make a mistake trying to break the lines, rather than make one being conservative.
It's so refreshing. And they were annoyed they didn't win. Defeat pisses this team off. Erika Tymrak told the assembled media, after the game; '(We're) disappointed, we're at the point now where we're hungry for 3 points going into every game'. Megan Montefusco echoed those sentiments when asked about the defeat; 'it's tough, I'm not going to lie'.
People are proud of this team again. Pun absolutely intended. Look at the image below. This picture says it all. People are excited about this team again. Myself included. I am in town for the game against the North Carolina Courage in September. I cannot wait for it.
The culture has shifted at the Pride, and experiences such as this last gasp defeat to a very good team will only feed into the growth of this new found sense of Pride in our Orlando Pride.
I can't wait to see where this journey takes us.
Orlando Pride Interim Head Coach Seb Hines:
“[It was] a big challenge for us, we said that [it would be] going into the game. Reign are a top team in this league with really, really talented players. It was probably our biggest test in the run of games that we have had recently. I thought we started the game slow and scared. Our message at halftime was do what we have been doing well to get to this point. I thought the second half was better and it is a sucker punch at the end because I felt like we were starting to get momentum and we looked like the team that was going to get the winning goal, but football is a cruel game at times. It is a learning moment for all of us.”