This was another encouraging display and victory from this young Orlando Pride team, as they made a significant stride towards the play-off places. This is a club that's desperate to end its play-off hoodoo, and this performance underlined that ambition.
This was a game the Pride simply had to win, heading into the business end of the season. It was important to put some pressure on the rest of the pack before they play over the weekend.
And the Pride did just that.
This was an impressive display in so many different ways. Laura Harvey's team are no mugs, and they fielded an XI full of quality, even despite their international absentees. This was a squad that still had the likes of Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer among its ranks.
The Pride played with intent, with purpose and with a verve becoming of a team that looks like it can upset the apple cart in the post-season. It was an exciting game to watch. Something that Seb Hines echoed in the post match:
"It was exciting. The players put a lot of work into that performance today and they got the reward for it. They started the game really fast, on the front foot and put Seattle under pressure straight from kickoff. [We] got an early goal, probably could have scored a couple more if the ball just dropped inside the frame of the goal but they were brilliant from start to finish. That's what it takes to win a game of football in this league.”
It was a really enjoyable game to watch and analyse. We have a bit of a break now for the Challenge Cup, which isn't the worst thing to be honest. Some positive progress in that competition could be just what this team needs to keep up the momentum.
The transition game
I think what impressed me the most about this performance was the speed and movement of the Pride's transition game. The Pride just outmuscled OL Reign at times and were generally very good at recovering the ball; the Pride won 54% of their duels (62), 56% of their ground duels (44), 51% of their aerial duels (18) and completed twice as many dribbles as the visitors. They bested their opponents in all the key defensive statistics (figure 1).
Numbers aside, they just looked the part. They looked hungry, confident and capable of scoring at any point. Everytime the Pride recovered the ball they were getting numbers forward (figures 2 & 3). The Pride were getting numbers in the box and were putting quality crosses and passes into good areas, which led to them creating 3 big chances and having 16 total shots.
Figure 1 shows Orlando's key defensive statistics, whole 90.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 3 is a game still from the first half.
Defending from the front
The Pride's pressure and work off the ball, high up the pitch was absolutely crucial in their transitional success. Every player did their part off the ball; Julie Doyle made 4 recoveries and won a tackle, Erika Tymrak made 3 recoveries and an interception and Messiah Bright won 7 of her 10 ground duels and 3 of her 5 aerial battles. This was a whole team defensive effort characterised by 4 Pride players no less, hounding the ball with all the aggression of mysognystic Star Wars fans unhappy at another female lead character. The Rey film will be great guys, get over yourselves.
You love to see it. The Pride win and the Rey film. Obviously. I know I poke fun at the sequels, but I take a lot of flak because 2019's Rise of Skywalker is my favourite Star Wars movie. It's a hot mess, but god I love that movie. 'There are more of us Poe, there are more of US'. Excuse me whilst I go and cry...
Photo Credit Disney/Lucasfilm studios.
Another standout performance from the young forward, who stretched the OL Reign defence with her diagonal runs in behind and her direct dribbling. She's really coming into her own lately, with some game winning performances. Her run and cross for the goal were excellent (figure 4). She takes the ball wide and backs herself to beat her defender. When she does, she plays the ball in with such pace and accuracy that it's impossible to defend against.
Doyle is currently on 2 goals and 1 assist, but I'd be surprised if she doesn't end up with far more than that. She's hitting form at just the right time. She was constantly attacking the defenders; only Bright and Kerry Abello attempted more dribbles than Doyle.
Figure 4 is a clip showing Doyle's assist for the goal.
Just a relentless running machine. Almost scored a worldie late on when she charged through the entire OL Reign defence before only finding the side netting.
It was an absolute bullet header for her goal too. It almost ripped the net off. She had 6 shots in total, finding the target with 3 of them, and 1 nestling in the bag of the ol' onion bag as we say over here. That's 4 goals on the season for the rookie, and I'd bet there's more to come.
Moorhouse -7- Could've sat on her hands all evening, aside from a stop in the first minute.
McCutcheon -7- Defended well and supported the attack.
Montefusco -7- Solid display.
Madril -7- Grows in stature every game.
Strom -7- Solid display.
Abello -7- Put in a real shift.
Villacorta -7- Looked after the ball well.
Cluff -7- Looked very comfortable.
Doyle -8- Her cross for the goal was just *chefs kiss*
Bright -9- Bullet header.
Tymrak -8- Linked attack and midfield well.
Watt -7- Provided energy.
Jimenez -7- Helped to see the game out.
Listro -6- Helped manage the game.
Martinez -6- Good to see her come on again.
Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines
"Early on, we learned the hard way. It was obviously disappointing because we dropped points early on in the season. You have seen the progression that the players and team have made since that moment. Now we are holding the ball in the corner, seeing it out. We have that determination to not concede and that is brilliant. [We’re] managing games much better. Even just goal kicks in general and slowing the game down and seeing it out. Nine minutes is a long time, especially when you are winning the game 1-0 and the other team is trying to get back into it, but I thought the players did extremely well. You can see their fitness and energy levels going from the start to the end of the game. Subs made an impact as well, which is important. The intensity didn’t drop. Overall, it was a really good performance. You look at the development of the team and how far they’ve come. They’ve got a lot of good momentum right now, so I am really pleased with them and proud of them.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Game stills courtesy of DAZN/CBS Sports/NWSL.
Media availability and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.