Analysis: OL Reign (h). Strange week ends in another defeat for the Pride.
Updated: Aug 3
It was all going so well, wasn't it? It's been a fairly acrimonious week for the Orlando Pride. The understatement of the century. It's been as chaotic as a J.J. Abrams Star Wars movie. When news first broke, of Marc Skinner's impending move to Manchester United, my initial thoughts were that this was a family oriented move. And I have no reason to believe it wasn't. Despite that, I can't help but feel there's more to this tale, however. With Ashlyn Harris' comments about the relationship of the players being better with Carl Green than it was with Skinner, you can't help but feel something is amiss.
With all of that going on, it's probably little surprise that this game ended in defeat. It was a strange game, for sure. There were some uncharacteristic mistakes that allowed the Reign to pull ahead. Despite that, there were some good spells of possession for this team. There were plenty of positives to take from the performance, although it may not seem that way on the face of things. There were neat spells of possession, and some particularly pleasing individual performances.
Interim head coach, Becky Burleigh starts work in the coming days marking the dawning of a new era for this club. It'll be interesting to see how Burleigh sets her stall out in the coming weeks. I'm not going to pretend I know a huge amount about the erstwhile Florida Gators coach, but it's clear she's well respected in the Orlando footballing community. Every change presents an opportunity, and I'm suitably intrigued to see how this plays out.
The impact of Marc Skinner's departure
It's hard to argue that the departure of coach Skinner, especially given it's abrupt occurrence, had no impact on the team. There were key losses in concentration at times, for example Phoebe McClernon's positioning for the opener, and the way the team failed to close down Tziarra King for the second. The whole sorry state of affairs undoubtedly impacted on the team's performance. Just look at the statistics in figure 1. The Pride aren't a possession based team, and generally have less than stellar pass success rates. But 72.2% is low. The Reign out shot the Pride, conceded less fouls and won more duels. I don't think it would be fair to dig out every little detail concerning this defeat, I just wanted to point out that Skinner's departure probably affected things in a big way.
Figure 1 shows the overall statistics for both teams, full 90.
Ashlyn Harris bossing it again
Ashlyn Harris. What can I say? She's just a hero in every sense of the word. She's 3rd in the NWSL in terms of saves made with 37. She's such a commanding presence in her area, and she physically imposes herself on the opposition. These attributes have been key in establishing her as a fine shot stopper, especially from 12 yards. Harris has saved 6 of the 13 career spot kicks she has faced in NWSL. Of those 6 stops, 5 have come in 2021. What's her secret? Well, it's not so much a secret, after all it's clear for all to see. Just view the clip in figure 2. She makes herself big and is constantly moving her feet in a central position. This enables her to gain more of a spring in her dive, as she's not diving from a static position. It's also possible her goal line antics got into Jess Fishlock's head. And her prior reputation would have helped to psyche the Welsh playmaker out. We also know that Harris does her homework. She probably knew where Fishlock was going to put the ball before the former Reading midfielder decided .
Figure 2 is a clip showing Ashlyn Harris' penalty save.
At this point you wonder if the NWSL PR department is being run by their match officials. They seem cut from the same cloth, i.e. they're absolutely clueless. I know offside calls are probably among the most difficult to make in the sport, but this was as clear an obvious error as you're ever likely to see. It seemed to me, like the lines person wasn't concentrating. That has to be the only explanation, because if she were concentrating this call wouldn't have been made. Just look at the lines person's position, in relation to Leroux, at the moment Taylor plays the pass (see figure 3). The lines person's then seen Leroux in on goal, panicked and shot her flag straight up. I don't think the Pride should be punished for the official's incompetence, but here we are. It wasn't the only time either...
Figure 3 shows a game still from just before Sydney Lerox's controversial offside call.
The penalty decision was the biggest farce, however. I was going to feature a game still to highlight how bad of a decision it was, but funnily enough there weren't any great angles on the NWSL highlight reel. I wonder why? The Tweet in figure 4 is the best image I've seen so far. It's a great tackle, perfectly timed. You have to think these calls are born out of a lack of understanding of how the game is played. Many referees haven't played the game, as such they possibly lack the understanding of the particular nuances of certain challenges. The official sees the
Figure 4 is an image that truly displays the egregious nature of the penalty call.
It was impossible to give this to anyone else. Whilst it's never a good thing to see your goalkeeper picking up 'player of the game' awards, there can be little doubt that she deserves it. She posted an 81.8% save percentage on Saturday evening, saving 9 of the 11 shots she faced (figure 5). She also made 18 of her 20 kicks stick. Impressive. She is the best goalkeeper in this league, of that there can be no doubt. She has also, yet again, shown incredible leadership during a tumultuous week for this team. Ashlyn tweeted after the game, that the Pride 'will be OK'. And it's hard not to believe her. When she speaks, we all listen. It'll be a crying shame if she doesn't go into management when she finally hangs up her gloves. She has all the attributes, and then some, to be a successful head coach.
Harris -9- World class.
Krieger -7- Seems more at ease on the right.
McClernon -6- Seemed to struggle all evening. Still sprayed a few great looking passes though.
Turner -7- Travesty that tackle was penalised.
Strom -6- Didn't offer as much offensively as Petersen would.
Jónsdóttir -6- Got about well, but was outnumbered at times.
Petersen -6- I see why people want her in midfield, but her best position is left-back as it allows her to overlap.
Viggiano -6- Was busy, but unable to create anything of note.
Kornieck -5- Largely ineffective, conceded possession quite a few times. Should have done better with 2 headed chances.
Leroux -7- Full of running. Horrible offside call.
Taylor -6- Fairly isolated, but showed her class with the ball for Leroux's offside call.
Plummer -6- Came in too late to impact the game.
Tymrak -6- Should've entered about 20 minutes earlier.
Kim -6- Should've scored with a late chance.
Thomas -7- Ran the line fairly well and made some good movements.
Dougherty-Howard -7- Played some neat looking passes and tried to get the team going.
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