• Dan Berridge

Analysis: Portland Thorns (a). Portland Stroll To Easy Win.

All season I've been deliberately patient and understanding with this group. The rebuild was never going to be an overnight job. However, I no longer feel positive about it. I'm sorry, I just don't. There doesn't seem to be a game plan right now. What is happening?


I felt utter dismay when I looked at the starting XI and realised we had gone with a similar set up to last week. You can't just throw your striker in at right wing-back, or your winger up-front. And you definitely can't play your most dangerous full-back/wide player in a back 3. It was an absolute mess.


The Portland Thorns absolutely deserved their victory. I have no qualms about that. They were by far the better side. If the game had been a boxing match, the referee would've called time before the half. The worst thing was that Portland never got out of first gear. They didn't need to. It was a complete walk in the park for them. And that's not good enough at this level. It was a shambles. The club has deep rooted issues. We'll get to that. As the game progressed however, it became clear there was a general apathy amongst the team. Some were angry (so they should be), some just seemed to accept what was happening. They didn't look like they believed in what they had been asked to do.


No player ever wants to lose. And I know these players care. When I speak to them, that much is obvious. Toni Pressley cut a frustrated figure in the post match (footage below). She obviously cares about this club and this team. But this club is broken right now. The players deserve better as do the fans.



This is going to be one of those pieces where I don't break everything down tactically. The set up was haphazard at best, and to be quite frank I feel like I'd just be repeating the gripes I had last week. There are some things that need to be said.


This break couldn't be coming at a better time. This team needs to hit the reset button. Since the suspension of Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell and Sam Greene, the wheels have well and truly come off. Speculation has intensified over what's been happening behind the scenes, particularly since the club announced Amy Turner's departure. Something isn't right. And that came across in Portland.


This was a team that looked resigned to defeat as soon as Hina Sugita prodded the home team in front. After Becky Sauerbrunn doubled the lead, it felt like some players had given up. Portland had taken their foot off the gas, which makes the result even more terrifying. I truly believe, if they had so desired, Portland could've run up double digits. I'm serious.


This team just doesn't seem to have a vision right now. Under Amanda Cromwell, you could sort of see tentative signs that there was a long-term plan. Although, I'll concede, we were a million miles away from realising that plan. Under Seb Hines, there are no such tentative signs. Hines is an extremely likeable person and a very good coach. However, good coaches don't always make good managers.


I am not convinced he has the conviction in his persona or the aura to convince this team they can turn this around. Or the experience. The former Derby County and Orlando City defender is extremely knowledgeable about the game, but lacks the tactical nous and leadership persona to lead this squad. I just don't think he's the guy to lead Orlando through this rough patch. But then, what are the alternatives? It's a mess.


This team is in real trouble. It has no identity at all. The fanbase becomes ever more disillusioned with each passing game. Some have been voting with their feet for some time now. There comes a point where you have to worry about the very future of the club. The Wilf family have backed the club financially, but have failed to put the proper foundations in place.



This rebuild is something that's new to the Wilf family. On the men's side, the team was already in a reasonable position of strength when the takeover happened. Luiz Muzzi, Oscar Pareja and Ricardo Moreira has already established the Lions as a play-off team. The Wilfs haven't had to reset Orlando City. They have had to reset the Orlando Pride. They have no experience in this regard. The Pride are their ground zero (I know they own the Minnesota Vikings, but soccer and football are two different things in this instance).


The Wilf family haven't done a great job of this rebuild at all. That being said, soccer is new to them. They signed off the cheques and allowed GM Ian Fleming to put the pieces in place, that he felt were necessary to achieve future success.


I think Ian Fleming has a lot to answer for, and Amanda Duffy to a certain extent. The failure to act fast and appropriately replace Marc Skinner was woefully misguided. The appointment of Becky Burleigh just stank of an extreme lack of foresight. Let's buy ourselves some time, because we honestly have no clue what to do. That's how it feels now.


Good CEOs and GMs plan for coaching departures. They have contingencies. Skinner left in the summer of 2021, they could have turned their attention to Europe and attracted an experienced coach, a Denise Reddy or someone like that (who is a US national, so no Visa issues etc). Right away, it was 'we're going with Burleigh, and we're taking our sweet time'. At first I was duped into believing the party line about getting the appointment right, but now I can see that was foolhardy at best. They didn't know what they were doing.



This club and team are completely directionless right now.


And I can't see it getting any better.


The Pride just seemed to implode after the second goal. It was patently obvious, to anyone that understands the game, that more significant changes needed to be made at halftime. But they came too late. The game was gone. This season is already threatening to flitter into nothingness. We're not even at the halfway point yet, and it already feels like the season is over.


So... See you all again next week, right? Right?



Top player


The Orlando Pride fans

Credit Chris Green, Stadium Journey


Let's be honest no player deserved any accolades in this game. Except maybe Erin McLeod, but still. I hesitate to put a disproportionate amount of blame on the players, but no one turned up in Portland on Sunday afternoon. The hardcore portion of the Orlando Pride fanbase did, though. Not many were there in person, but you support the team every week. Rain or shine. Be it from the stands at Exploria, or from home. You all rock.


Player ratings


Starting XI


McLeod -7- To be fair, it's a cricket score without here.


Jenkins -4- Not a RWB.

Montefusco -4- All over the place.

Pressley -5- Not her finest hour.

Petersen -5- Not a LCB.

Abello -4- Couldn't handle Portland's running.


Jónsdóttir -5- Completely overrun.

James -5- Seemed to give up after a while.

Dougherty-Howard -4- Had no chance to get anything going.


Kim -4- Never got a kick.

Doyle -5- Toiled on next to no service.


Substitutes


Villacorta -5- Game was dead when she came in.

Listro -6- One of the few that seemed to give a you know what.

Tymrak -4- Came in way too late. Almost a pointless sub.

Cluff -4- Same as Tymrak.

Strom -5- A full-back that could've started where our striker did.


Reaction


Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Seb Hines:

“Disappointing. I thought we got beat by a better team today and not only because they [Portland] were better in possession, but their fundamentals. Their ability to put us under pressure at the right moments, their willingness to run and battle and compete. And then [with] their creativity they create multiple chances. That’s something that, moving forward, we need to be better. We need to be better at the fundamentals. Tackling, competing, running, because we do have good players. We have players who like to get on the ball, like to turn, like to create. If we can work on the fundamentals in training, we can and will be in a better position.”



*Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Highlights reel courtesy of NWSL.

Post match media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.