Analysis: Portland Thorns (a). Riveting Thorns topple the Pride.
The Orlando Pride were not at their best in this game, though it's a difficult game to judge the Pride on. The Pride are still in a transitional phase having missed the whole of 2020, essentially. I feel it's important to point that out. The hysteria currently populating the Orlando Twitterverse is premature. Sure, things could have been done better, changes made earlier etc. I accept that. As you'll see in this review, I have taken issue with a few things I saw from this team. Their inability to put pressure on the ball, and stop those crosses coming in, being chief among them. But, it's not all doom and gloom. Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. Kudos to anyone that gets that reference.
As I said, there are reasons to be cheerful. Optimistic, even. I try and rationalise these games with a sense of pragmatism. If you dig beneath the surface a little, there was a lot to encourage supporters of the Pride. The continued excellence of Ashlyn Harris, solid full debuts for Amy Turner and Kylie Strom and the return of Marisa Viggiano. The tactical changes made by Marc Skinner were excellent, the trouble is they probably came too late. That's going to happen, this is a learning phase for the whole club. Skinner has to make the play-offs this year, if he doesn't there will be fair grounds for supporters to demand change. But demanding a change, at this stage of the season, is nonsensical at best. We will get there, I'm sure of it. The sooner we get back to winning ways, though, the better.
So, without further ado, let's get stuck into the action...
Not putting pressure on the ball before crosses come in, particularly from Klingenberg
This was perhaps my biggest gripe for the evening. The quality Meghan Klingenberg possesses is no secret. The USWNT veteran had 19 career NWSL assists coming into this game. She'd also played a total of 26 key passes this season, prior to this game. For that reason, it's baffling to me that she was given the freedom of Portland to find her cross for the Thorns' second goal (figure 1) . This was a recurring theme throughout the match, as Portland flung no less than 28 crosses into the Pride penalty area (figure 2).
Orlando seemed hesitant to get out to the ball carrier, and put them under pressure. We saw the same with the opener. Sophia Smith was allowed to run from deep, practically unchallenged, before firing a shot past the despairing dive of Ashlyn Harris. Courtney Petersen tried to intercept, but her challenge wasn't strong enough. The Pride defensive line stood off and stood off. They invited the shot, and Smith accepted the invitation with glee. The strike is impeccable, but Orlando should have stopped it.
Figure 1 shows a game still from just before Portland's second goal.
Figure 2 shows both team's overall statistics for this match.
Positive full debuts for Amy Turner and Kylie Strom
The performance of Amy Turner cannot be overstated. That word (overstated) just immediately makes my mind jump to that scene in the Last Jedi, where Snoke throws Hux around the bridge like a ragdoll. My fellow Star Wars nerds will get that. Anyway, it was a mightily impressive performance from the former Manchester United player. The defender put up some impressive numbers; 50 touches, an 80.8% pass completion rate from 26 balls. She also won 1 tackle, drew 3 fouls and conceded 0. Turner also played 1 key pass. Her reading of the game was also impressive, she thwarted several Portland attacks with well timed interceptions; there were 8 overall. Her 6 clearances and 3 defensive blocks were also crucial in keeping the score down.
Kylie Strom's evening could've taken a turn for the worse; if not for a poorly taken Rocky Rodriguez penalty. Aside from that, it was a solid enough debut for the erstwhile Atlético Madrid defender. She had 64 touches and a pass completion rate of 73% from 37 attempts. She also won 4 tackles, trailing only Gunny Jónsdóttir and Courtney Petersen with 5 apiece. She also made 4 recoveries and completed a further 2 clearances. As she acclimates to this squad, I think she'll prove to be a valuable addition on this evidence.
Figure 3 shows Amy Turner's overall statistics, whole 90.
Figure 4 shows Kylie Strom's overall statistics, whole 90.
Failure to make use of the wide areas, particularly after Abi Kim came in
What was bizarre, in my eyes, was the infrequency that Orlando utilised Abi Kim's pace after she came in. You'd think, with tired legs in Portland's back 4, that this would be an effective strategy. As it happened, she barely got a kick. She had 17 touches in the entire second 45. 17. And it wasn't for a want of trying on her part. Her teammates just weren't finding here; figure 5 illustrates my point here:
Figure 5 is a graphic constructed by Arielle Drore (@arielle_dror on Twitter).
As you can see, she was hardly used. Which was just... Strange. Especially when you look at the impact she made the one time she did get some service:
Oh, and it could've been worse...
So much worse... A combination of profligate finishing, great goalkeeping and some strong defending kept the score down. Portland had an overall XG of 1.92 (figure 6). They could easily have run up a cricket score. But they didn't. Whilst it's important to acknowledge allowing 20 shots on goal isn't good (sick of Ashlyn Harris winning save of the week, she shouldn't have to), it's also important to acknowledge that Portland do this to a lot of teams. Context.
Figure 6 is a graphic constructed by Arielle Drore (@arielle_dror on Twitter).
Turner, as well as being an England international, has also played for some massive clubs over here. Her career playing for Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as Notts County (right?) means she has a wealth of experience at the highest level. The 30-year-old centre back did an excellent job in Portland, and looked as though she'd been on the team for years. She displayed leadership skills that belied her status as an NWSL newbie. She distributed the ball well, commanded her back-line and cut out some dangerous looking attacks. Has to have played her way into a starting spot, surely?
Harris -7- As reliable as ever between the sticks. Nothing she could do with either goal, she was unfortunate not to save the second.
Strom -6- Not an easy place to make a full debut. Penalty aside she acquitted herself well.
Krieger -7- Seemed to relish moving to full-back in the second period. Turner -8- Excellent full debut, read the game well to cut out some dangerous passes. Petersen -6- Difficult evening. Was pushed aside for the first goal, but was always available for a pass. Dougherty-Howard -6- Struggled to impact the game, seemed overrun in midfield. Tymrak -6- Owing to the fact the Pride were overrun in midfield, she wasn't able to have much of an impact. Jónsdóttir -6- Had an off night, looked uncharacteristically unsure of herself at times. Kornieck -6- Needed to drop deeper and help the midfield more. Should've done better with a late header. Thomas -6- Hustled well but little end product. Leroux -6- Next to no service.
McClernon -7- Unfairly chastised for challenge on Weaver. Stood her ground.
Viggiano -7- Was bright and took her goal well.
Kim -6- Pride struggled to get the ball to her, but showed her quality for the goal.
Washington -6- Came in too late to make a difference.
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*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com and Arielle Dror on Twitter (@arielle_dror).