The Orlando Pride are an entirely different proposition these days. They're no pushovers. And whilst their combative attitudes may have made them public enemy no. 1 in Danielle Colaprico's eyes, it's actually symptomatic of a wider belief in Becky Burleigh's vision for this team. And they play some great football. The Pride were popping passes around with supreme confidence, and weren't at all afraid to go toe-to-toe with their opponents.
There's a fluidity and ingenuity to their play hitherto unseen by Pride fans. And it's not being sold under false pretences or the misconceived, idealistic notion of 'total football', that was touted by the previous regime. Just good ol' fashioned organisation, that allows good players freedom to express themselves.
There were more than a few eyebrows raised, by myself included, when the line-up was released. Using a centre-back in Phoebe McClernon at left-back, whilst pushing Courtney Petersen back up into midfield. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea at first. This strategy actually worked exceptionally well, however. In the end, Orlando were perhaps unfortunate not to claim all 3 points. Portland may have had the better of the chances, but to say Ashlyn Harris was peppered in the Pride goal, would be folly at best. And Orlando created more than their fair share of chances.
Make no mistake, this was a really good Orlando Pride performance.
Courtney 'Drop The Ball On A Six-Pence' Petersen
We have a saying, here in England, that's often used to describe crosses from players who are particularly proficient at crossing the ball. I'd be surprised if you haven't heard Martin Tyler use it. 'They dropped the ball on a six-pence'. To paraphrase in American English; 'dropped it on a dime'. 's essentially the same phrase. We also have lots of other weird sayings, like 'they could open a tin of beans with that left-foot', or 'they've got a wand of a left foot'. I'd use all of these phrases to describe Courtney Petersen.
If there's a player whose crosses incite more chaos in opposing penalty areas, in the entirety of the NWSL, I've yet to see them play. She's able to, consistently, put the ball in between the goalkeeper and the last defender. This is the best possible area to put the ball, as it often causes confusion and ignites panic. That's when mistakes get made, not to mention any striker worth their salt is likely to find their way into that position.
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Petersen's overall statistics make for impressive reading, her pass completion rate for the game was 73.7% from 38 passes. She also chalked up 1 assist and 1 key pass figure 1). Petersen had 78 overall touches, whilst also completing some impressive defensive work. Petersen successfully executed 4 tackles, 4 interceptions and 6 recoveries.
Despite all of this, it was the sheer amount of quality balls she sent into the area, that set her apart as the best player on the field. She played 9 crosses into the box (figure 2), with 1 connecting and finding the head of Jodie Taylor. It was a sublime cross (figure 3). Yes, you read the former part of that statement correctly. She was the best player on the field. I'd go that far. Some might say that's the sentiment of someone feeling emotional after attending their first live football match in 18 months, and then watching the season finale of the Bad Batch. But, it genuinely isn't. Courtney Petersen was incredible.
Figure 1 shows Courtney Petersen's overall statistics, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Courtney Petersen's crossing map, whole 90.
Figure 3 is a clip showcasing the excellence of Courtney Petersen's left-foot, with some bonus shoddy camera work.
The Pride's defensive resolve
One of the biggest overhangs of this team is their resolute, never say die attitude. This team will not be beaten in a physical battle; no matter how much Danielle Colaprico tweets about it. The Pride's unwillingness to concede the physical contest is a decidedly obtrude characteristic for opposition teams. And I love that. Soccer is a physical sport. And the NWSL is probably the most physical league in the world. You have to earn your right to get the ball down and play, and this Orlando side seems eminently capable of doing just that; the Pride won 54 duels to Portland's 46, and 20 tackles to their 13. If you wanna take points in our house, you gotta compete.
Figure 4 shows how Orlando (left) won the physical battle against the Thorns.
The impact of Jodie Taylor
When the Orlando Pride announced the signing of former Lyon striker Taylor, I was incandescent with joy. The striker is perhaps one of the most underrated finishers in world football. Her nomadic career has probably belied her status as one of England's top strikers. In all, Taylor has turned out for 16 clubs, beginning her career at Tranmere Rovers before finding her way to Orlando via Arsenal and Lyon, amongst other places.
Taylor's overall play was excellent in this one. She demonstrated effective hold-up play, ran the line well and used the ball sensibly. She also got into some great goal scoring positions. Taylor was 3 for 3 in shots on target, had 29 touches and played 19 passes, completing 84.2% of them (figure 5). She was duly rewarded with a goal against her former employers.
Figure 5 shows Jodie Taylor's overall statistics, whole 90.
I mean, who else? On a night where the entire team played incredibly well, Petersen was the stand out performer. As effective on the defensive side of the ball, as she was in an attacking sense, this was a really mature performance for one so young. Petersen is having a break-out year. There were one or two question marks hanging over her head after the Fall Series. I think it's safe to say she's answered her critics.
Harris -8- Couple of outstanding saves. Is anyone surprised?
Riley -7- An experienced performance from the Olympian.
Turner -8- Solid as a rock.
Krieger -8- Same.
McClernon -7- Decision to play her at left-back largely negated Portland's threat on the right.
Viggiano -7- Kept the Pride ticking over in midfield.
Jónsdóttir -7- Is indispensable to this team.
Petersen -9- Must be hard living on a farm #GOAT..
Marta -8- Was stellar, but weirdly not the best player on the park!
Leroux -7- Worked tirelessly.
Taylor -8- Great goal, great all round play.
Kornieck -7- Helped to shore things up.
Pressley -6- Came in late to seek the point.
Tymrak -7- Would start literally everywhere else in the league. Probably.
Dougherty-Howard -7- Provided some fresh legs in midfield at an important time.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
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