Analysis: Racing Louisville (a). Pride slump in Kentucky, eliminated from play-off contention.
It's not been a great season for the Orlando Pride overall. The arrival of Becky Burleigh briefly threatened to spark the season into life, with many fans dreaming of a top 6 finish and subsequent invitation to the NWSL's post season party. It wasn't to be; for the 3rd straight season (not including 2020), the Pride have failed to make the play-offs.
This was a game the Pride simply had to win, and truthfully, they never really looked like doing that, even with the early lead given to them by Jodie Taylor. The Pride simply weren't good enough. This 4th straight defeat was enough to sign their play-off death warrant, and leave fans wondering what might've been.
Louisville were good value for their win, which sort of epitomises the Pride's recent malaise. This isn't a particularly good Louisville side. To suggest otherwise is a foolhardy notion at best.
It was always going to be a tough game, but that was an ideal doused in the particulars of Louisville's place in the standings. They are a team free of pressure, and so were always likely to be more expressive than usual and thus tougher to beat.
Regardless, if you want to be a play-off team, you have to win at places like Louisville. Orlando didn't, and probably don't deserve to be a play-off team. Not just on the basis of this match, but on the season as a whole. It all comes back to that age old adage; the league table doesn't lie. Not like Kylo Ren did to Rey in the Last Jedi. He totally lied.
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Defending is an art, and like any form of the arts, it requires planning and organisation mixed in with more than a modicum of autonomy. Shape is everything. The first goal is almost comically bad and that's me being kind.
The Pride attempt to play through the home team's press. Gunny Jónsdóttir needlessly concedes possession, which is always possible when playing against a high press. The issue here is, that there is far too much space between Ali Krieger and Amy Turner. This means, that when the ball breaks to Ebony Salmon, she has all the time and space in the world to pick her spot (figure 1), and she scores with aplomb.
Figure 1 is a game still from just before the equaliser for Louisville.
The second goal is a lesson in how not to defend a cross. When the initial ball comes in from the left hand side (figure 2), Katie McClure is unmarked and scuffs her finish. Courtney Petersen makes the clearance but there is no pressure on the ball when it comes back in, and Turner's challenge is a half-hearted one which allows McClure to steal a march and get a sight at goal. It was just poor all round. No shape, no pressure, no hope. The season was effectively over at that point.
Figure 2 shows a clip of Louisville's second goal.
The third goal was just the icing on top of the cherry on top of the cake as far as Louisville were concerned. Orlando again do a shoddy job of tracking their runners, and Yuki Nagasato has the freedom of Lynn Family Stadium to add a third goal late on.
There was literally no-one tracking her run, so she had all the time and space in the world to pick her spot. Nagasato attacks the space well, and moves intelligently, but there is no apparent desire to dissect that space from anybody in a white jersey. It's an extremely poor goal to concede and one that perfectly summarises this team's defensive frailties this season.
Figure 3 is a game still from just before Louisville's game sealing goal.
Playing through a high press
Playing out from the back against a press is all about decision making and defensive shape. It's something that Orlando haven't been good at in recent weeks; this has been an ongoing problem for a few years now. Louisville made an alarming amount of recoveries in Orlando's half of the field (figure 4).
Oftentimes, it's better just to put your foot through the ball and win that second ball off of the clearance. Which is something Alex Morgan simply cannot do; it's never been a strength of hers. So Orlando almost have to play the ball out from the back. But their decision making was poor, as was their distribution.
The Pride were often playing their teammates into trouble, which helped Louisville gain confidence in the final third. Oftentimes, Marta was dropping deep which allowed Louisville to hold a higher defensive line and pen Orlando in (figure 5). After all, why do you need to maintain a low-block if the opposition's most dangerous player is on the edge of her own box?
Figure 4 shows Louisville's recovery positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 5 shows a game still depicting Louisville's high line and pressure.
The England striker toiled up front for much of this game, covering a lot of ground. She was duly rewarded with an early goal. Taylor had 27 touches and completed 68.4% of her 19 passes. She finished her 1 shot on goal, which kind of summarises a sad statistic; Orlando only managed to get 3 shots on frame. There was precious little in terms of goalscoring opportunities. Statistics, as much as I love them, can be misleading; 10 shots in total, but only 8 came in the box, and were mostly tame efforts.
McLeod -7- It feels unfair to criticise Orlando Pride goalkeepers this season.
Riley -5- Hopelessly out of position for the third goal.
Krieger -6- Can't do it all alone.
Turner -4- May as well have not played.
Petersen -6- Tried to make things happen.
Jónsdóttir -5- Just read my previous analyses.
Viggiano -6- Energetic but got precious little help.
Marta -6- Had to drop deep too often, which is where we don't want her.
Leroux -6- Starved of service.
Taylor -7- Same, good goal though.
Morgan -6- Missed a glorious chance to tie it.
Kornieck -7- Lovely cross for the Morgan chance.
Pressley -7- Should start over Turner.
Tymrak -6- Tried to make things happen.
Van Egmond -6- Looked rusty, which is understandable.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
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