Analysis: Racing Louisville (h). Gritty Pride Chalk Up First Win At Home.
The Orlando Pride got their home campaign up and running with a narrow, but richly deserved, win over Racing Louisville.
Ultimately, the margins in this game were very tight, on a night where either team could make a reasonable case for deserving the spoils of victory. Despite that fact, the Pride did enough to claim all three points, as Messiah Bright sent her already considerable stock yet higher with an excellent headed finish from a Kylie Strom cross.
This was a good performance from the Pride, one littered with tentative, yet promising signs that this team is finally beginning to click. That's two straight victories now, against two quality opponents. The win has also seen the Pride move away from the foot of the table, which even at this early stage of the season, will be a timely boost for morale.
The Pride looked a threat in forward areas, particularly down the sides with Adrianna and Kylie Strom on the left. On the right Marta drifted in field and Haley McCutcheon provided excellent width. The team were compact defensively and Messiah Bright was a constant menace.
There's a lot to be pleased with in this performance.
The young forward is really coming into her own and has firmly established herself as one of the first names on the teamsheet. I feel robbed having not gotten to enjoy her performance in the moment, and having to wait for the next day. Thanks Virgin Media for your service blackout; I haven't been this disappointed since The Last Jedi came out.
Bright was a constant thorn in the side of the Louisville defence, having 40 touches of the ball, 3 shots on goal and 2 crosses, 3 passes into the final third and 5 successful dribbles. She was all over the place on the front line, running centrally and down the flanks efficiently.
It was her running that impressed me most, however. Her dribbling style is very direct. What it does is, it drags defenders towards her and allows her fellow forwards, such as Adrianna to drift into the spaces she creates.
At times, on Saturday, she was just creating outright panic; most notably for the chance she created in the first half (figures 1 & 2). In figure 1 you can see the space she creates for Erika Tymrak's run and in 2 you can see what I mean about her inciting panic.
Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.
Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.
Villacorta had one of her best games for the Pride last night and I feel like it's not being spoken about much on social media. She was excellent in possession, completing 90% of her 39 overall passes. The youngster had 50 overall touches and made 7 passes into the final third; with only Megan Montefusco making more.
Villacorta advanced the ball excellently and got around the pitch well; she helped to make the Pride tick. She was all over the pitch (figure 3). Villacorta is fast becoming one of the most important members of this team and justifiably so. She also did her fair share of defensive work, winning 2/2 tackles and 3/4 ground duels.
Figure 3 shows Vivianna Villacorta's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
It feels like McCutcheon and Strom currently have those 2 slots nailed down and it's beginning to show on the pitch. Both players offer a sound balance between attack and defence and both defending very well in the wide areas (figure 4).
McCutcheon's role in the team is particularly important, as she tends to provide the attacking width on the right hand side when Marta drifts inwards (figure 5). Indeed, she was desperately unlucky not to score her second goal in 2 games with an improvised finish from close range after Katie Lund spilled a second half shot.
Strom provided the decisive moment of the game, but ironically from the right after a short corner routine led to the erstwhile Atletico Madrid defender swinging in a left footed cross for Bright to head home.
Figure 4 shows McCutcheon and Strom's defensive actions, whole 90.
Figure 5 shows McCutcheon's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
The experienced defender was in imperious form on Saturday, having 85 touches, 6 passes into the final third, 1 block, 5 clearances, 3 headed clearances, 5 recoveries and 6 duels won. She also provided attacking support on the overlap.
Moorhouse -8- Made some key saves.
McCutcheon -8- Very impressive performance.
Madril -8- Looks to have a good partnership with Montefusco
Montefusco -8- Progressed the ball well.
Strom -9- Top performance.
Villacorta -8- Had an excellent game in the middle of the park.
Cluff -7- Efficient performance from Cluff.
Marta -7- Unlucky not to have scored.
Tymrak -7- Full of energy.
Adriana -8- Constant threat.
Bright -8- A battering ram.
Abello -7- Provided fresh legs in the middle.
Allen -6- Great to see her get a few minutes at the end.
Watt -6- Came on fairly late, so didn't make too much of an impact.
Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines
“It is a nice feeling. I thought this game was an opportunity to really show how far we have come from the start of the season. It is nice to get a clean sheet, but I think it could have been a three-or four-nil game and that is where we need to be better. We need to be more ruthless in front of goal and that is something we will discuss after the game with the players, but I am happy for them. I am really pleased with them. It was a nail-biter at the end, and you start thinking about the previous games and how they ended but you know, we saw it out and we will take a lot of confidence on how we finished the game.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Media availability footage and B-Roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.