• Dan Berridge

Analysis: Racing Louisville (h). Leroux, Marta and Morgan among the goals in comfortable Orlando win

This was a vitally important match for the Orlando Pride, particularly in terms of their pursuit of a play-off spot. It turned out to be a comfortable victory for our sheroes in purple, as they maximised their ability to press and win those turnovers in key areas. Admittedly, Louisville were very sloppy in possession, but still; Orlando made them pay. This is what good teams do. They were more Sith than Jedi. Absolutely ruthless. The Pride scored 3 very good goals to emphasise their superiority, and in all truthfulness, more goals would not have flattered them at all.


The Orlando Pride are in the enviable position of getting many of their key players back to full fitness ahead of the run in. The likes of Alex Morgan and Courtney Petersen took to the field again on Saturday. This is a Pride roster that's stacked with talent, and to have them all match fit again, at such an important time is incredibly exciting. We can only hope that they all remain unscathed during the break.


Superhuman Sydney Leroux


Sydney Leroux has had an outstanding season so far, with 8 goals and 2 assists. In all honesty though, I think this might've been one of her best performances of the season. And that's saying something. What impressed me most was her effectiveness and willing to defend from the front. I spoke, in my preview, about how much Louisville turn the ball over. And it's clearly something Leroux talk on board. Overall, Leroux won 5 tackles (figure 1). She also made 3 recoveries, which allowed Leroux to implement her best offensive work; 4 shots, 2 on target, 1 key pass, 47 touches, 26 passes (with an 80.8% completion rate). Oh, and she scored 1 and assisted 2. She probably won't get the assist for Marta's goal, but that doesn't happen without Leroux. It's an assist for me.


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Leroux is having one hell of a season, and is one of the chief reasons Orlando are doing so well. Her movement, both on and off the ball, against Louisville, was outstanding. You'll get an idea of how good it was by glancing at her pass positioning matrix in figure 2. She was able to break lines, pull people out of position and run off the shoulder. She was just terrific all round. This movement creates gaps for other players to exploit, as was the case with the crowning goal (figure 3). Opposing defences worry about her so much, that they sometimes try to crowd her out which provides space for the likes of Marta and Alex Morgan to exploit.


Some have been bemoaning her continued absence from the USWNT roster. As much as I love to see our players receive international accolades, I'd be lying if I said I was tremendously upset about it. After all, I am an England fan and I'd rather she were available for every Pride game. She's that important to this team.

Figure 1 shows Sydney Leroux's overall statistics, whole 90.

Figure 2 shows Sydney Leroux's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.

Figure 3 is a game still from just before the crowning goal for Orlando.


Orlando's excellent defensive work


One thing that this team did exceptionally well was recover the ball effectively. And this only comes through defensive organisation and a desire to recover the ball in dangerous areas. Orlando out fought their opponents, winning 44 duels and 15 tackles. It's becoming something of a theme for Becky Burleigh's Orlando. Some dissenters would, misguidedly, call it brutality. I'd implore you to check out my Twitter feed, NWSL Twitter seems to be struggling with the idea that this is a contact sport. I, however, would call it excellent defensive transition. Yes, injuries are unfortunate, and it goes without saying I wish Nadia Nadim the best. But anyone who says that wasn't an honest attempt, on the part of Phoebe McClernon, to win the ball, doesn't understand the sport.


Orlando is a team that utilises a physical style and is well equipped to win the ball all over the pitch (figure 4). They also happen to be one of the most clinical teams in the NWSL; 3 goals from 4 shots on target, joint 2nd in goals scored and they lead the league in assists made outright. OH! And they also have a league leading conversion rate of 15.3%. They don't take a tremendous amount of shots (they rank 9/10 in shots taken). But they're clinical when they have chances.

This is exactly why the Pride's defensive transition is so important. When they win those challenges and duels high up the pitch, the player winning the ball usually has a plethora of high quality options. Alex Morgan, Marta, Sydney Leroux... The defensive transition maximises their chances in front of goal. I felt the use of the wing-back system also complemented this well; Gunny Jónsdóttir and Ali Riley provided excellent width to stretch Louisville's beleaguered defensive line.


The Pride might not creat a ton of chances playing through teams, but they will win the ball high up the field and maximise their opportunities. Case and point, goals 1 & 2 (see the highlight reel at the bottom of this page).

Figure 4 shows Orlando's tackle positioning matrix, whole 90.


Taylor Kornieck as a 6


I think it's fair to say there were more than a few raised eyebrows, mine included, when it became apparent Becky Burleigh wanted to utilise Taylor Kornieck as a defensive midfielder. Her passing has been... Questionable. That being said, I think Burleigh has found a niche for Kornieck. I really do. Kornieck was fantastic on Saturday evening.

In my eyes, a defensive midfielder's prerogative is to break up opposing attacks, recycle possession and to offer defensive cover. Kornieck completed 3 tackles and 10 recoveries (figure 5). She also recycled possession reasonably well, completing 73.5% of her 34 passes. This is still an area she needs to address, moving forward. There was a noticeable improvement, though; 6 of her 8 misplaced passes were forward balls, which are naturally more risky. She was 24/26 on sideways and backward passes.


I just felt, generally, she did a great job of breaking up the play and providing defensive support to her teammates. Kudos.

Figure 5 shows Taylor Kornieck's tackle (green) and recovery (blue) positioning matrix, whole 90.


Top player


Sydney Leroux

I mean, what more can I say, that hasn't already been said? Her tenacity on the defensive side of the ball perfectly compliments her amiable mannerisms in front of goal. She's everything you want in a forward; she defends from the front and finishes like she has ice in her veins. Nothing seems to faze her this season. She's a shoo-in for player of the season, in my eyes.

Player ratings


Starting XI


McLeod -7- Solid display.


Riley -7- The wing back system seems to really suit her.

McClernon -7- Unfortunate collision with Nadim, but played well.

Turner -8- Rock.

Krieger -7- Was the glue that held it all together.

Jónsdóttir -7- Got up and down the flank well.


Kornieck -8- Played really well, broke things up nicely.

Dougherty-Howard -7- Used the ball well.


Leroux -9- Best player on a pitch that included Marta and Nadia Nadim.

Taylor -7- Ran the line well.

Marta -7- Average for Marta, but average for Marta is way better than most players.


Substitutes


Morgan -8- Fine finish for the goal.

Roberts -6- Came in at the death.

Viggiano -7- Provided fresh legs in the middle.

Petersen -7- Great to have her back on the field.

Tymrak -7- Came in late but showed some lovely touches.

*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com and footystats.org.

Game still courtesy of the CBS Sports Network.

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