Analysis: Racing Louisville (n). Orlando Show Determination To Fight Back Late On.
Well, the Daytona SoccerFest has come and gone. The concept has been much maligned in some quarters, but there can be no doubting the success of the event. An entertaining 2-2 draw was played out in front of a crowd in excess of 7,000 people. This was an event aimed at marketing a club that has seen its average home attendance dwindle over the years. Whether or not it helps contribute to a rise in attendances going forward, remains to be seen, but it certainly didn't do any harm in that sense.
It threatened to become an all too familiar tale on the field for the Pride with Emina Ekic and Savannah DeMelo giving the 'visitors' a 2 goal lead. The Pride had other ideas, with Kylie Strom and Darian Jenkins restoring parity. The Pride even had a late chance to win the game, only for Katie Lund to deny Jenkins with a fine stop. It was a much improved performance from Orlando, one that should give them confidence moving forward.
Darian Jenkins is a striker. Full stop.
Darian Jenkins is a striker. Say it louder for those in the back. DARIAN JENKINS IS A STRIKER! The absence of Leah Pruitt and Sydney Leroux's departure somewhat forced Seb Hines' hand in this regard, but hopefully that's the end of her being used at wing-back. Marcelo Bielsa officianados will advocate for having players play different positions. Having such players is useful, particularly in this post-Covid world where fixture congestion has never been more of an issue, but there cannot be a 'square pegs in round holes' approach to it. Some players just shouldn't be used in certain positions.
Now, this is no indictment on Jenkins. However, her pace, power, technical ability and finishing mean she has to be used in forward areas. She makes great runs; her movement is excellent. You lose that if you have her at right wing-back. The striker position is a specialist one. There are other positions on the field that players can learn to play, they can be coached on it. Albeit to varying degrees of success. You can't coach a goal scorers instinct. You just can't. You might be able to player a winger as a striker for a game or two, and they might do a serviceable job. But they're never going to consistently get themselves into great positions to score.
Look at Jenkins' goal yesterday (figure 1), follow her movement. She pops the ball off to Celia, and her immediate thought is 'I need to get into that box, because the service is going to come'. And she doesn't just blindly run into the box. She takes a quick glance at the area in order to assess her options, otherwise her eyes are on the ball the entire time. She ghosts in-between the two defenders (it's a close off-side call) and applies an instinctive finish. It's a proper strikers goal. Only a natural goalscorer scores this goal. And I believe Darian Jenkins is just that, she just needs a chance to consistently show it.
Figure 1 is a clip showing Jenkins' goal.
I touched on her movement earlier, which is great in a goalscoring sense, but it's also great in terms of her ability to stretch defences and create space for her teammates. Jenkins drifted into the channels a lot vs Louisville, which is a particular strength of hers
Her movement often opened up space for the likes of Meggie Dougherty-Howard and Erika Tymrak to get on the ball and make things happen. We see a great example of this in figure 2. She peels to the right, which forces Lauren Milliet to drift with her, which opens up a bit of space between Milliet and Julia Lester for Dougherty-Howard to move into and test the 'keeper with a shot.
Play Jenkins upfront. That is all.
Figure 2 is a clip from the first-half.
I am fully on board the Jordyn Listro hype train
I have always been on this particular train, even as far back as the 2020 Fall Series. Listro is an absolute monster in the midfield for Orlando. She is, to Orlando, what Drax is to the Guardians of the Galaxy. A destroyer. Listro was all over the pitch against Louisville. The Pride, overall did a great job intercepting the ball (16 interceptions overall), Listro made 2 of them. Listro also made 12 recoveries, won 6 duels and made a particularly impressive last ditch tackle.
She's also an asset to the team in terms of possession; she's able to drop in front of the back 4 and open up passing lanes to the wing-backs and to the more advanced playmakers (figure 3). She kept the ball well in this match (85% pass completion), and was a big reason that Orlando had 54.4% of the possession. Listro also ranked joint 6th for most successful passes during the game, across both teams, which is no easy feat. This was a very good performance from the Canadian.
Figure 3 shows Listro's pass positioning matrix.
Orlando's overall possession game was much improved
In the past Orlando have oftened treated the ball like Thor seems to treat the Tessaract in the MCU. Always f*****g losing it. Not in this game. Orlando managed possession much better than they have done in recent weeks. Louisville tried to win the ball back quickly after losing possession; they won 22 tackles at a success rate of 71%. Despite Louisville's insistence in trying to win the ball back Orlando completed 75% of their overall passes, which was 317 in total. Their season average is 301.5, which is... Well, average; 6th in the 12 team NWSL. The numbers certainly point to a marked improvement in regards to possession. The eye test certainly aligned to this theory. The team just looked sharper on the ball.
The Prode played plenty of nice triangles and broke the lines well. They just used the ball sensibly, particularly in the midfield. Look at the pass positioning matrix in figure 4. Most of the team's unsuccessful passes were in the opposing half (bottom); where you'd expect to have to play more high risk passes.
I realise at this point I am probably sounding like a one man Darian Jenkins fan club. And you know what? I don't care. I am a huge fan of hers. She made some great runs, was constantly trying to be positive and make things happen when on the ball... She played very well and thoroughly deserved her goal.
McLeod -7- Made a number of key saves at important times.
Celia -7- Made lots of marauding runs down the right.
Montefusco -7- Solid performance, good in possession.
Pressley -6- I'm not convinced right now, seems like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Strom -6- Got muscled out a few times. Fabulous finish for the goal.
Tymrak -7- Caused some problems coming in off the left.
Dougherty-Howard -7- Looked a threat when she got the ball in some little pockets of space.
Villacorta -7- Moved the ball well.
Listro -8- One of Orlando's better players on the day.
Reiss -7- Solid full debut.
Jenkins -9- Looked at her best.
Abello -6- Made a couple of smart attacking passes.
Petersen -7- Be disappointed not to start.
Cluff -6- Didn't really get into the game.
Kim -6- Too late to do anything.
Lawrence -6- Came in very late.
Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Seb Hines:
“I think the team showed a lot of courage to come back from 2-0 down, you know, we’ve been in this position too often. But I felt that we didn’t deserve to lose that game today. I think the players played terrific, they played how we wanted to play. We wanted to control the game with our passing and moving, create goal-scoring opportunities. Obviously we need to work on the last part of that but I can’t fault their attitude. Their attitude this week from Monday to the game day has been first class.”
Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Post match media availability and Jessica Berman/Jarrod Dillon media availability footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.