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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

Analysis: Utah Royals (h). Huge Win For The Pride On Pride Night

I told you didn't I? I bloody told you! I've been saying for a while that this Orlando Pride team is going to give someone a hammering.


Unfortunately for Utah, it was them.


This was, as the scoreline suggests, a truly excellent performance. We'll get into the nitty gritty of exactly why that was shortly, but for now I just want to pay homage to what this team is doing right now.

They're playing with a freedom and confidence that could well see them go all the way and lift the club's first piece of silverware.



Am I getting ahead of myself? Maybe. But can you honestly see anyone stopping them right now? I can't.


Do we dare to dream of an invincible season? Perhaps that is me getting ahead of myself, but the fact that we're even in a position to talk about that is exciting.


In terms of performance, this was what Andor is to the Star Wars franchise. Refreshingly flawless.


The Orlando Pride's forward movement is on another level


With the likes of Barbra Banda, Adriana and Julie Doyle starting the game, movement up top was never going to be a problem. That being said, it's so good and needs to be highlighted.



The Pride start in a 4-4-2 formation, which is typically quite a rigid formation. But there's nothing rigid about the way the Pride do it. Emily Sams, Kylie Strom and Kerry Abello tend to step into the midfield when the Pride have possession, whilst Brianna Martinez tucks in to make it a back 3. Haley McCutcheon will drop to offer protection to the back line and also plays a key role in building from the back.


Why is this important for forward movement? It gives Banda, Adriana and Doyle license to roam. Marta generally plays between the lines and will then hit any of the runners, seemingly with consummate ease.


Doyle and Banda like to drift wide, whilst Adriana and Summer Yates pop up in the pockets around the edge of the box (see figures 1 & 2 for examples). This stretches the opposing defence and creates room for shooting opportunities. The Pride had plenty of those last night; 28 in total, with 12 on target.


Figure 1 is a game still from the first half.

Figure 2 is a game still from the first half.


Concentration is key


Now, when a team a team is this dominant in an attacking sense, it can be quite easy for defenders to switch off at the back. That's not something this Orlando Pride team does. They top the NWSL for clean sheets (figure 3).


They had next to nothing to do defensively in this game. But what little they had to do, they did well which will please head coach Seb Hines just as much as the 6 goals they scored. The Pride did a great job of snuffing out any space the Royals were able to work their way into.



McCutcheon was a big part of that, winning 6 recoveries in vital areas in front of the defensive unit (figure 4). When the Royals did manage to play their way through, they met an impenetrable wall at the back. Strom won 2 tackles, 3 interceptions and 4 recoveries, Martinez won 1 tackles, 1 interception and made 2 clearances, Sams made 2 recoveries and 2 clearances, whilst Abello made 4 recoveries. Anna Moorhouse seems to have shaken her early season nerves and played the sweeper 'keeper role to positive effect, winning 9 recoveries.


As good as the back line were, credit has to go to the whole team. They pressed from the front (figure 5) incredibly well, which we saw with the second goal (figure 6). Just look at the amount of defensive actions committed in the Royals half. It was a pressing masterclass. The Royals tried to play through it to no avail, and when they did go long the Pride were excellent at recovering the ball.


Everything about this performance was excellent. I think there's an argument to say it's Orlando's greatest ever performance. Seriously.


Figure 3 shows the NWSL's clean sheet leaderboard.


Figure 4 shows McCutcheon's recovery (blue) and tackle (green) positioning matrix.


Figure 5 shows the defensive actions committed by all the Pride's starting midfielders and forwards ⬇️.


Figure 6 is a clip showing Yates' goal via @NWSL on X.


Top player


Barbra Banda


Honestly, I found it hard to split Banda and Marta. Both were absolutely exceptional in a team where everyone was at least an 8 out of 10. But, Banda's 2 goals and 2 assists... How could I not!? I loved the assist for Marta's 2nd. She could easily shoot herself and be greedy... Go for the hatty. But, no. She recognises the GOAT is in a better position and lays it on for her. That's a team first approach. She's in a tight golden boot race with Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga for added context.



Player ratings


Starting XI


Moorhouse -8- Outstanding.


Abello -8- Outstanding.

Strom -8- Outstanding.

Sams -8- Outstanding.

Martinez -8- Outstanding.


Doyle -9- Outstandinger.

McCutcheon -9- Outstandinger.

Adriana -9- Outstandinger.

Yates -9- Outstandinger.


Banda -10- Outstandingest.

Marta -10- Also Outstandingest.


Substitutes


Angelina -8- Marvelous.

Dyke -8- Promising.

Lawrence -8- Love her.

Lemos -8- Brilliant.

Watt -9- What a goal.


Reaction


Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines


“It was an outstanding performance, flawless really, [with] the amount of goals the players scored and to get a clean sheet. I think most importantly it was for the fans tonight. When you look at the [big] picture and look at days like today, it means a lot for the community, and so we had to do our job tonight. The players fully did that and put on a real show for the fans and the supporters who stood by us and [have] gone through moments of adversity over the eight years. That performance epitomizes what this team is about and the determination, their grit and their relentlessness to go after it and get a comprehensive win.”



*All statistics courtesy of Fotmob and NWSLSoccer.com.

Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Media availability and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.

Game stills courtesy of Amazon Prime & NWSL+.

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