Analysis: Washington Spirit (h). Statement Win For Orlando, As Marta Scores First Goal Since Return.
I'm so glad Marta scored her first goal in 2 years before the NWSL stream failed again. Missing that would have been less than ideal. I do feel like I spend an ordinate amount of time complaining about the NWSL streams. Be it the production quality, or the quality of the feeds themselves... But these players deserve better.
Anyway, on a night where the Pride were facing one of their biggest tests of the season so far, there were, again, plenty of positives to take from an encouraging Orlando performance. Marta's goal aside, which in itself was an incredibly powerful moment, the team played very well. On the eve of the season, I asked Marta if she had envisioned that moment, when she scores that first goal after her return. She said it was something she had thought of in difficult moments.
She doesn't have to envision it any more. There could not have been a more popular goalscorer.
Remarkably, this was Marta's first ever goal-assist game in the NWSL. Which is absolutely mind boggling when you sit and think on it for a second. The assist, turned out to be the game winner, as Marta's corner was headed in by Kylie Strom.
It was a richly deserved 3 points, and one that lifts the Pride to just outside the play-off positions. Hopefully, there are many more nights like this to come.
Goal and assist aside, this was another standout performance from the GOAT. At 37 years young, she perfectly demonstrated her considerable importance to this team. She drifted between the lines excellently, knew exactly when to hold onto the ball and when to release it. Her leadership and experience are a very commodity in this young side.
Marta created 2 chances, had 2 shots and even won 3 tackles. She drifted all over the park and was excellent in helping the Pride to recycle possession and help the Pride move between the lines (figure 1).
Seb Hines was delighted to see her back to his best. He told The English Lion: "Any forward wants to get that feeling back (scoring) and it’s a testament to her recovery, coming back from a long-term injury. You don't want anyone else stepping up for that penalty other than her. She's been in that moment so often on the biggest stage. We had full confidence in her hitting the back of the back of net. Obviously, it’s a great feeling for her and the team.”
He will be hoping this goal was the first of many this season.
Figure 1 shows Marta's pass positioning matrix, whole 90.
Fast turning into one of the players of the season for the Pride; which is actually saying something significant this season.
It feels like head coach Seb Hines has settled on his strongest team, which can only help in developing the team's identity. They're becoming a very difficult team to beat and Strom has become a huge part of that. She adds solidity to the left flank and is even chipping in with attacking returns.
Defensively speaking, Strom had one of her biggest performances of the season. A fact that takes on added significance when you consider Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman are two of the most feared forwards in the league. She won 4 out of 5 duels, 2 recoveries and 1 interception. As such, she was a big part of a defence that restricted Rodman and Sanchez to just 3 shots on target between them.
Figure 2 shows some of Kylie Strom's key statistics, whole 90.
Marta's first goal since her return from injury was always going to be significant. But the fact that it came on a night where the Pride underlined their play-offs credentials with a significant statement win over one of the championship favourites, makes the moment all the sweeter. Big performance from a big player.
Moorhouse -8- Very solid performance, including some vital saves.
McCutcheon -8- Defended very well 1 v 1.
Madril -8- Looks more and more confident at this level each week.
Montefusco -8- Showed excellent leadership skills.
Strom -8- Richly deserved game winner.
Cluff -7- Another solid performance in the middle.
Villacorta -8- Moved the ball with supreme confidence.
Marta -8- So good to see her back to her best.
Adriana -7- Caused problems for the Spirit defence.
Abello -7- Provided balance and width.
Bright -7- Led the line well.
Watt -7- Lively appearance.
Listro -6- Came in last minute.
Martinez -6- Came in last minute.
Orlando Pride head coach Seb Hines
“We knew it was going to be tough game. Washington is unbeaten in the league and very physical. I thought we managed the game really well. Pleased with the goals. You know we changed shape, we changed our formation, having played them earlier on in Challenge Cup, we knew what they were capable of, and we knew that they were threatening. I thought it was a big collective effort to get the three points today.”
Top player image and cover image courtesy of Orlando Pride.
Media availability footage and b-roll footage courtesy of Orlando Pride.