Preview: NJ/NY Gotham FC (h).
Updated: Oct 9
When? Saturday October 10, 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and 00:00 BST (11/10).
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on Twitch for domestic and international supporters.
It's certainly been a tumultuous week for the NWSL as a whole. There's been a lot of talk of a systemic failure to protect the players of this league. I think the use of such language is disingenuous to say the least. Whilst the problem is certainly a systematic one, let's call this crisis what it is. It's evil, uncaring and monstrous. For a league that claims to be the best in the world to not even have proper safeguarding protocols in place... It's not just about the league being negligible, or lacking transparency. It's symptomatic of a system that just doesn't give a shit. That's just evil. To say it's just negligence, is wide of the mark. Even English men's football, which is still in the dark ages in many ways (Hi Newcastle United), has player safety protocols.
Anyway, whilst the fight for player safety continues off the field, it'll be nice to get back to the action. No one should neglect the larger fight at hand, but I firmly believe football is a healing sport. We call it the 'beautiful game' for a reason. It unites people across all walks of life. It's a universal language, which is honestly one of my favourite things about the sport. Sport should never transcend safety, but it can be a positive outlet during times of hardship.
As such, the Orlando Pride delve back into the action, in a game that could have massive ramifications for their play-off fate. Our visitors sit just 2 further points back from ourselves, as we occupy the final play-off spot. Gotham are one of the best footballing sides in the league, so this promises to be a fascinating encounter.
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I said, in my preview for our last encounter, that Gotham is one of the best passing teams in the NWSL. That's a notion that still certainly holds true. Overall, they have played 9,208 passes at a pass success rate of 80.5% (figure 1). Their pass completion statistics are the best in the league, and only the Washington Spirit come close.
This is a team that likes to move the ball around to create openings and will generally attempt to dominate possession. For example, in their recent game against the Red Stars, Gotham had 58.2% of the overall possession, completing 81.4% of their 483 passes. Transitions are going to be vitally important for Orlando. Luckily for the Pride, this is something they excel at. Orlando will need to channel their inner Moff Gideon when Gotham are in possession... Yes, I know that's an unnecessary reference. Do I care? About as much as Harrison Ford cares about Star Wars fan theories (he really doesn't). #NerdLife
Something that's probably been Gotham's Achilles heel this season, is their conversion rate. They dominate possession but they struggle to create chances, and don't always take them when they do. Gotham has a conversion rate of 11.7% (figure 2), whilst ranking 8/10 for both shots taken and goals scored. Their modest XG of 0.76 perhaps reflects that. Overall, you get the impression that they're a playmaker and a striker away from being a championship team.
Figure 1 shows Gotham's passing accuracy statistics on the season so far.
Figure 2 shows Gotham's chance conversion statistics on the season so far.
According to the NWSL injury report, Gotham are without Mandy Freeman, but otherwise have a clean bill of health. Allie Long is suspended, due to accumulating 5 cautions.
The Orlando Pride, meanwhile, are in the advantageous position of having all first team players available for selection (those who have made first team appearances for the Pride). Vivianna Villacorta is back in training, and is edging towards contact work. She and Jade Moore will be the only absentees. Kaylie Collins is also available, whilst Emily Van Egmond will wait for her visa, following her re-arrival from West Ham United.
Possible starting XI
I would expect a certain degree of rotation, given that Gotham played midweek, in Philadelphia as part of Carli Lloyd's retirement schedule. As such, I would expect them to line-up a little something like this:
The USWNT veteran is currently enjoying her retirement swansong. Their most recent game against the Washington Spirit was played in Lloyd's home town of Philadelphia for that very reason. Lloyd hasn't exactly been in sparkling form this season, with 2 goals and 1 assist in 10 games. That's possibly a measure of the player herself though, when those sorts of numbers are considered below-par. Lloyd has scored 134 goals in 314 games for the national team. Which says it all really.
Gotham are currently 6-8-5 on the season, and lie 8th, just 2 points off the play-off positions. Their recent run of form is poor, with only 1 win in 9. That being said, they've won 1 and drawn 1 of their last 2 games. And they're still in the hunt.
The Pride, meanwhile have had a significant rest period, and head into this game in 6th place with a 7-7-6 record. The Pride have won 3 of their last 7, but were humbled in Tacoma last time-out. The Pride will be keen to bounce back.
*All statistics courtesy of footystats.org and nwslsoccer.com
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com
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