On May 23, the North Carolina Courage came to Orlando. The game was scoreless for half an hour, and then seven total goals were unleashed in the final 60 minutes. Chioma Ubogagu would tie the game up 1-1 from a sweet, low cross from Marta.
That was her fourth goal of the year. It put her in a four-way tie for second place among all players. Her company included Jessica McDonald, Megan Rapinoe, and Crystal Dunn. I don’t think anybody could have guessed that that would be her last goal of the year. The only thing she could muster up after that would be an assist to Sydney Leroux in the middle of June.
Even when she was leading the Pride in goals scored, there were still plenty of ups and downs in Ubogagu’s second year with Orlando (she was re-signed in February). Her two most consistent scores for my player grades were 6.0 and 4.5. Often, the troubles were her taking on multiple defenders and losing the ball, or attempting a pass that was just a bit off target. By the end of the season, her distribution settled on an accuracy of 69.3%, putting her in 12th place on the team.
The bright moments were when she could make the ball do what she wanted, and put through several great through balls, including 28 key passes. I think she was the only other player that came close to matching Dani Weatherholt’s tenacity, which would leave her exhausted by match’s end (Of her 17 starts, she was subbed off 13 times). A stat that brings all of this together is her attempts at putting in a cross. She led the team by a significant amount at 54 open play crosses, but only seven were successful. Compare that to Rachel Hill, who attempted 35, but succeeded on eight, or even Ali Krieger’s 19 attempts, with five successful crosses. In short, the tenacity and involvement were there, but the accuracy and patience often weren’t.
Chi’s best game came in the first ever win versus Chicago on May 2. She completed every pass in the first half and only failed to complete five in the second. In the 27th minute, she intercepted a pass, and with Sydney Leroux’s help, marched it to the top of the box where she scored her third goal of the year.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land give Chi a 4.5 for the season. Her ability to get involved often went unmatched, but countless times the end result would be a turnover or a dead cross. She was a large part of those early season points, and if she could have maintained even just some of that pace, the Pride season as a whole could have been a lot different. Goals are all well and good, but the stat that hurts Chi the most for me is the lack of assists. Largely playing on the wing, and getting to feed the ball to the likes of Alex Morgan, Marta, and Sydney Leroux, you should be able to finish the season with more than one assist in 1,340 minutes played. Further, she continued to dribble into blind alleys and often didn’t see teammates’ runs until they were offside, killing the attack.
As reported a couple of days ago, a coachless Pride picked up the option on Chi for the 2019 season. Until they pick up a coach however, it’s anybody’s guess where she or anyone else could end up. Chi’s struggles were a part of the Pride’s struggles, and if everything comes together next season, she could play a part in that success. Again, with many players leaving in the summer for the World Cup, there will be plenty of opportunities for everyone on the roster to make an impact, and having just turned 26 a few weeks ago, there is plenty of time for Chi as well.