Sometimes the little things just don’t add up, and when that happens, you need the luck of a free kick. Christine Nairn provided that kick on Sunday and found Chioma Ubogagu in the second half to keep the Pride unbeaten at home in nine games.
Once again, it’s time to break down the team’s and each player’s performance and find our Player of the Match.
GK, Ashlyn Harris, 6 — I thought this was probably Harris’ best game so far in this young season, and not just because of the shutout. She finally laid off the long balls to nowhere and let the defense play it out. I think that helped with possession quite a bit against a Houston team that, in my opinion, has excelled in the midfield at times. She wasn’t truly tested in the net, but even if you are only called upon twice, you’ve gotta step up, and she did.
D, Ali Krieger, 6.5 — Orlando came out with three defenders, and this kept Ali on defense most of the match where she did quite well. She put a stop to a number of attacks and the highlight for me was when she battled Thembi Kgatlana in the box for what seemed like forever as both teams looked on. She came out on top and got the ball clear. She was the main defender in getting the ball forward, and had quite a few laser passes to the midfield to push possession into the attack. Jane Campbell had a fingertip save in the 82nd minute to keep Krieger from sliding one into the net. I think this too, was her best game yet.
D, Shelina Zadorsky, 6.5 — Shelina played the central defender and although she had a slow start in terms of seeing action, each and every time Houston threatened she played a part in breaking it down. She won a fantastic ball near the end of the match and put it in a great spot for Alex Morgan to go 1-v-1 against Amber Brooks, which unfortunately didn’t pan out.
D, Toni Pressley, 6 — Toni had a solid game too, but I’m putting her slightly lower because she trailed the other two defenders in passing and couldn’t get the ball forward as much as I’ve seen her do in previous games.
MF, Kristen Edmonds, 5.5 — Like Carson Pickett, Edmonds was allowed to get involved a bit more due to the 3-5-2/3-4-3 that the Pride played in, which relieved a bit of pressure. But just a bit. She was great on dropping back to help out on defense but in getting the ball forward — or being the one to get forward — it just wasn’t there. A better pass from Chi at the end of the first half would have put Kristen in a 1-v-1 with Jane Campbell, so that is unfortunate. She had the lowest amount of touches in the midfield again (out of players going the full 90 minutes) with 48 compared to Nairn’s 80, and Dani Weatherholt’s 79.
MF, Dani Weatherholt, 8 (PotM) — That’s right, an 8. And I might be doing her a disservice. You could honestly make a 10-minute highlight reel out of what she did on the pitch Sunday. As mentioned above, she had one less touch than the team high of 80. She had a stellar passing rate of 92.1 (on 63 passes!). Not a single player on the pitch matched her intensity and although she doesn’t have the assist or the goal, the Pride walked away with three points because of Weatherholt.
Go find the game on the NWSL website. You should watch the entire match and focus on her, but if you are short on time, find the 52:20 mark. This will give you time to settle in for the Dani Weatherholt show. You will see after a few seconds the Pride forwards just watching Houston kick it around and build possession. Weatherholt bursts into the camera frame and immediately wrecks possession. Houston bailed themselves out by lobbing it 20 yards and as soon as it settled on the feet of the Houston player, Weatherholt was already there disrupting that ball. Alex Morgan was nearby but just watched instead of making it a 2-v-1 situation. At that point, Weatherholt was finally put on the ground, and Morgan decided to finally help. But Weatherholt did this all match, with the notable exception of the 78th minute, when she stood on the sideline to clear up a bloody nose. Slacker.
She covered so much ground with so much pace that it was incredible to watch, and I’m glad I gave the game a second watch to really appreciate this. Hopefully Jill Ellis does this at some point, too.
MF, Christine Nairn, 6.5 — All the numbers are there for Nairn: Team high in touches, team high with her three chances created, and the all-time assist leader notched another one on a great free kick. And the rest of her set pieces were a lot better than in previous matches, too. The only knock would be the 76.9% passing, but I also give Houston a bit of credit for clogging that midfield and causing havoc all day.
MF, Carson Pickett, 5.5 — Like I said with Edmonds, moving Pickett up the field took a bit of pressure off her and allowed her to settle into the game a bit more. It still wasn’t great, but she had a few good moments that should have unlocked the offense with a bit more luck. She had a great steal in the 29th minute and then put it forward to Morgan, and right before she was subbed out in the 64th, she put a stellar ball forward that Morgan should have buried.
F, Chioma Ubogagu, 6 — What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This season, she’s been a bit messy with the ball at her feet, and the passes, although great looks, are always just a bit off so the play dies. But her effort is always there. We see so much (for better or worse) in regards to Chi’s game, because she’s almost always involved. If she could play facing the goal a bit more, I know we’d see some drastic improvement. She played 10 fewer minutes but only had two fewer touches than Sydney Leroux, and had five more touches than Morgan. Even with all the poor touches and poor passes, she was the hero of the day once again, and now has one more goal than the rest of the team combined, which was a Marta penalty in the season opener. Love the effort.
F, Alex Morgan, 4 — As always after a match like this, I hear excuses in regards to the service not being there for Morgan, that she was making runs that no one saw. I didn’t see that on Sunday, or my rewatch. A shot in the 63rd minute that she never misses sailed over the net. She then fired one off late in the game that gave some poor soul Carlos Rivas flashbacks. She had 39 touches, the lowest passing percentage at 44%, and her two shots were way off target. Amber Brooks had a good game against her, but she absolutely has to start delivering. She did give good pressure at times during the match, which was nice to see.
F, Sydney Leroux, 4 — Pretty much the same story as Morgan. I’ll add here that the two of them clearly have chemistry, because there were a lot of good looks from each one to the other. None of them worked out, but if they can start clicking completely, the results will come. Her wide-open miss in the 84th minute was the capper on a very uneventful day for Leroux.
F, Rachel Hill (64’), 4.5 — Hill wasn’t able to get involved too much, and when she was, Kristie Mewis was there to ruin the day. But it took a solid 10 minutes of her being in before she got that first solid touch down the side.
MF, Abby Elinsky (81’), N/A — Elinsky once again saw a bit of time and, although it wasn’t much, I saw some good positioning from her to relieve pressure from others. Not much else to say unfortunately, which is a shame because what I’ve seen from her so far has been fun and promising. Now with most of the other players coming back, it could be the last time we see her for a while.
F, Danica Evans (90+1), N/A — This was a “run out the clock” sub in exchange for Leroux. Evans finished with four touches and completely nailed her one pass for a 100% rating! In all seriousness though, she always pushes, no matter the time given.
There you have it. That’s my assessment, and as always, I’d love to hear what you saw and let me know what I got wrong (or right!) And of course, be sure to vote below on your Player of the Match.
Who was your player of the match for the Pride in the 1-0 win over the Houston Dash?
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