The Orlando Pride continued their road trip in the lofty confines of Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. They were unable to capture all three points against the Utah Royals in a game best described as “wait, there was a soccer game played in Rio Tinto last night?” Unfortunately, that didn’t relieve me of my writing duties, and so here are your five takeaways.
Altitude is a Factor
When fans think about playing at altitude, they often think of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado at a lofty 5,200 feet above sea level, but Rio Tinto isn’t too far below at 4,500 feet. Don’t think that players who live and work at sea level (or maybe even below) aren’t affected by the thinner air at altitude. This was more evident as the game went on, and was particularly obvious when Rachel Hill came on in the second half, and looked to have another gear compared to her teammates. The bright spot is that this trip to Rio Tinto will prepare the Pride for their next match at Providence Park in Portland Oregon, which stands at 110 feet. That’s significantly easier on the lungs.
Ubogagu is Confident but Not Sharp Enough
Despite scoring three goals this season, Chioma Ubogagu has managed to do it while not looking great with the ball. She has been confident and opportunistic, but she hasn’t done much to help her teammates with her attacks or her passing. While she may be better than last year, she has shown a tendency to work herself into bad situations, and make passing decisions that result in giving the ball away too easily. This was very evident in Utah, as much of the offense seemed to go through her in the first half, which meant that there wasn’t very much offense.
The Return of Alex Morgan
Alex was frustrated several times after coming on for Ubogagu in the second half. None more so than when she was fouled hard by Katrina Gorry and seemingly injured her shoulder, though she was able to continue. However, she did favor her left arm the rest of the game, including when she was walking off the field after the final whistle. Hopefully, it isn’t a serious injury given the Pride just got her back after a hyper-extended knee.
I mentioned in the intro that this was a boring game. Let me be very clear, it wasn’t pretty. Both sides had some ugly passing, decent goalkeeping, and some luck to not give up a goal. Both defenses played better than the opposing offenses, and the score line, and your interest in the match reflected this. It was not a brilliant defensive struggle, but given how the game played out, they were both good enough.
A Point on the Road
As ugly as the game was, it’s important to remember that any points on the road are good points. Ideally, Tom Sermanni would have liked to get all three, as indicated with his substitution choices of Morgan, Hill, and Christine Nairn. With the draw, Orlando stayed one point ahead of Utah in the standings. I would contend that four points to start a road trip is something to be appreciated, especially given that Portland is up next.
There you have it, Mane Landers. Tell me what you think I missed, or feel free to commiserate with me in the comments below. This Saturday, the Pride head to Portland to take on the Thorns at 3:30 p.m. ET. Check back with us for all the coverage information. Go Pride!