The Orlando Pride headed North to Cary, NC to take on the Courage last night. The Pride were coming off an opening day 2-0 loss to the Portland Thorns. Unfortunately for the Pride, it was merely game one of a very difficult eight days, including the trip last night, and culminating with a cross country match against Reign FC. That match is still to come, so let’s look at what we can take away from a lopsided loss against the Courage.
Conceding Just Before Halftime (Again)
For the second straight match, the Pride had a mental breakdown that led to a goal for the opposition in the 45th minute, giving their opponents the lead. The Pride weren’t having a great game, but they were at least level heading into the half. That is until Lynn Williams scored off a defensive giveaway by Alex Morgan, who looked for a foul call rather than try to win the ball back from Crystal Dunn. Dunn went on to feed Williams for the easy score. The breakdown was the pebble that started the avalanche of second-half goals that doomed the Pride.
Playing from Behind
It’s one thing to go down a goal. It’s something else to go down a goal to what has been the best team in the league since the start of last year. If you don’t have any shots on goal in the first half of the match, it’s reasonable to expect that chances in the second half will be hard to come by as well. When you go down another goal in the 55th minute, the mountain gets even steeper. A third goal in the 70th minute by a very strong Courage team makes it nearly impossible, but the fourth goal in the 77th minute makes a loss inevitable. The fifth goal in the 88th minute was just salt in the wound. It’s hard to play from behind.
Lack of Chances, Lack of Goals
As I mentioned above, there were four shots, no shots on goal, and no corners for the Pride in the first half. Zero. (OK, maybe the official scorer was a little harsh to Carson Pickett.) In the second half, the Pride managed to get two corners, but still no official shots on goal. Compare that to North Carolina, which had 30 shots, 13 shots on goal, and seven corners. In the Pride’s first match they managed 15 shots, with two on goal, and four corners to Portland’s 22 shots, with eight shots on goal, and seven corners. The Pride are having a tough time even getting the ball into the attacking third, let alone actually putting the ball in the goal. It doesn’t help that Morgan gave Rachel Hill a perfect through ball, only to watch her teammate take a heavy touch to allow the goalkeeper to smother it without even getting a shot off.
Find Some Space
If Orlando isn’t getting many scoring opportunities, it’s not helping matters that so many of the team’s few chances are getting blocked. You can chalk up part of that to the defenses that the Pride have played so far, because the Thorns and Courage both have good, physical back lines. But Orlando got five of its nine shot attempts blocked last night after having six of 15 blocked vs. Portland. Just a little more movement could turn some of these chances into goals instead of harmless deflections that often end up going the other way and starting the break.
Some of this is simply being overeager early in games and frustrated later in games. But the forwards must be less static and create space for their shots or find a better option. Meanwhile, some of the midfielders are passing up shooting opportunities the forwards are granting them by pulling defenders away. Dani Weatherholt had one such chance last night but instead crossed the ball into traffic. A back-post effort there could result in a goal or in a rebound for an easy tap-in.
Mental Toughness a Must During Steep Learning Curve
Orlando had its best half of the young season in the opening 45 minutes last night. It wasn’t a great half, but the Pride were limiting North Carolina’s opportunities and most of the Courage shots were coming from distance or weak headers. But things unraveled after conceding the late first-half goal. This is a team that has a new head coach, who is instituting a completely new culture, and a new system. It takes time for that to happen. The Pride had nearly no time to do so before being thrown into the deep end against the league’s best teams. There’s only so much that can get done now that the season starts, and even less, given the three games in eight days. This team will have to muddle through, but expect that it might be a while before things get better and the Pride can’t let a bad moment or two turn into five like they did last night.
That’s what I felt was important. Let us know what you think in the comments below.