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Orlando Pride vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC: Five Takeaways

What did we learn in the Pride’s loss to Gotham FC in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup?

Gotham FC v Orlando Pride Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images

The Orlando Pride fell to Gotham FC 1-0 in Exploria Stadium Wednesday night in their home 2021 opener. Usually, I would make a point of the whole NJ/NY thing, but honestly I’m too disappointed in the result to do so. The matches against Racing Louisville and Gotham FC were the Pride’s best chances to get points in the Challenge Cup, and they only managed to get one point. Let’s look at what we learned from the Pride’s second match.

Missed Opportunities

The Pride had 17 shots with seven on goal, that resulted in absolutely zero goals scored. There were several reasons for this. Leroux seemed to be a half step behind where she needed to be on what should have been at least three goals. Taylor Kornieck couldn’t get the same velocity on her headers as she did against Louisville. She also couldn’t get onto a slightly-off-line Leroux cross that would have been her second goal of the Challenge Cup. Too often there wasn’t enough support when Leroux or Kornieck made a run. A club can’t expect to win if they can’t capitalize on that many chances. If you’re wondering if this is the most shots the Pride have had without scoring, it isn’t. The Pride once took 22 shots against Sky Blue — the same club Gotham FC used to be — on Sep 8, 2018 without putting one in the net.

Skinner’s Style?

Short rest seems to have contributed to some heavy legs as the Pride were not pressing as much as expected, given the way Marc Skinner wants his club to play. You saw glimpses of it on the defensive side of the ball, and how the Pride tried to win the ball back when they lost possession. Unfortunately, that same pressing didn’t materialize in the attack, at least in the first half. In the second half, the Pride were better able to hold possession, and press higher up the field, though it didn’t help in the end. It’s clear what Skinner is hoping to get from his players, the execution and finishing just needs to be better.

Harris Can’t Do it All

The Pride seemed to have a bit of bad luck in the 12th minute when an unintentional Konya Plummer handball gave Gotham a penalty kick opportunity. Nahomi Kawasumi stepped up to take the kick, but Harris was able to make the save. Harris stated at halftime that she was able to make the stop because she studies her opponents, and it’s her job to know their tendencies. When Gotham scored its goal in the second half, Harris almost made another amazing save, but the ball squirted through. To be fair, there was no reason that Harris should have made the save, and she’s the least to blame for the loss.

Veterans Didn’t Show Up

Marta is without a doubt the one of the greatest soccer players of all time. However, last night she was all but invisible in the first half, and in the second half only slightly better. Her set piece deliveries were not great, and she seemed pretty gassed by the end. Ali Krieger’s breakdown contributed to an opposition goal for the second match in a row. I already mentioned Leroux’s lack of finishing. The Pride either need the veterans or the youngsters to step up. Ideally, it would be both.

The Substitution Problem

Last match, Skinner decided against using his allotment of substitutions to slow down the end of the match to try and see out the lead. Last night, he only used two of his five available subs despite his club playing on short rest. I understand wanting to keep a Kornieck, Leroux, or Marta on in a normal situation, however that’s not what was going on. The second substitution, Abi Kim, didn’t come on until the 84th minute. By that time it was too late, and the Pride suffered their first lost of 2021.

That’s what I saw during the match. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.