Issues in attack and defence: How Orlando Pride lost to Gotham – tactical analysis
A NWSL Challenge Cup match was played last Wednesday between Orlando Pride and Gotham FC and the result was a win for the visitors, Gotham FC. This was the first game of the season for Gotham FC while it was the second match for Orlando Pride who made a 2-2 draw in their first encounter against Racing Louisville.
This away win was very important for Gotham FC since it allowed them to share the top spot with North Carolina Courage in the Eastern division’s standings, despite playing just one match. While for Orlando Pride, they only got one point out of two games currently which prevented them from exceeding the fourth spot in the standings, just like Racing Louisville. Yet, there are still numerous other matches to play for both teams to turn things upside down and aim at qualifying for the final match of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
In this tactical analysis article, I will focus on what went wrong for Orlando Pride even though they looked more dangerous in key moments while at the same there will be a section of analysis exploring the way in which Gotham FC succeeded in their mission.
Marc Skinner, Orlando Pride’s head coach, started this match with the 4-2-3-1 formation relying on Ashlyn Harris as a goalkeeper, Ali Krieger, Konya Plummer, Phoebe McClernon and Ali Riley in defence, Marisa Viggiano and Jade Moore as central midfielders with Marta as an advanced playmaker and both Courtney Petersen and Taylor Kornieck as wingers behind Sydney Leroux, the team’s striker.
On the other side, Freya Coombe, Gotham FC’s head coach, preferred to use the 4-1-4-1 formation with Dijana Haracic as a goalkeeper, Erica Skroski, Gina Lewandowski, Mandy Freeman and Imani Dorsey in defence, Jennifer Cudjoe as a defensive midfielder, Lee So-dam and Nicole Baxter as central midfielders, Paige Monaghan and Nahomi Kawasumi on the wings with Ifeoma Onumonu playing as a striker.
Orlando Pride’s playmaking and finishing dilemma
Since the early stages of the game, it was clear that Orlando Pride relied on Petersen a lot to get the ball and advance on the left-wing to then serve one of both Leroux and Kornieck who were always present inside the box in such situations. Petersen was able to create some dangerous opportunities from the wing with the help of Marta and Riley who often supported her with passes or with movement without the ball.
Kornieck and Peterson were also excellent in pressing on Gotham FC players to intercept the ball early and disturb their opponent’s build-up, and this was fruitful in numerous actions and it highlighted these players’ discipline and involvement in the defensive phase. Orlando Pride’s players intercepted the ball 62 times in the game against 47 and these Orlando Pride interceptions were often made in midfield just like Kornieck did in this following picture.
And at the same time, Leroux was dynamic and retreated several times to midfield in order to help in the build-up especially by passing to the wings where Krieger and Riley advanced so often, as you can see below.
This advancement of full-backs allowed Peterson and Kornieck to have more freedom in attack and to especially play closer to Leroux inside the box, and even though Orlando Pride did not score goals, the danger came principally from these three players who were usually inside or just near the box.
Moreover, the role of Viggiano is not to be neglected since she was the player who took care of the transition between the centre-backs and midfielders with accurate passes and with the assistance of Moore and Marta. And despite playing in front of the defence, Viggiano was also impactful when she advanced, and we saw Orlando Pride with four players inside the box at times like in the following action in which Viggiano passed to Riley who took the spot of Petersen on the left-wing to allow the latter to be inside the box. This was one of Orlando’s well-played attacks yet the last touch was usually what lacked Orlando Pride in this match.
And even though they shot 15 times with seven on target, more than Gotham FC who made seven shots with three of them on target, Orlando Pride were not able to concretise their chances even though they looked closer than Gotham FC to doing it. Orlando Pride’s most concrete and dangerous chances came from Leroux and Kornieck. The latter positioned herself in the role of a striker several times in this match. And she disturbed Gotham FC’s defenders with her strong physical abilities which allowed her to shoot and threaten Haracic, like she did in this chance.
Leroux had some great scoring opportunities as well but she failed to score due to Haracic’s saves and her shots which also lacked a bit of power to surprise the goalkeeper. But at the same time, Leroux-Kornieck’s attacking duo created a lot of troubles to Gotham FC’s defence and the exchange of roles between the two generated some clear goalscoring chances. We saw Leroux becoming a passer on the left-wing at times with Kornieck waiting inside the box, as we also saw Kornieck serving Leroux several times. However, both players need to improve their finishing skills to be more decisive in the upcoming matches, since they both missed many chances. And perhaps the most dangerous was the following one.
In this opportunity Leroux passed the ball accurately to Kornieck who was waiting in the box without marking, but surprisingly enough, she did not touch the ball and missed the chance of the match since she was in front of the goal and could have done much more in this situation.
Orlando Pride were not able to neither keep the draw or score a goal, and instead, they gave the chance for Gotham FC to attack and score despite Orlando’s numerous dangerous chances especially in the first-half. And this proves that the team still needs more work in terms of knowing how to exploit the chances when they are having their best form, while at the same time the team’s defensive performance does not reassure the fans since Orlando’s defence got distracted during the last 15 minutes of the match and that costed them three points.
Gotham FC’s realistic performance
Gotham FC played this match with precaution initially, and this could have costed them one or two goals. And at the same time, they tried to advance and attack relying mainly on crosses from the wings to Onumonu who was always inside the box waiting to receive such crosses. And this helped them in winning a penalty at the tenth minute, but unfortunately for them, Harris saved Kawasumi’s shot.
Gotham however did not feel disinterested following this missed goalscoring chance and they continued in having a lot of possession during this match, with 58.77% and 41.23% for Orlando. Also, Gotham were better in passing accuracy with 83.08% while Orlando had 74.4%. Gotham however did not create as much chances as Orlando did, yet, they were realistic enough to score the one big chance they had in the second-half. Such a goal shows the character and determination to win that these players have, and their defensive compactness especially in the first part of the second-half was vital in keeping the team in the match.
Gotham often defended with seven or eight players in this match, leaving Kawazumi and Onumonu in attack to make the best out of counter-attacks. And this defence was moving in a right way to prevent Orlando’s players from shooting, like you can see in this picture. Gotham’s well-timed interceptions at the last 20 minutes allowed them to get an extra motivation and believe in their chances of turning the table, since they also noticed how tired Orlando’s players were.
And this leads us to Gotham’s goal action. It was a very well-played action that started from defence and continued until reaching Orlando’s net. The action included ten passes from Gotham players and a few one-two combinations which allowed them to get past Orlando’s players and reach the final third quickly. Elizabeth Eddy’s chip and through pass to Onumonu was the best and most important part of the action since Eddy eliminated her marker, and passed the ball accurately in a free space to give Onumonu the chance of passing to Monaghan without marking or disturbance.
And then Monaghan was able to score a very beautiful and crucial goal that gave Gotham the three points and put them on the right path ahead of the NWSL.
This match was one to forget for Orlando Pride since they were not able to concretise the big and numerous chances they had throughout the game while their performance levels dropped in the endo of the second-half due to fatigue and lack of concentration, but like many teams and especially big ones such as Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and others, Orlando can bounce back as soon as possible and this loss can only be a good lesson which will drive the players into becoming more decisive in the final third and score goals.
While on the other hand, Gotham FC succeeded in finishing their mission with a valuable win especially at a psychological level since this will lead the team to becoming more confident in their abilities to win against other tough teams even when they play away fixtures. And with more played matches, Gotham can be even more powerful this season.