It was a drama-filled day at the Maryland Soccerplex as the Washington Spirit hosted the Orlando Pride. The match ended with a draw, which seems like a fair result based on the way the two sides played. And while the referee refrained from going to his pocket to issue any cards in the match, he did point to the spot twice to award PKs, and I'm not sure either one was really deserved. The good thing is that the offsetting PKs did not tilt the game in favor of either side, so they likely changed the final score but not the outcome of the match.
- Winning the Deep Stats - The Pride showed more hustle in some aspects of the match yesterday, winning a lot of the key statistics. Our ladies led in Duels Won (46 to 45), Tackles Won (14 to 10), and Clearances (28 to 24). They also led in several other stats: total passes and percentage (448 / 76.6% to 346 / 71.1%), Crosses (13 to 10), and Possession (56.4% to 43.6%). I said "some aspects" above because with those stat lines it's clear the Pride had opportunities that were left not taken. More on that later.
- Marvelous M&M's - For the score line, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a one on one match since Marta and Mallory Pugh were the only ones who scored. Each of them scored a goal from the run of play and they both calmly put a PK in the back of the net. I can't fault either player, but I will complain that I wish Mallory Pugh would save her goal scoring for matches when she doesn't play against my team!
- Dani Weatherholt Returns - It's been a bit of a mystery why Dani Weatherholt hasn't started a match since returning from the U-23 Nordic Tournament in early June. She's a player that has proven to have a high work rate and is very aggressive chasing down and dispossessing opposing players early in the season. There was no announcement on her return of any injury she may have picked up in the tournament or any disciplinary issues that may have kept her on the bench. But whatever the reason for her being out of the lineup, it was wonderful to see her back in the starting XI and playing the full 90 yesterday.
- Failure to Finish - I said before that the team had won a number of the key stats in the match and that they showed more hustle in "some aspects" of the match. The problem is that they failed to convert that hustle into chances on the pointy end of the formation. Washington outshot Orlando both in Total Shots (18 to 16) and Shots on Goal (7 to 4). I've often been skeptical of Possession as a key stat because it doesn't really matter how much you have but what you wind up doing with it. To me it seems criminal if a team wins both the Tackles and Duels in a match but lets the other team get more shots. I hope this will be a point of emphasis for the Coaches this week as they get the team prepared for the next match.
- Too Much Gawking - There are times this year that the team seems to have taken a page out of the 2015 Orlando City SC squad. Back in those days, a lot of the MLS lads looked like they were pinching themselves as if to say, "I'm playing with Kaka!" And this year there are times when some of the Pride players appear to be doing the same with Marta. There are times this season when the five-time Player of the Year will dance a ball into the area and look up for a teammate only to find the other 21 players on the pitch watching her work. I saw a number of times when the only teammate open for Marta was someone to one side with a cloud of defenders around her, while there were wide open spaces on the other side with no purple shirts around to dump off the ball as a safety valve. Yes, Marta's first instincts always seem to be to move the ball toward goal, but sometimes if you have someone on the opposite side that can receive the ball, it can allow other teammates to reposition and perhaps be in a better spot to take a shot.
- Offsetting PKs - I believe that this match marks the first time that an Orlando Pride match has featured equal and offsetting PKs in the match. I'm also not sure that either awarded PK actually should have been a foul. When Camila fell to the pitch in the 9th minute of the match, it looked like a shoulder-to-shoulder collision while both the attacking and defending player were going for the ball. I didn't see any tugging or pulling or tripping or other illegal play by Washington's Kassey Kallman that would warrant issuing a penalty, unless the referee somehow saw it as stopping a goal-scoring opportunity, which seems a bit of a stretch. And late in the second half when Washington sub Kristie Mewis went down, she appeared to be losing her balance already when she backed into Toni Pressley and hit the ground. Again there was no pulling, tripping, tugging, or other illegal play by Pressley, and it cannot be considered stopping a goal scoring opportunity as Mewis had her back to the goal. If I'm completely honest, I think the referee realized he had bungled the first half PK call and was just looking for any flimsy excuse to issue a make-up call to even it out. At the same time I'm not going to say that the second bad call ruined the match for the Pride. With their possession and hustle in the deep stats, they had plenty of opportunities to create more shots than their opponents and they simply didn't get it done. So as I said in the opener, based on the play of both teams, the draw feels like the right result.
What were your thoughts on the match? Do you think the team deserved the draw on the road? Or do you think that they either got extremely lucky or were the victim of a bad call that awarded the opponent an unfair goal? Let me know in the comments below!