Orlando celebrated Mother's Day in style on Sunday with a 2 - 0 victory over the Seattle Reign and world #1 goalkeeper Hope Solo. The match marked several firsts for the Pride and continued the team's win streak at home.
- Alex Morgan's Leadership - There are great athletes, and there are great team leaders, and then there are the rare players who can do both. We seem to be spoiled in Orlando with an embarrassment of riches in that department. We've seen since last season on the MLS side how Kaka is able to elevate the play of his younger and less experienced teammates by helping to get the ball to the open man and encouraging his younger teammates to get on the score sheet. We're also starting to see Alex Morgan take on that same mantle of leadership with the Orlando Pride. In the match last night there were two goal scorers: Sarah Hagen in the first half and Lianne Sanderson in the second half. But on both goals, Alex Morgan had the assist.
- Ashlyn Harris - Fresh off of her second week of winning NWSL Save of the Week, Ashlyn Harris recorded her first clean sheet as a member of the Orlando Pride. She recorded 2 saves on the match, and defended three corner kicks in the first half to keep the Reign from finding the back of the net. She also proved her toughness after a hard collision with an attacking Seattle player late in the second half. After being down on the turf for a couple of minutes and getting some attention from the trainers, Harris popped back up and finished the match, although she did seem a little gimpy and avoided making goal kicks for the rest of the match, either having a field player kick the ball back into play or rolling it out to a defender.
- Potent Attack - The two goals by the Pride were not the only chances the team had in the match. Orlando outshot Seattle by the tune of 9 to 4, with a 5 to 2 edge in shots on goal, and a 10 - 3 edge in corner kicks won. It was clear through the match that Orlando were creating more opportunities for themselves during the game and they spent a lot of time patiently building up attacks to find ways of getting the ball forward into the attacking third of the pitch.
- Crown Drum Line - The Pride's supporter group repositioned their drums this week, setting them in place over the tunnel at the south end of the newly renamed Camping World Stadium. This made it much easier to hear the drums and follow the chants throughout the rest of the stadium. There were also some special guests joining in the fun, as Harrison Heath, Cyle Larin, and other members of the MLS and USL teams in the Orlando City family joined the supporters in The Crown section to cheer on the ladies and even take a few whacks on the drums.
- The Crowd - I was happy to see The Crown show up in force with their drums and their voices, but the rest of the crowd was a little weak. Announced attendance was 8,122 which made it the largest NWSL crowd of the weekend, but that was about one-third of the number that showed up for the opening match on April 23 and set a new attendance record for the league. To be fair yesterday was Mother's Day and many fans may have had family obligations that kept them from coming, but this team is both talented and entertaining to watch, so I hope that loyal fans will continue to evangelize women's soccer and drag more people out to the matches.
- Shooting Hesitation and Accuracy - Remember how I said the attack of the team was good? When I say attack, I am talking about the overall pressure that the team put on Seattle's defense. The actual shooting was a bit of a different story. There were times I felt like I was watching the 2015 versions of Carlos Rivas and Cristian Higuita out on the pitch last night because players were either dancing around with the ball in the scoring third trying to decide what to do or they were kicking it 20 rows up into the stands over the goal. Now I've never been stared down by Hope Solo when trying to shoot the ball past her, so it could be that she just affects other players that way. But I hope that going forward we can convert more of those opportunities to scores in future matches.
- Passing and Communications - I mention this because I heard a lot of fans complaining in the stands about the seemingly inaccurate passing that went on in the match last night. There was a lot of miscommunication where a ball would be played away from the momentum of the receiver (in front of a player moving back, to the outside of a player drifting toward the middle, etc.). It's important to remember that this is only an expansion side, and these athletes have not played together as a unit before. Some know each other from National Teams previous clubs, but they are a new team. I remember complaining last year to Tom Traxxler and Jeff Radcliffe at remote events when it looked like Orlando City's MLS side was spraying the ball randomly when trying to pass, and they told me that it can take months for players to learn the tendencies and strengths and speed of their teammates. So I list this as a "bad" from the match, but it should not be unexpected at this stage of a new team's development, nor should it be something that fans are overly concerned to see. You can tell players are seeing each other and having good ideas, and as long as they continue to build on that, we'll see much tighter play and even stronger results in the future.
- First Clean Sheet - As I mentioned earlier, the match was the first clean sheet for Ashlyn Harris and the Orlando Pride defense in team history. I've already mentioned enough statistics to make most readers eyes glaze over, so I'll just say I'm thrilled for the team that they accomplished the feat at home.
- First Win at Camping World Stadium - The lads had the first crack at winning in the newly named stadium on Friday night, but they failed to get it done. Once again, the ladies are showing the way!
- First Goal for "Apple" - Sarah Hagen, known to many fans and teammates by her nickname Apple (for her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin), scored her first goal in a Pride uniform last night. Through four matches we've seen four players score now (Steph Catley, Alex Morgan, Lianne Sanderson, and Sarah Hagen), which means that there are many threats opponents have to consider when game planning against us. Hopefully some of those wild and hesitant chances mentioned earlier will start finding the back of the net more and we can add more first-time scorers to the list with each match!
What about you? What were your thoughts on the match last night? Do you think there were some things the team did well that I missed? Or is there something that didn't go well I should have mentioned? Let me know in the comments below!