I was curious to see how the Olympic break impacted team chemistry for the Pride, and unfortunately it seemed like splitting the team apart for the summer break put them almost back at square one in terms of organizing their attack. Alex Morgan had four shots on the night, but she was largely frustrated by not having good service of the ball in at times that she could have been most dangerous.
It's also clear that the rest of the teams in the league have recognized how dangerous Jasmyne Spencer can be if she is left unmarked, because the speedy forward could not get separation from Spirit defenders for the whole match, and she was fouled hard several times.
- Back from Rio - Half the Olympians were back in action last night upon returning from Rio. Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris started the match, and Monica came in off the bench after playing every minute of Brazil's six matches during the games. Unfortunately their return seemed to be as much disruptive as it was helpful, since the team seemed to have a hard time holding possession and building up quality attacking chances on the night.
- Sarah Hagen - Apple scored her second goal of the season after coming on in the 64th minute for Becky Edwards. Her goal was set up by a great assist from Cami Levin whose return after her recovery from an early-season emergency appendectomy is welcome news to a team that has suffered its fair share of expansion-season hurdles.
- Scrappy Defending - The Pride gave up two goals on the night, but the damage could have been far worse, as Washington held a huge possession advantage in the first half, creating numerous opportunities to take the ball deep into the attacking half of the pitch. Purple kits were sliding, jumping, flying, and flinging all over the 18-yard box as midfielders and defenders alike were blocking shots and clearing balls out of immediate danger.
- Second Half Resurgence - The Pride had only three shots (1 on target) in the first half, but they became much more active in the second, putting together 8 shots in the second 45 minutes. That effort was rewarded by Hagen's goal, but that is tempered by frustration at not seeing the team be able to put together two good attacking halves of the match.
- Miscommunication - The Pride were unable to mount many effective attacks on the night, and it looked largely due to miscommunication. A lot of errant passes resulted in turnovers or throw ins for the Spirit as passer and intended receiver were just not on the same page with each other throughout the match. This prevented solid attacking chances from taking shape and killed many opportunities to finish when attacks or counter-attacks did materialize.
- Olympic Injuries - I think the Australians are lovely people and I really enjoy their accent, but someone needs to tell the Matildas coach that they have no right to send our club players back injured. Steph Catley is out for the season with a broken bone in her foot, and Laura Alleway has an injury to her calf or quad that kept her out of the lineup for yesterday's match.
- Sloppy Passing - I see a lot of bad passes by both OCSC and Pride players on the turf at Camping World Stadium, and I'm almost convinced that it's an artifact of training on grass all week and having to play matches on the artificial surface. But there are so many times that passes seem almost half-hearted attempts that just dribble off a player's foot and set up so nicely to be intercepted by the other team. I say I'm almost convinced it's caused by the different surfaces, except for the fact that the turf rarely seems to cause the same kinds of problems for the visiting team.
- Chances Fading - With only four matches left in the year, the Pride find themselves seven points behind fourth place Chicago. There are only a maximum of 12 points available for the rest of the season, which means the Pride would have to win three of their final four and hope Chicago takes no points in order to make it back into a playoff position.
- Levin's First Assist - Cami Levin made her first appearance on the score sheet for the season by registering the assist on Sarah Hagen's goal. After missing a couple of months recovering from emergency surgery earlier in the season, it's nice to see that Levin is able to be involved in the attack for the Pride.
- Apple's Accuracy - With Hagen's second goal of the year, she leads all Pride scorers in shooting accuracy on the season. Of her 8 shots on goal throughout the year, 7 have been on target. This gives her an 88% accuracy rating, which is best among any of the Pride players who have scored so far this season.
What were your thoughts on the match? Do you see much hope for the Pride being able to claw their way back into the playoff picture this season, or do you think the team needs to start looking forward to 2017? Who has surprised you on the roster with their ability this season? Are there any players that have been a bit disappointing with their level of play through the first 16 matches? Let me know in the comments below!