Pride vs. Spirit: The Good, The Bad, and The Historic

What a match second half!

We have an exclusive quote from an insider who heard Coach Tom Sermanni's halftime speech to the Orlando Pride last night. 

"Alright--you want to keep playing like you're already defending a lead when you haven't scored yet? That's fine--it's all fine. But I'll make sure you pay for it. Did you see that guy over there in the fourth row, the one with the goofy purple hat? If you drop a single point from this match, I swear I'll make every single one of you go on a date with him. If that's what you want, you just go play another 45 minutes of listless football!"

Obviously the threat worked. And as a fan I'm happy to play my part in motivating the team to show what they are capable of doing when they decide they are ready to play to their potential. The second half of the Orlando Pride match was the best half of soccer I've seen by any team in purple this season. For the first time all year, we looked like the team that has the best roster in NWSL with the biggest assembly of world class talent from across multiple continents. Player for player, there's no women's team in the world that can boast as many cup and tournament champions from national teams around the world than the Pride, and the players needs to start executing on that level every time they take the pitch.

The 3 - 0 victory was much needed for the team, who moves into 5th place on the table and a tie with Saturday's upcoming opponent--Sky Blue FC--on 23 points. With only 7 matches left in the regular season, there is still no margin for error if the Pride want to assure themselves of getting into the playoffs this season and potentially advancing to the title game, which would be held on home turf for them.

The Good

  • Alex Morgan - I love when stars are unselfish, and Morgan's feed to Marta for the first goal of the match was perfect. In fact, Morgan was involved in all three goals, as it was her threat in the 57th minute that made Stephanie Labbe venture too far off the line to head the ball away and gave Camila the great opening for the rainbow second goal of the night. And then Alex Morgan herself was rewarded in the 64th minute with a beautiful crossing pass from Steph Catley that she hammered into the back of the net with a first-touch strike off the bounce.
  • Marta - Marta added to her team-leading scoring total, and now has 9 goals on the year in sole possession of 3rd place for Golden Boot of the NWSL. 
  • Second Half Attack - The Pride looked like a team hungry for points in the second half as they kept the pressure on Washington while building their 3-goal lead, and then frustrated the Spirit's attempt to pull any goals back for the final 26 minutes of the match.

The Bad

  • The First Half - It was almost like the players had misread the script on the night. I remarked to my buddy about 20 minutes into the match that I couldn't understand why the team were playing so passively and didn't seem to show any willingness to organize an attack. "They are playing like they are already defending a 3-goal lead," I told him, exasperated with the lack of organization and urgency the team were showing. There were a few solo chances created in the opening 45 minutes, but they ended with the Pride player surrounded by multiple red shirts or (rightly or wrongly called) an AR's flag raised for an offside penalty. 
  • Officiating - I cannot personally speak to the validity of the offside calls against the Pride in the first half, as my seats are in the north end of the pitch and I just have a bad visual angle to judge anything down there. I did see a number of comments on social media that at least one offside call was made in error on that end of the pitch. And on my end, I can say that there was clearly a bad call when the Spirit were awarded a first-half corner kick because the ref missed the fact it was a Washington player who kicked the ball over the end line. That kind of basic and simple error makes it easy to believe the ARs were off on the night as well, and the entire match was just very poorly officiated. And by the way, props to the Crown for the very clever South Park Movie inspired two-pole.

The Historic

  • Short Rest Win - I was reading some stats before the match which said that the Orlando Pride were 0 - 3 - 0 all time in games with 3 days rest or fewer. So taking all three points on the night with a dominating second-half performance was a great way to break that streak.
  • Morgan's 3-quarter "Cycle" - In baseball, when you get a single, double, triple, and home run in the same game as a batter, they call it "hitting for the cycle." I'd argue that Alex Morgan accomplished 3/4 of "the cycle" in soccer as a striker last night. 1) she got an assist; 2) she created a scoring chance for a teammate without touching the ball; 3) she scored a goal from the run of play. The only thing missing was a PK goal, but that opportunity was never presented during the match. 

It was a well-deserved and much-needed win for the team. Now what I will be looking for in the remaining matches of the season is consistency. I contend that with our roster it's inexcusable for this team not to be the dominating juggernaut in NWSL and leave everyone else fighting for second place. The players must show fans that they are serious about wanting to be in Orlando and wanting to win championships by putting together a string of multi-goal wins from now until the end of the season. Time will tell if they can live up to their potential and make that happen.

What was your favorite moment from the match? Do you think that last night's game was the best performance for Alex Morgan in an Orlando Pride uniform? Was there someone on the team who surprised you with their play last night? Let me know in the comments below!