Last Saturday saw the debut of the Orlando Pride at Orlando City Stadium along with the first appearance of Brazilian star Marta.
On the field, however, there was a lot to take in.
So without further ado, here some takeaways from last weekend’s Pride home opener against the Washington Spirit.
The Finishing Touch
The game ended 1-1.
A draw that could’ve ended in a larger margin of win for Tom Sermanni’s side.
The Pride outshot the Spirit 21-11. Five of those shots were on target, nine off target and seven were blocked shots.
To dissect that stat count even more, 13 of those shots were from inside the box as opposed to the Spirit’s four shots from the box.
For Sermanni, there just wasn’t enough time to work on finishing those chances, but it highlighted room for improvement.
“We can probably do a little more work in the final third and combinations and trying to seek out better chances,” said Sermanni. “I think what we’ve come up against in the last two games are teams who’ve virtually kept the back four in place and a couple midfield players and made it really, really tight for us and try to hit us on the break.”
Sermanni went on to say how the team has to be more ruthless on the final third if the team wants to be able to seek a victory.
“It’s just working at the training field and hopefully our strikers, once they get that first goal, hopefully that will start the goals on,” he added. “Despite that, I still thought we had some shots that were under pressure but we also had some chances that we’ve got to be more ruthless in what we do in and around the six-yard box to finish some of them off.”
Marta and Catley: a natural fit on the field
She arrived Thursday night to Orlando.
By Saturday, she still doesn’t know all her teammates by name, nor had enough time to understand and fully train with the squad, but after making her debut, all of that seemed unbelievable when Brazilian star Marta’s chemistry with left back defender Steph Catley was displayed at Orlando City Stadium.
Marta didn’t score, but the one-touch, give-and-go passes the pair showcased last Saturday made it seem like they’ve been playing together for a long time.
“We really haven’t trained together yet but when you got quality, and obviously she has great quality, it gets easy to understand each other and you find a way,” said Marta after the game. “So I am really happy we were able to do some good stuff together in just a couple of minutes. It was definitely enough to see that we can do good stuff together.”
The answer: Danica Evans
There’s something about rookies thriving in Orlando.
Cyle Larin with Orlando City in 2015.
The duo of Richie Laryea and Hadji Barry at Orlando City B in 2016.
And perhaps Danica Evans with the Pride in 2017.
The 21-year-old from Colorado had the game-tying goal for the Pride last weekend, but the way it was scored showed a composed first-year professional doing what veterans do on a game-by-game basis.
Her first-ever professional goal was praised by Sermanni and Marta moments later after the game, and previewed on what more the young Evans can do for the Pride in 2017.
“It was a fantastic goal,” said Marta. “It was a great individual effort inside the box by [Danica Evans]. It was a great goal. It was her instinct in the way she developed the play.”
Yes, it was only one game. But Sermanni backed Marta’s claim by saying Evans’ ability to finish is part of her repertoire and a reason why she was drafted by the Pride in the 2017 NWSL College Draft.
“One of the reasons that we drafted her was when we looked at her, we felt that she had an ability to finish and an ability to finish in a composed way and I think that was highlighted today,” said Sermanni. “All those young players coming into the league need time to adjust. That’s probably at least a year in most cases.
“She will need time to adjust but for us at the moment,” he continued. “It’s really helpful to have a player that can come in and make that impact over that short a period of time with the skillset she’s got, which compliments the other players that we’ve got, because we don’t have a player that’s quite like her on the squad at the moment.”
That’s a big compliment from Sermanni.
The Pride are back in action Saturday when they visit the North Carolina Courage at 4 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park.
(Photo by Adrian Hernandez / Orlando Soccer Journal)