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Lauletta: Thoughts from Pride drubbing of the Reign

Alex Morgan had a hand in both goals for the Pride on Sunday. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Alex Morgan had a hand in both goals for the Pride on Sunday. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

The Orlando Pride put together the best performance of their young lives on Sunday, treating 8,211 fans at Camping World Stadium to a 2-0 victory over two-time Shield holders, Seattle Reign FC. On the other end, the Reign put forth a dull, mistake-filled effort. Here are some takeaways:

Pride defended everywhere: The Pride have an outstanding back four but even at that they came out the chute extremely organized for an expansion side. Sunday was their best showing yet from the backline right up through the forwards. But the star of the defensive show was the midfield. Pride midfielders were constantly well-positioned and often in great numbers, stuffing most Reign attacks before they had a chance to get started. Reign midfielder Kim Little was named Player of the Week the last two weeks but the Pride rendered her almost entirely invisible in this one. The Reign did not exactly unpack their creative notebooks when they got to Orlando, but still the Pride were a site to behold in how defensively organized they were.

Reign attacked nowhere: The Reign generated pretty much one solid piece of offense all night. That was the sequence late in the match when Bev Yanez had her looping shot saved off the crossbar by Ashlyn Harris and Michelle Cruz flubbed the rebound, sending it over the top with a country-mile’s worth of open net at her disposal. The play was generated by a Lindsay Elston through-ball that could have been intercepted by Laura Alleway but a heavy first touch allowed Yanez to run onto it. But otherwise the Reign were a somnambulant bunch, looking like a cross between a group that missed Jess Fishlock to one that might be in a bit of a post-NWSL Championship loss funk, and a team that did not care for the steamy conditions. Either way the Reign have yet to look great this season and their two losses have been uncharacteristic performances. If they’re going to wake up, a visit from the Thorns on Saturday might be just the sort of smelling salts they need.

Longballs can work: As good as the Pride defended in midfield, the weak link to their team figures to be trying to generate creativity out of there. And so they did the next best thing in this one—fired long balls over the top and utilized the talent they have on the higher parts of the field. The first goal came about with the Pride innocently trading passes along their backline after the midfield played it back. And in a split second, Alleway launched a cannon over everybody and found Alex Morgan splitting the right side of the Reign defense. The second goal saw Kaylyn Kyle, the team’s deepest lying mid, send a probing ball up the right side that Morgan was able to outwork Lauren Barnes for. The Pride won’t be able to take advantage of this tactic every week but they could free up some more room for their midfielders if it can become something of a reliable weapon. And it is good to see a team playing from its actual strengths than blindly attempting to comply with any sort of template.

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