Orlando Pride

Challenge Cup Shows Orlando Pride’s Need for Adriana and Marta

The Pride have had trouble with their shooting accuracy, but that should change when Marta and Adriana return.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Pride lost fewer players to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup than most NWSL sides, only losing two players that were with the team prior to the tournament. However, after winning two consecutive league games, the team has struggled to find the target during the past three Challenge Cup matches. The recent performances have shown that the two Brazilians can’t return soon enough.

The best example of how much the Pride have missed Adriana and Marta was on display Saturday night in a 1-0 loss to the Washington Spirit. Using a heavily rotated lineup, the Pride dominated the 90 minutes with 56.3% possession and out-shot their opponents, 25-7. However, while the Spirit put two of their seven shots on target, the Pride only hit the frame seven times. The lack of finishing allowed Washington to remain in the game, eventually finding a winner in second-half injury time.

While the Pride had a rotated lineup, they used several players that have contributed to regular-season games. Julie Doyle started in the midfield, as she has been since returning from injury, and Ally Watt started up top. Messiah Bright, the usual starting striker, came on at halftime for Watt.

Spirit goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart had an excellent game, but the Pride weren’t anywhere close to clinical in front of goal. Only six of their 25 shots Saturday night were taken from outside of the box and seven were taken from closer than the penalty spot. And yet, only seven of their 25 shots were on frame. That’s not good enough in a game where you’re creating the majority of the chances.

“We had a good performance and we need to work on putting the ball in the back of the net,” midfielder Kerry Abello said after the game. “I think that’s where we focus because we’re creating chances.”

“I felt that there was goals on the table (Friday),” Pride Head Coach Seb Hines added. “You know, we’ve walked away with no goals. So that’s an area that we need to improve on. We need to score goals when we’re so dominant in the game.”

Part of the problem at the moment might be depending on young players. The team’s strikers include Bright, Watt, and Doyle. Bright is in her rookie season and Doyle is in her second professional campaign. Watt is the most experienced of the three, but has been injured during much of her career.

The Pride caught a break when Brazil had a disappointing World Cup, getting eliminated in the group stage for the first time since 1995. Two of the players on that team are Pride attackers Adriana and Marta. They’ve been the two most important offensive players for the Pride this season and can be back with the team before it restarts regular-season play on Aug. 20.

Adriana joined the Pride this past off-season from Corinthians and the 26-year-old immediately became a key part of the attack. She got off to a bit of a slow start to her Pride career, often looking too much for her teammates. That changed when the Pride took on the San Diego Wave on April 29 in California. It was the first win of the season, the first result of a four-game unbeaten run, and Adriana scored her first NWSL goal.

“We had spoke to her about being more selfish, taking on players, getting more shots off,” Hines said after that game. “She has a terrific shot. And it’s getting her to use it more often.”

The other returning Brazilian is the Pride’s all-time leading goal scorer. Despite playing primarily as a 10 rather than a striker, Marta has scored 29 goals in her Pride career, more than U.S. international Alex Morgan during her six years in Orlando.

This season, Adriana and Marta have been two of the leading attackers on the team. Bright leads the team with four goals, but Adriana is right behind her with three and Marta has two. The only other player with multiple regular-season goals this year is Doyle, who also has two.

Arguably more important is the number of shots these players have put on goal during regular season games. Bright has put nine of her 24 shots on target (37.5%) and Doyle has put five of her 11 shots on target (45.5%). Meanwhile, Adriana has put 15 of 28 shots on frame (53.5%) and Marta nine of 12 shots on goal (75%). These numbers show that the pair of Brazilians have been more efficient than the younger players.

There will be games when Bright and Doyle will rise to the occasion and lead the team to victory. In the first game after the departure of the Brazilians, Doyle scored a brace inside the first 16 minutes of a 3-0 win over the Spirit. She assisted Bright the next weekend, a 1-0 win over OL Reign. But there have been few of those moments.

The team has struggled since those back-to-back wins. In the three Challenge Cup games during the World Cup break, the Pride have only scored one goal, a Megan Montefusco header against NJ/NY Gotham FC on July 23. More concerning than their lack of goals is that only 11 of their 42 shots have been on target.

With Brazil’s 2023 World Cup campaign over, the Pride will welcome three of the participants back to the starting lineup. Arguably the most important players will be the attacking threats of Adriana and Marta. The lack of finishing during the past few games has been troubling, a fact the players and coaches have said needs to change. It should with the return of their experience attacking threats.


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