Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Dazzle, Score Goals Off the Dribble

Opponents should be wary when the Pride carry.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best team in Orlando at dribbling the ball?

I am a huge basketball fan, and I watch as many Orlando Magic games as I can, but even as good as the Magic were this year, they cannot compare to the Orlando Pride. At no point in the rest of this article will I reference the Magic, but I do want to spend some time writing about magic — specifically, just how magical the Pride players have been with the ball at their feet thus far this season.

The Pride’s offensive game plan is clearly designed around getting the ball to the feet of their playmakers and allowing them to go to work attacking the goal, and as you will see in the rest of this article, they are doing so at a significantly higher and more successful rate than every other team in the NWSL.

Take a look at the chart below, which shows that the Pride are leading the league in progressive carries (defined by fbref.com as carries (dribbles) of at least 10 yards towards the goal while in the attacking half of the field) as a percentage of all carries.

That 6.4% value in the chart above translates to 19.7 progressive carries per game, which is 33% higher than the average of 14.7 per game for all of the other NWSL teams. There is a strong positive correlation (r = 0.71 on a scale of 0 to 1) between progressive carries and points earned this season, something you can see by noting that the two teams tied for first place in points (the Pride and the Kansas City Current) are also leading in progressive carry percentage, and three of the bottom four in points (the Houston Dash, San Diego Wave and Seattle Reign) are in the bottom three for progressive carry percentage.

Correlation does not imply causation, of course, but having players who can frequently dribble for 10 or more yards, weaving through defenders like traffic cones, means they have speed and excellent footwork — two skills that are critical in any good offense.

The 2024 Pride have several players with these qualities, as evidenced by their NWSL ranks in several key dribbling categories. Using data from fbref.com, there are 111 NWSL players who have played at least 500 minutes and attempted to take on a defender one on one while dribbling at least 10 times this season, and below is a list of all the Pride players who qualify and where they rank among those 111 players:

A few takeaways from this data:

  • Has anyone ever seen Barbra Banda and Superwoman in the same location at the same time? There are only so many superlatives I can use when writing about the Pride’s superstar striker, who in addition to the NWSL-leading stats above is also leading the NWSL in another decently important stat: goals. In fairness, she is tied for the league lead in goals with Temwa Chawinga of the Current. Perhaps I should mention though that Banda has scored her tally in 434 fewer minutes! I digress.
  • Marta is truly a wonder (woman), she is the third oldest player in all of NWSL and is still beating her defender 61% of the time and averaging more than two take-on wins per 90 minutes.
  • The list of NWSL players classified by fbref.com as defenders who have at least 10 carries into the 18 so far this season is: Kerry Abello. She is the list. She would also be the entire list if I lowered the number to at least eight, and only two NWSL defenders have more than five carries into the 18. You definitely have to watch out for Abello flying down the left side of the field, or if you find yourself in the hallways of Jewitt Orthopedic Institute, you clearly need to keep your eyes open as well. Vamos!

The last item I called out on that chart was the ranking of Pride players in carries into the 18, with the 18 of course being the penalty area — the most dangerous area on the field and the place where the vast majority of goals are scored (excluding own goals, the Pride have scored 28 goals this season and 25 came from inside the 18). There are four ways for a ball to enter the opposition’s 18-yard box: a carry, a pass, a shot, or via players on the other team playing it back into the 18 themselves. The primary ways are the first two, and the Pride are one of only two teams in all of NWSL who are carry dominant as opposed to pass dominant:

The Pride are sitting slightly above 60% (62.3% for the math nerds; I’m looking at you, man in the mirror) for what I will call their carry percentage, whereas the average for the rest of the NWSL is 41%. The 2023 Pride used a similar style, though to much lower effect in terms of how it led to goals, with a 61% carry percentage. Go back one year further though to 2022 and the Pride had a 41% carry percentage, but in 2022 Seb Hines did not become head coach until June and Marta was out for the season with an ACL tear. It seems likely to me that Hines and Giles Barnes changed the Pride’s attacking style once they took over leadership of the team and after they had their first full preseason with the squad going into the 2023 season.

It certainly helps to have one of the greatest offensive players of all time in Marta and perhaps the greatest current offensive player in Banda on the team, but as seen via the stats from the other players on the team, it is not just those two who are attacking successfully off the dribble. The Pride have five players who play starter minutes and average more than two progressive carries per 90 minutes, including a striker (Banda), three midfielders (Adriana, Julie Doyle and Marta) and a defender (Abello).

As mentioned previously, the team averages 33% more progressive carries per 90 minutes than the league average, which puts defenders under incredible strain as they are seeing players come at them from all locations on the field with a head of steam and who are generally quite successful when they get into 1-v-1 take-on situations (the Pride as a team have a 47.2% take-on win percentage, second in the NWSL).

This Pride team has been relentless this season with how it attacks in all phases of the game. They start from the opening kickoff and never stop until the final whistle. They have scored 12 goals in the first 30 minutes, 10 goals in the middle 30 minutes, and eight goals in the final 30 minutes, leaving you no choice but to never take your eyes off this team, because at any moment you might be one play away from watching some Orlando magic.

3 Comments

  1. David

    July 4, 2024 at 2:56 pm

    Another fine article from a writer who seems to know as much about soccer as in-depth statistical analyses. Let’s cheer on this writer as well as the teams they write about.

  2. Hoganisme

    July 5, 2024 at 7:16 am

    Yes David, shout it from the highest trees, that Andrew has arrived

  3. Rodolfo Chang

    July 5, 2024 at 8:33 am

    Very detailed statistics!!!
    Good article.
    Vamos Pride

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