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Marta roars back into NWSL play ready to challenge Pride teammates

Brazilian star challenges Orlando players to take better care of ball

After her team’s 3-2 loss against Chicago on Sunday, Marta flipped the script and asked the reporters at the post-game press conference a question of her own.

“What are the two fundamentals if you want to play soccer?” she asked, holding up her hands in an exasperated shrug. “Trap the ball and pass the ball. When you can’t do that in a game, especially in the [dangerous] areas … we kill ourselves.”

The game came only a week after the Brazilian national team fell in a 2-1 loss to France in the Round of 16. Marta started and played a full 90 on Sunday, pushing her runs at full speed into the final minutes of the game. As the team floundered in its attacking third, with Marta providing the team’s only two chances of the game, the veteran forward’s frustration wore through.

Sunday’s loss was the third consecutive game in which the Pride scored two goals – the first in the 22nd minute from Chioma Ubogagu, and the second from a penalty kick that Marta buried in the 79th minute.

But the team dug itself into a hole by allowing Chicago forward Sam Kerr to pounce on a pair of sluggish back passes to goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. The forward gobbled up any passes that lacked the proper pace or weight, and the mishandling along the backline aided the forward on the way to a hat trick. Both bobbles allowed Kerr — who now leads the league with nine goals — a one-on-one with the keeper.

“I think it was unacceptable the goals that got scored,” Marta said through a translator. “I think it was just too easy. If it was me, having all those balls, I would have scored, too. I just think we need to have more confidence and trust.”

Coach Marc Skinner echoed Marta’s description of the first two goals, calling them “unacceptable.” The two skills that the forward emphasized will continue to be make-or-break for the team as Skinner remains focused on building the offense out through the backline. As players continue to return from the World Cup, the pair’s challenge for the team is to focus on fundamentals in order to secure similar games.

“We’re still going to play out from the back,” Skinner said. “I’ve never known anyone to get better at a skill if you stop doing it. For me, to be better at things … you only see the beauty of it after you’ve gone through the pain, so we will continue to do that.”

Injury update

Midfielder Bridget Callahan took an early – and bloody — exit in the 15th minute after clashing heads with Chicago striker Yuki Nagasato. Callahan suffered a large gash on her forehead and was taken to the hospital for stitches.

The Pride has placed her under concussion protocol and will continue to update her progress on a day-to-day basis.

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