Year two is set to dawn for the Orlando Pride with the club sporting a revamped defense thanks to some offseason maneuvering. The Pride will have to work hard to improve on an offense that ranked No. 8 in the league last season and will be without U.S. international Alex Morgan for the first half of the campaign. The ability of the team to step up offensively in her absence may go a long way toward determining Orlando’s ability to make progress toward playoff contention.
2016 totals (with rank)
Overall record: 6-13-1, 19 pts (9th place)
Goals for: 20 (8th)
Goals against: 30 (tied for 8th)
Home record: 5-5-0 (6th)
Away record: 1-8-1 (9th)
Ashlyn Harris (1.33 GAA, 62 saves)
Steph Catley (Goal, assist)
Kristen Edmonds (6 goals, 2 assists)
Jasmyne Spencer (4 goals)
With an encouraging inaugural campaign under their belts that included a three-game winning streak and a .500 record at home, the Orlando Pride look to climb further up the standings in 2017 as they move into their new home at Orlando City Stadium.
U.S. international Alex Morgan is out on loan with French club Olympique Lyonnais until June, but Pride fans will be excited about the core of their team that returns for the new season – headlined by U.S. international and 2016 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Ashlyn Harris.
Orlando will also bring back defenders Steph Catley – who won the W-League championship in Australia while on loan with Melbourne City FC this offseason – and Kristen Edmonds – who received her first call up to train with the U.S. Women’s National Team shortly after the 2016 NWSL season.
Forward Jasmyne Spencer scored four goals last year and coach Tom Sermanni will be expected to turn to the 26-year-old striker to help pick up some of the slack on offense while the team makes do without Morgan until at least June.
Marta (FC Rosengård)
Ali Krieger (15 appearances, 1,267 minutes)
Alanna Kennedy (15 appearances, 1,298)
Camila Martins Pereira (Tiradentes)
The Pride were tied for the second-worst defensive record in the league last year, with nearly two thirds of the 30 goals allowed coming on the road. Fans of the club would be hard pressed to imagine a better scenario addressing Orlando’s need at the back than the one that unfolded during the offseason as the Pride acquired U.S. international Ali Krieger from the Washington Spirit and Alanna Kennedy from the North Carolina Courage in separate trades.
Krieger was voted to the 2016 NWSL Second XI and Kennedy was instrumental in helping the Western New York Flash win the 2016 NWSL Championship. Orlando also brought in 22-year-old Brazil international defender Camila to add depth.
If that wasn’t enough, the NWSL’s newest club announced April 7 they also secured one of the greatest women’s players of all-time as Brazil international Marta – the five-time FIFA World Player of the Year – completed her switch to Orlando.
Round 3, No. 22 overall: Danica Evans (F, Colorado)
Round 4, No. 32 overall: Nickolette Driesse (M, Penn State)
Orlando made just two picks during the 2017 NWSL College Draft – taking Colorado forward Danica Evans at No. 22 overall and midfielder Nickolette Driesse with the No. 32 selection.
Evans was recently called in to U-23 U.S. Women’s National Team training camp in January and was a first-team all-Pac-12 player during her senior season with the Buffaloes, recording 11 goals and six assists.
Meanwhile, Driesse should find little trouble fitting in with the Pride seeing as she will be joining best friend Jamia Fields on the squad. The pair won the 2014 NCAA championship together with Florida State before Driesse transferred to Penn State, with whom she won the 2015 national title.
Orlando also acquired the draft rights to UCONN forward Rachel Hill – the No. 14 overall pick – from the Portland Thorns in exchange for a first-round and fourth-round in the 2018 draft.