Monica started the season in the Orlando Pride midfield, but by the end of the season she was a constant starter at center back and a vital part of Orlando’s defense. The Brazilian from Porto Alegre, who joined the Pride on Dec. 8, 2015 as a discovery signing, became an important player in her second year with the club.
So how did she do in Year 2 with Orlando?
Monica appeared in 19 of the team’s 24 regular-season matches and the playoff appearance in Portland, starting 16 of the former, and the latter as well. She started the first four matches in the midfield but sustained an injury four minutes into that fourth start at FC Kansas City. She missed the next two games with injury and subbed on in the second half in the third. After returning to the starting midfield for four more games, she became a midfield sub again when she played. However, she finished the season with eight straight starts at center back as Tom Sermanni dialed in his best starting XI, which helped the team end the regular season on a nine-game unbeaten run (6-0-3). She played 834 minutes during the season.
The Brazilian international didn’t record a goal or an assist, and just six shot attempts (one on target). She completed 84.4% of her passes, leading all players on the team. Monica made 37 clearances on the season and committed just five fouls all year. In a strange twist, Monica won NWSL Save of the Week on two occasions. She won it for a goal line clearance in Week 2 and shared the honor with Ashlyn Harris in Week 21.
As with many players on the Pride, Monica was on her game on Aug. 12 when Sky Blue visited Orlando City Stadium and left after a 5-0 shellacking. She started at center back next to Ali Krieger and played the full 90, making one tackle, passing at an 88% rate, and helping shield Ashlyn Harris’ goal throughout the match. Monica helped limit one of the league’s most prolific offenses — featuring league MVP Sam Kerr — to just 11 total shots and only three on target. The Pride blocked three of those shots. The Pride maintained 63% of the possession that day and amassed 614 passing attempts to just 356 for Sky Blue, which simply could not keep the ball.
Final 2017 Grade
The Mane Land gives Monica’s 2017 season a solid composite rating of 6.5. A clean player, sometimes Monica’s game lacks the physicality that she could bring to either the center back or defensive midfield positions. She also doesn’t create many chances despite being a fairly accurate passer of the ball. Understandably, that’s not what she’s asked to do, primarily, but the Brazilian’s national team background would indicate that she’s been schooled to do more with the ball in the attack. She also has decent height but isn’t great in the air, which can make for some nervy defending on set pieces. Still, a 6.5 is a solid rating considering her changing role over the course of the season.
Monica’s option was exercised by the club following the 2017 season. She should be back to help out the Pride defense but it’s unclear if she’ll continue on the back line or move back into a holding midfield role. Much of that may depend on whether midfielders Alanna Kennedy and Dani Weatherholt accept their contract offers or look to move elsewhere. It may also depend on how much Tom Sermanni would like to strengthen his back line this off-season. Either way, she’ll be back and could remain a key player in the Pride’s defense. We would like to see her be a bit more physical, however, as her five fouls conceded may show she’s not challenging opposing attackers enough.