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Orlando Pride 2019 NWSL Preview



The 2019 NWSL season starts up this weekend and the Orlando Pride will open their fourth year in the league, looking to get back to the playoffs after missing out in 2018. With 2019 being a World Cup year, this will be an interesting (yeah, let’s go with that word) season, given the large chunk of the Pride that will be missing on international duty while league games are going on.

There have been big changes at the top for the Pride since they last played a match, but precious few differences at the roster level. Let’s take a look at what lies ahead.

How Did the Orlando Pride Finish in 2018?

The Pride ended 2018 in seventh place in the nine-team NWSL, finishing 8-10-6 and on 30 points — seven points shy of a playoff spot and two out of sixth place, while 19 points ahead of eighth place Washington. The Spirit and last place Sky Blue were awful last year and to only finish above those two clubs can only be seen as disappointing given the quality on the team’s roster.

The Pride were in a pretty good position until the end of the season, when the club went winless over the final six matches and lost the last four in a row. The downward spiral at the end cost the team a postseason spot but it was merely a magnification of an underwhelming year that saw Orlando win consecutive games only one time and that came against the aforementioned basement teams, Sky Blue FC and the Washington Spirit.

What’s New in 2019?

There haven’t many changes for the Pride since we last saw them but there’s been a really big one. Head Coach Tom Sermanni and the Pride parted ways at the end of the 2018 season and after a lengthy spell Marc Skinner was brought in to replace him in January. Skinner, the former Birmingham City manager, is just the second head coach in the club’s history after three seasons under Sermanni. Additionally, the Pride announced a dedicated full-time general manager in the hiring of Erik Ustruck.

As for player changes, there haven’t been many, but let’s get to those now.

Who’s Out?

There weren’t many departures after the 2018 season, but the club lost two Brazilian international defenders in Monica and Poliana. Both were mutual departures, with Poliana headed back to her native Brazil and Monica reportedly having decided to accept an offer from another club. However, Monica has been training with the Pride this preseason and there’s an outside chance she could even be re-signed.

The other departure was midfielder Christine Nairn, who was shipped off to the Houston Dash in exchange for an international roster slot in 2019. With Poliana leaving and Camila receiving her green card, that should mean three additional slots available to Ustruck and Skinner for player signings once the European season is over, but that remains to be seen.

Who else is out? Well, striker Sydney Leroux will miss most, if not all, of the season due to pregnancy. There’s a chance she could return after delivery if her body responds to her safe and gradual return to training.

Who’s In?

Only one of the few new faces in Orlando is actually under contract as of this writing. The Pride recently traded a fourth-round selection in the 2020 NWSL College Draft to the North Carolina Courage for defender Morgan Reid. The Duke product was a national team replacement player for the Courage but was signed a few weeks ago and is thus eligible to play. The other two new faces are 2019 NWSL College Draft selections Erin Greening and Marisa Viggiano. Skinner told us on the Mane Land PawedCast that he can envision both Greening and Viggiano as future productive NWSL players, but to date they still must be signed by the team.

What’s the New Jersey?

The new kit will be unveiled this Friday evening at Lake Eola Park at the Pride in the Park Kit Unveil event. The club’s 2019 home jersey will be revealed at that time as part of the team’s 2019 Kickoff to Soccer series of events in Central Florida.

How Will the World Cup Impact the Squad?

The World Cup will have a dramatic impact on Marc Skinner’s squad in 2019. The club could lose as many as nine players in the lead-up to, and during, this summer’s tournament. Certainly the Pride will be without Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Marta, Alanna Kennedy, Emily van Egmond, and Shelina Zadorsky. Orlando could also be without Chioma Ubogagu, Camila, and Ali Krieger, who are all on the cusp of their national team rosters.

Skinner has spoken repeatedly this off-season about getting their backups ready to step in and play so that there won’t be a drop-off in quality when the internationals leave. However, it is naïve to think the squad will be as good without all of those top-notch players, especially considering that some NWSL teams will only lose a few key players this summer and will be much better equipped to deal with the absences.

Orlando’s reliance on national team players has been an issue over the last few years and it’s unlikely to change now. There are simply too many of them and they are too important given the team’s lack of attacking depth. The success of those players’ national teams could mean a long summer for the Pride.

What is the Pride’s Projected Starting XI in 2019?

This is a difficult question to answer, given that the team played only one home preseason match that was open and the internationals were missing for that game. Skinner’s team isn’t reliant in staying in one particular shape, but it seems he at least prefers to start in a 4-3-3 and let the game dictate where things go from there. There are also strong indications that the Pride will sign some players out of Europe once the season ends overseas and that will change things. Here’s how I see it for now:

Ashlyn Harris; Carson Pickett, Shelina Zadorsky, Alanna Kennedy, Ali Krieger; Dani Weatherholt, Marta, Emily van Egmond; Chioma Ubogagu, Alex Morgan, Rachel Hill.

What are the Expectations for 2019?

Pride fans should probably have tempered expectations for now, but that could change. Certainly with this roster it should compete for a playoff spot most years, but perhaps not in a World Cup year and in particular this World Cup year. Skinner will be learning the league as he goes, the players will be learning his system and trying to nail it down, and they’ll all be trying to do it with pieces moving in and out all season long as a result of a congested international calendar. If the squad can add some quality pieces from Europe — who won’t be gone for most of the summer on national team duty — the Pride could compete for a top four position. However, as the roster currently stands and given the talent that will depart for as much as half the season (or more, depending on “victory tours”), I am setting my personal expectations fairly low for 2019. A finish anywhere from sixth to eighth is not out of the question but if things go well Orlando could maybe climb to about fourth.

Who is the Player to Watch on the Pride, and why?

She may be 33 years old, but the player fans will want to watch is Marta. Despite having a lot of matches and miles on her body, the Brazilian superstar is one of the best to ever play the game and she still does things in every game that bring fans out of their seats. Her footwork, vision, and quality stand out above most other players on the planet and she reads the game so well that she is sometimes two or three passes/movements ahead of her opponent. She still has a hunger and passion for the game and she also still has fun playing it and that shows on her face. Although she can become frustrated in games that aren’t going well, her emotions are part of who she is on the field (and off). She still revels in her team’s goals and wins and it drives her to continue working hard to stay at the top of her game.

How Much Will this Roster Change After the Season Starts?

As mentioned above, the club will have a few international slots available and Skinner said he’s identified some players he’d like to add. However, he is still evaluating what he has and will continue to do so, so things could change. I would expect two or three additions once the European season ends. The club will need more attackers and defenders to not only survive the international departures, but also to thrive during them. With Skinner’s background in England, it’s likely that we could see an arrival from that country, particularly from his old club, Birmingham City.

Who is the Player Fans Will Learn to Love?

I think the fans will learn to “re-love” Camila in 2019. The Brazilian was a dynamic part of the Pride’s run to the 2017 playoffs and Orlando missed her in the postseason meeting with Portland after her major knee injury suffered in the regular season finale that year. She spent most of last year trying to regain her form but never quite pulled it off. She scored a golazo Sunday against the Puerto Rico Sol on Sunday, which could be a sign that her form is returning. Her game seems well suited for Skinner’s fluid style as she likes to freelance on the attack. If she can regain her form — and if Brazil leaves her off their roster this summer — it would be like signing a new star player.

That’s your 2019 Pride season preview. As always, we invite you to chime in or offer up your rebuttal on any of the above in the comments section below.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Finnish Goalkeeper Sofia Manner

The Pride have added a fourth goalkeeper and the second one from abroad ahead of the 2024 NWSL season.



Image courtesy of the Orlando Pride and FC Honka

The Orlando Pride announced today the signing of goalkeeper Sofia Manner, who was acquired for an undisclosed transfer fee from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. Manner has signed a two-year contract through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026. The signing is a bit curious as it comes less than two months after the Pride extended English goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse through the 2025 season, giving Orlando two international goalkeepers and four total netminders under contract.

“I am immensely grateful for this opportunity to join Orlando Pride, a team I have admired since my youth,” Manner said in a club press release. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to contribute to such a renowned organization in women’s soccer. The prospect of starting this journey fills me with great enthusiasm, and I am eagerly looking forward to bringing my passion and dedication to the team. I’m ready to put in hard work and help write a new chapter for the Orlando Pride.” 

Manner, who turned 26 on Nov. 9, conceded the fewest goals in the Kansallinen Liiga this season and is a nominee for the league’s Best Player and Goalkeeper of the Year awards. She appeared in 23 matches and earned 10 clean sheets across all competitions, was twice named the league’s Goalkeeper of the Month this season, and was Player of the Month in April.

“Sofia is a tremendous addition to our goalkeeping corps and one we expect to challenge for the starting position,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said. “She brings an underdog mentality and gritty work ethic and fits every aspect of the profile we have built for our goalkeepers. Her size, aerial ability, shot-stopping prowess, and distribution are world class. She brings international experience and has led the Kansallinen Liiga in nearly every goalkeeping metric. Her nominations for Goalkeeper of the Year and Best Player are indicative of her winning mentality and drive to be the best. We are excited to bring her to Orlando and to give her an opportunity to prove herself in our environment and in the NWSL.” 

The shot stopper has experience playing in the United States, having played collegiately with Stony Brook University. She compiled a 1.14 career goals-against average across three seasons, which is fourth-best in Seawolves’ history. Her 20 shutouts ranks third in program history, and she compiled a .796 save percentage, which is ninth best all time.

While at Stony Brook, Manner was named America East Freshman of the Year in 2017, was a first-team all-conference selection in 2019, and was the conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018 and 2019. She started in every match in her final two seasons at Stony Brook, backstopping the Seawolves to an America East conference championship in 2019 and a regular-season title in 2018.

What It Means for Orlando

The Pride currently have four goalkeepers under contract: 2023 starter Anna Moorhouse (through 2025), backup Carly Nelson (through 2024), third keeper Kaylie Collins (through 2024), and now Manner (through 2025). Collins is on loan with Western Sydney Wanderers FC of the A-League Women in Australia. Four goalkeepers will provide spirited competition in preseason camp, to be sure, but it’s likely that one of these players will be on the move at some point.

If Manner wins the starting goalkeeper spot from Moorhouse, it may be for reasons other than stopping shots. Moorhouse did a good enough job of that, but often struggled with balls in from the wings, which was illustrated in the Pride’s penultimate game of the year — a must-win match at Racing Louisville — when a routine-looking corner kick cross appeared to be easily catchable, but Moorhouse went for a punch instead and knocked the winning goal for Louisville into her own net. That dropped point in the standings put Orlando in jeopardy on Decision Day and indeed the Pride beat Houston but missed the postseason on goal differential. It was a crucial point dropped.

That wasn’t Moorhouse’s only major error on the season, as she set an NWSL record with the earliest sending off in league history with her third-minute red card at OL Reign on Sept. 3 — a match the Pride lost 1-0 while playing one player short for 87 minutes plus stoppage. She has also frequently spilled crosses and shots from distance.

Orlando needed to upgrade the position. Whether Manner is an upgrade remains to be seen, but as Carter said, she is expected to compete for the starting spot. If nothing else, the competition should be good for the Pride. If Manner does take the starting position, it seems logical that the club will look to move either Moorhouse or Nelson.

The goalkeeper position will provide one of the Pride’s most intriging camp battles.

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2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Kylie Strom

The veteran defender was a consistent starter for the Pride in 2023.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride signed Kylie Strom from Atletico Madrid on July 5, 2021 to a two-year contract with an option for 2023. Previously, Strom spent time with the Boston Breakers, FFC Frankfurt II in Germany, and Sparta in the Czech Women’s League. The Pride exercised her option prior to the 2023 season. Strom played a much bigger role for the Pride in 2023. 

Let’s take a look at the defender’s 2023 season with the Orlando Pride.

Statistical Breakdown

Strom appeared in 22 regular-season matches, starting all 22, for a total of 1,967 minutes. She scored one goal on six shots, putting one on target. She provided one assist and made 17 key passes. Strom completed 590 of her 880 total passes (67%). She was accurate on 58.7% of her passes in the opponent’s half, and went 73.8% in her own half. She was 29 of 106 on her long passes (27.4%). She also completed seven of her 36 crosses. Defensively, she logged 34 interceptions and 10 blocks, won 43 of her 81 tackles (53.1%), won 181 of her 291 duels (62.2%), and won 39 of her 64 aerial duels (60.9%). She also committed 18 fouls, suffered 42 fouls, and was not booked.

The 31-year-old made four appearances in NWSL Challenge Cup play, starting four games and playing 314 total minutes. Strom did not score any goals but took two shots with one on target. She attempted three crosses (one successful), and registered no assists. Strom completed 93 of her 134 total passes (69.4%). She was accurate on 61.8% of her passes in the opponent’s half, and 75.8% in her own half.  Strom was 11 of 19 on her long passes (57.9%), and made two key passes. Defensively, she made three blocks and eight interceptions, and won eight of her 10 tackles (80%), 29 of her 46 duels (63%), and eight of her 10 aerial duels (80%). She also committed five fouls, suffered five fouls, and was not booked.

Best Game

Strom’s best match was the 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit on May 20. She scored her only goal of the season on a header at the back post in the 77th minute to give the Pride the win. It was the type of goal that you want from defenders and it came at just the right time.

Strom played the full 90 minutes and she was active in both the defensive and offensive aspects of the match. She nearly put Messiah Bright in on goal but it was knocked out for a corner. Her goal came on three shots with one on target. She also completed 15 of her 30 passes (50%) on 52 touches, committed no fouls, suffered three fouls, and was not booked.

2023 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Strom a composite rating of 6 for the 2023 season. Strom received a grade of 4.5 in 2022 due to being a part of a defense that gave up 45 goals with a -23 goal differential. That is a big year-over-year improvement for the defender and part of that is the defense as a whole was better. Strom also did well individually though she had a bad habit of cheaply giving the ball away in her own half. She previously received an incomplete during what was a rough stretch run in 2021 after joining the club midseason.

2024 Outlook

Strom is out of contract and will be 32 years old prior to the 2024 season starting. She’s also a free agent. Despite that, it’s very possible she is back with the Pride next season unless additional defensive signings are made. It would mean a new contract, but given she started every regular season match in 2023 and finished second only to Emily Madril in minutes played, Seb Hines evidently has faith in her ability to contribute.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Haley McCutcheon

The veteran fullback logged a lot of minutes for the Pride in 2023.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Haley McCutcheon was still known as Haley Hanson when she joined the Orlando Pride on Aug. 18, 2022 in a midseason trade with the Houston Dash. The Pride gave up $75,000 in Allocation Money and a second-round draft selection. She joined Orlando for the stretch run, making her debut with the Pride on Aug. 20 in a 2-1 win over Gotham FC. Following the 2022 season, the Nebraska product signed a new contract through 2024 on Oct. 26 of last year.

Let’s look back at McCutcheon’s second year with the Pride.

Statistical Breakdown

The 27-year-old appeared in every one of the Pride’s 22 regular-season games, starting each of them, and was only subbed out twice all year. She logged 1,955 minutes this season, which was third most on the Pride behind only almost-an-iron-woman Emily Madril (1,977) and Kylie Strom (1,967). In other words, McCutcheon played 98.7% of all possible minutes for Orlando during the NWSL regular season. She scored one goal but did not assist on one, despite providing 15 key passes on the year. The defender attempted 17 shots, five of which were blocked and four were on target. She completed 504 of her 716 pass attempts (70.4%), but just 20.8% of her long passes, and nine of her 40 crosses were successful. In her own end, McCutcheon completed 77.6% of her passes but only 59.8% in the attacking half. Defensively, McCutcheon contributed 10 blocks and 18 interceptions while winning tackles at a 56.9% rate, duels at a 58.3% rate, and aerial duels at a 62.7% clip. Surprisingly, she did not tally a single clearance all season. McCutcheon conceded 18 fouls while winning only eight, and she was not booked.

In NWSL Challenge Cup play, McCutcheon appeared in four of the team’s six matches, starting two, and logging 233 minutes. She did not score or assist on a goal, attempting two shots and getting one on frame. Her passing rate in the competition was just 67.6%, and she was successful on 40% of her long passes while logging three key passes and going 1-for-4 on cross attempts. She completed 70.4% of her pass attempts in the defensive half and 62.7% in the attacking half. On defense, McCutcheon contributed two blocks and two interceptions while winning her tackles at a 75% rate, 77.3% of her duels, and 75% of her aerial duels. She conceded two fouls while winning one and was not booked.

Best Game

McCutcheon’s best match came back on April 29 in the Pride’s 3-1 win over the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium. She tied season highs in shots (2) and shots on target (1), passed at a 90.5% rate, and made three tackles. Those are all good things, but it gets better. In this match, McCutcheon scored her first goal with the Pride and her only goal of the season, and it proved to be the game-winning strike. And what a strike it was! With the ball on the other side of the field, McCutcheon made a smart run on the back side. Midfielder Viviana Villacorta spotted the run and delivered an excellent, long, diagonal ball into the area for her. But McCutcheon still had a lot to do. She put her head on it and powered it over the goalkeeper and inside the far post to give the Pride their first lead of the season.

The Pride added another goal and went on to grab their first win of the 2023 season. That sparked a 3-0-1 run in league play and got Orlando going in a season that came down to Decision Day.

2023 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave McCutcheon a composite rating of 6 out of 10 for her 2023 season, which is a slight improvement over her score of 5 last season. She was a good facilitator down the right side of the pitch and could fill in at times in the midfield with her versatility. Where she continued to struggle at times was with her 1-v-1 defending down the Pride’s right side and with her crossing accuracy at times.

2024 Outlook

As mentioned above, McCutcheon is on a deal through the 2024 season and since the Pride are safe from the NWSL Expansion Draft, the only way she wouldn’t be back is via trade or transfer. I expect her back in purple next year as she’s a versatile player who can fill in at multiple spots and she is obviously valued by the club, playing a lot of minutes and even wearing the captain’s armband five times during the 2023 NWSL campaign and twice in the Challenge Cup.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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