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2021 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Phoebe McClernon

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The Orlando Pride added defender Phoebe McClernon with the 14th overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NWSL Draft but did not secure her services until signing her to a two-year deal this past Jan. 22. The University of Virginia product was signed to a short-term contract prior to the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup but instead went on loan to Swedish first division side Växjö DFF after the Pride withdrew from the competition due to positive COVID tests.

McClernon had a positive start to her pro career, making 12 appearances in the Damallsvenskan for Växjö, playing well, and leading all NWSL players on loan in the league with 156 challenges. She also made an appearance in the Swedish knockout tournament, the Svenska Cupen.

Let’s take a look back at her first NWSL season.

Statistical Breakdown

The West Chester, PA native played every minute of the four NWSL Challenge Cup matches in 2021, totaling 360 minutes. She did not have a goal involvement but created two scoring chances and attempted one shot, which was off target. She passed at a 66.7% rate, committed four fouls, and drew five while avoiding any bookings. However, she did concede a penalty April 21 in a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit, pulling down Ashley Hatch, although Ashlyn Harris then saved Hatch’s spot kick. McClernon registered 13 clearances, three blocks, and an impressive nine interceptions in the Challenge Cup, winning seven of nine tackle attempts, but not doing quite as well in duels. She won 48.5% of all duels (16/33) but struggled on aerial duels, winning just 28.6% (2/7).

In the regular season, McClernon appeared in 21 of the Pride’s 24 matches, starting 15 and playing 1,416 minutes. She was subbed off in six of her 15 starts. She did not score a goal but did assist on one, with one successful cross and four key passes on the season. She did not officially register a shot attempt. Defensively, McClernon finished with 47 clearances, 14 blocks, and 31 interceptions. She won 27 of 36 tackle attempts (75%), improved in her duels, winning 59 of 107 (55.1%), and got a little better in the air, winning 12 of 28 aerial duels (42.9%). Her 72.9% passing rate could have been better, but it was a solid 82.8% in her own half and she wasn’t too bad on long balls, connecting on 44.3%. A physical player, McClernon conceded 16 fouls and won 10, earning four yellow cards but no straight reds.

Best Game

McClernon’s best game may have been her first NWSL regular-season match. Back on May 16, the Pride drew the Washington Spirit 1-1 at home. She wasn’t the defender beaten on Hatch’s go-ahead goal in the 76th minute, as she stepped up to pressure the ball, forcing a pass out wide. Ali Krieger covered Hatch and was beaten to a cross as the Spirit took the lead. But McClernon’s perfectly timed long ball over the top set up Alex Morgan for the tying goal eight minutes later. It was her first (and only, so far) direct goal involvement in NWSL play and helped Orlando rescue a point.

McClernon had 57 touches in the match — the fourth most on the team — and attempted 39 passes — tied for second most. Her 79.5% passing accuracy was her second-best percentage of the season. She made five tackles in the match to lead all players on both teams, and didn’t concede a foul.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave McClernon a composite score of 6.5 for the 2021 season. There were times during the Pride’s franchise-best start 4-0-3 when she was the club’s best defender. There were times when she’d lose her cool, and she needs to improve in the air and get better at clearing the ball further outside the area, but she provided a physical presence the Pride was often lacking in their own penalty area. During the midseason she had a couple of tough games and then was replaced as a starter, with Becky Burleigh going with Krieger and Amy Turner.

Overall, the staff felt that McClernon has a lot of upside and perhaps should have started more down the stretch when the club seemed out of sorts defensively, especially early in matches. The Pride’s season-ending defensive struggles and five-match losing streak began Sept. 26 at OL Reign, when McClernon began a run of four straight games either on the bench or with an excused absence Oct. 9. She returned to the starting XI for the season finale and Orlando conceded only once in a 1-0 home loss to Chicago.

2022 Outlook

McClernon is signed through the 2022 season and should be back barring something unforeseen. There is an Expansion Draft coming up but hopefully the club will protect a defender with the upside McClernon has. She has versatility, having played as both an outside back and a center back in her first season in purple. If she can become more adept at reading the game and better in the air, the makings are there for McClernon to regain a starting role in 2022.


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Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Unveil New Kits Ahead of 2024 NWSL Season

The Pride take part in the NWSL kit reset with new primary and secondary jerseys for the 2024 season.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride unveiled their two new kits today ahead of the 2024 NWSL season. The jerseys are part of the league-wide kit reset, launched by the NWSL and Nike. The club’s new Phoenix Kit features the Pride’s two recognizable colors, purple and blue, and the secondary Citrus Kit has an all-new color scheme, paying tribute to Florida’s citrus industry. Both jerseys will be formally unveiled on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at “The Kit Party presented by Orlando Health,” taking place at the Orlando Regional History Center.

Replicas of the two new jerseys are available for purchase at ShopOrlandoPride.com, in The Den at Inter&Co Stadium during regular business hours, and on NWSLshop.com. Replica goalkeeper jerseys will also be made available during a late spring release.

“We are proud to share two new, powerful kits with our fans and honored that we are again able to share the story of one of the pillars of our community and the state of Florida,” Pride Chief Marketing Officer Pedro Araujo said in a club press release. “Each year, it is important for us to use our platform to celebrate those that laid the foundation for our city, and this year is no different. We hope our fans are as excited to wear the Citrus Kit and the Phoenix Kit as we are, and to proudly represent Orlando both at home and outside of Central Florida. This new partnership with Nike is a very exciting moment for the league. We’re grateful for their continued support of the Orlando Pride and the NWSL as a whole and are excited for the future opportunities this new, refreshed commitment will bring to our kits and team performance gear.”

The Citrus Kit features a new orange and iced-out green scheme, a first for the Pride, with inspiration taken from Central Florida’s citrus industry. The jersey features oranges and leaves, with letters and numbers featuring the same iced-out green coloring. The design of the kit takes direct inspiration from the historic packaging of citrus crates and labels, unique to each grove. The back of the socks features a hand-drawn “Pride,” which is also inspired by the labels. Meanwhile, the “Outer Pride” on the lower corner of the jersey is a stylized “OP” with an orange cross-section and orange blossom leaves and flowers.

The primary home jersey this season will be the new Phoenix Kit, which is more recognizable to fans. The jersey features the club’s traditional colors of purple with blue letters and numbers. The jersey features a unique two-toned purple gradient that runs diagonally from the top right to the bottom left of the jersey. The club’s shirt sponsor, Orlando Health, remains in white, but the letters, numbers, and Nike logo on the darker purple are the team’s second color, “Eola Blue.”

The new kits are part of the NWSL’s league-wide kit reset, the first time a women’s professional soccer league has presented refreshed primary and secondary uniforms for all of its teams. Each club is receiving jerseys that reflect the club’s identity and joyful expression and celebrate the team’s community.

The Pride’s unveiling has been in cooperation with Hollieanna Groves, a local and family-owned grower, harvester, packer, and shipper of Florida citrus. The Maitland-based company is a fourth-generation packing house and sales room, providing the backdrop for one of the club’s kit photo shoots.

Here are some photos of the Pride’s newest kits courtesy of the Pride:

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Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride have placed center back Megan Montefusco on the season-ending injury list following surgery on her right foot.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that center back Megan Montefusco has been placed on the season-ending injury list. The defender had off-season right foot surgery, performed by the club’s official medical team, to repair a long-term problem.

“This is an unfortunate situation for Megan, though we’re happy she was able to address an issue that has plagued her for some time, and we are confident she will come out of this a stronger athlete,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Our club is fully behind her and will support her throughout her rehab process, as will our amazing partners at Orlando Health. Our goal is to help Megan get back on the field as safely and smartly as possible, and we are behind her every step of the way. We look forward to seeing her back out on the pitch as soon as she is ready.”

The Pride originally acquired the defender in a trade with the Houston Dash on Jan. 28, 2022 that saw Marisa Viggiano go the other way. She was a regular starter at center back that year and through most of 2023, but lost the starting position when the club signed Brazilian international Rafaelle. Montefusco has made 45 appearances (42 starts) for 3,773 minutes in all competitions over her two seasons in Orlando, scoring one goal.

The 31 year-old signed a new contract with the Pride on June 15, 2023 through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. As one of the team’s main representatives alongside fellow center back Carrie Lawrence, Montefusco appeared at Orlando City’s preseason game against the New England Revolution, signing autographs and taking part in a question-and-answer session while wearing a walking boot.

What It Means for Orlando

This news is a bit of a blow to Orlando’s depth on the back line. Montefusco was the first center back off the bench late last year and was expected to have the same role this year. However, her absence will make room for Lawrence, who missed the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason, and Tori Hansen, who is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory FC in Australia. The duo will now compete for the third center back spot unless the club replaces Montefusco with another veteran, as the NWSL transfer window remains open.

This injury could also open up a spot for the Pride to sign 2024 second-round NWSL Draft pick Cori Dyke, who the club took at No. 22 overall out of Penn State. Dyke has experience at center back in college. She played as a central midfielder for the first four years in college, but moved to center back for her final season. Despite moving to the back line, the 2023 season was her most productive offensively, as she recorded five goals and six assists.

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Five Questions About the Orlando Pride in 2024

What are the top five questions for the Orlando Pride heading into the 2024 NWSL season?

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride have begun their preseason training for the 2024 NWSL season and will play their first preseason scrimmage on Thursday afternoon. The team nearly made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2017, narrowly missing out on the final day of the season. The team’s been busy this off-season, looking to improve the squad. However, there are still some questions to be answered before the competitive games start.

Here are five burning questions about the Pride for 2024.

Who Will Start in Goal?

The Pride signed English goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse from French side Bordeaux on Jan. 31, 2022 to back up Erin McLeod. When the Canadian left after the 2022 season, Moorhouse was elevated to starter. She played well at times last year, but was inconsistent. However, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines showed confidence in the 28-year-old, starting her in 19 of the team’s 22 regular-season games.

In December, the Pride traded backup Carly Nelson to the Utah Royals for Allocation Money. The move came 11 days after they signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner, indicating the club was planning for the departure. While Moorhouse will undoubtedly start the season as the team’s number one, Manner could claim the position if Moorhouse’s inconsistency returns. It will be something to keep an eye on this year.

Who Will Start in the Defensive Midfield?

The Pride focused on the team’s back line last year, but much of the effort this off-season has been on the defensive midfield. The team traded for Haley McCutcheon on Aug. 18, 2022 and it appeared as though she would start in the position. However, Hines moved her to right back last year, where she’s become the regular starter. It then looked like recent draft picks Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff would be the duo, but Cluff was traded to Utah on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection and Villacorta tore her ACL late last year.

The club focused on the position this off-season, bringing in Brazilian internationals Angelina and Luana, along with USWNT player Morgan Gautrat. All three will battle to start in the defensive midfield, especially since Villacorta is injured and fellow defensive midfielders Cluff and Jordyn Listro are gone. But it’s still unknown who will start in those positions. It’s a question that will likely be answered in the coming weeks as the Pride build for the start of the regular season in March.

Where is Ally Watt Best Suited?

After tearing down the roster in a full rebuild, the Pride made two significant acquisitions in August 2022. In addition to trading for McCutcheon, the Pride dealt Allocation Money to OL Reign (now Seattle Reign FC) for forward Ally Watt. The speedy attacker quickly became the second option up top for the Pride, typically playing behind rookie Messiah Bright last year and starting the odd game. However, that’s not the only position she played.

Hines has shown he values versatility and illustrated that with Watt last year. In addition to playing up top, Watt was deployed on the right side of the midfield. Her speed and ability with the ball was an asset in the position, and she was praised by teammates in the role. They love having her on the right and Julie Doyle on the left, the two fastest players on the team. The questions now become: which position is she best at, and where does she best fit in with this team?

Who will Replace Messiah Bright?

Possibly the biggest question for the 2024 season is who will replace the starting striker. The Pride drafted Bright with the 21st overall pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft out of TCU, and she quickly became the focal point of the attack. Her six regular-season goals last year tied Adriana for the team lead. However, the forward requested a trade this off-season, citing personal reasons, and was shipped off to Angel City FC.

The club did sign Simone Charley, most recently with Angel City, who could replace Bright. However, she’s coming off a season-ending injury and wasn’t as effective in Los Angeles as she was in Portland. Other options include Canadian international Amanda Allen or Argentina international Mariana Larroquette. Watt might be the most likely to start the season up top as it stands, with Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter recently telling our SkoPurp Soccer podcast that 2024 will be “the season of Ally.” But it remains to be seen who will be the Pride’s new number nine.

Will We Discover the Pride’s New Number 10?

Marta has been the Pride’s number 10 since she arrived in 2017 and the team’s most prolific player. She leads the team all-time in appearances (102), starts (95), minutes (8,456), goals (31), and assists (18) in all competitions. However, she’s on the final year of a two-year deal that’s widely expected to be the last for the soon-to-be-38-year-old midfielder. If she does depart the club following the 2024 season, they Pride will need to find her replacement.

The club could go outside and find her replacement for 2025, but there are options in the current squad. The most talented player on the team currently is Brazilian international Adriana, who has typically played on the right side of the midfield, causing problems for defenses. She’s also switched with Marta at times, moving central, and has played there at the international level. The club also has Summer Yates, the former Washington Husky drafted in 2023. Yates slipped to the fourth round, where the Pride grabbed her, and Carter recently said she’s seen significant development in the second-year player.

While the primary focus is on this season, Hines could show his hand with who plays the most minutes behind Marta in the attacking midfield. While a final decision will probably be left to the 2025 preseason, we can get an idea of who might be in line for arguably the most significant role on the team during the 2024 campaign.


The Pride enter the 2024 season with more expectations than the last two years. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2023 and will be looking to improve this season. While most of the team is intact, there are some questions to be answered during preseason and the coming regular season. It will tell us a lot about the team’s 2024 season and the coming years.

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