Connect with us

Orlando Pride

Top 10 Moments of 2021: Orlando Pride Start Year with Club-Record Unbeaten Run



As we count down to the new year of 2022 — which will be Orlando City’s eighth in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s seventh in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2021, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.

The Orlando Pride took a look at Orlando City’s club-record, six-game unbeaten streak to start the season and said, “we can do better.” The Pride, who had only managed to avoid an NWSL regular-season, opening-day loss on one occasion — a home draw against the Utah Royals in 2018 — and who had never managed to go unbeaten in even two matches to start a season before — gave fans a reason to hope for a playoff return in 2021 with an unprecedented run to open the team’s schedule this season.

Orlando still hasn’t won an opener, but the Pride managed to make it seven consecutive games without tasting defeat under Marc Skinner at the start of the 2021 NWSL season. The season-opening surge included a three-match winning streak and four wins in total as the Pride began the season with a 4-0-3 run that had the team at the top of the NWSL season after the first third of the team’s sixth year of existence. It topped the MLS side’s best-ever run to start the year, which also took place in 2021.

The Pride had just completed a promising 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, in which they finished group play with a 1-1-2 mark and could have gone 2-0-2 if they could have avoided conceding a pair of late goals against Racing Louisville and NJ/NY Gotham FC in the first two matches of the competition. Skinner’s team looked much more organized than in 2019 or when the makeshift roster took part in the 2020 NWSL Fall Series.

The team opened the regular season on May 16 at home against the Washington Spirit. The teams fought an evenly matched contest, with both goalkeepers preventing the other side from gaining the advantage. Sydney Leroux had two excellent chances to give Orlando the lead, but it seemed like a late goal conceded would again bite the team when Ashley Hatch opened the scoring in the 76th minute on a header. However, this time the Pride flipped the script and it was Orlando getting the late heroics when Alex Morgan split the defense on a run to catch up to a perfect Phoebe McClernon long ball and equalized in the 84th minute with a chipped goal over former teammate Aubrey Bledsoe.

It was a draw that felt like a win thanks to the late Morgan goal and it propelled the Pride forward, as Orlando went on to win its next three matches. Orlando visited North Carolina next, carrying a nine-match winless streak against the Courage in all competitions on their shoulders and with backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod stepping in for Ashlyn Harris. No matter. The Pride brought all three points back from North Carolina after a 2-1 road win that came within moments of being a clean sheet.

Leroux snapped the scoreless deadlock in the 36th minute by pouncing on a poorly weighted back pass and beating Casey Murphy with a near-post shot to make it 1-0.

McLeod preserved the lead with multiple big saves and she was rewarded for it when Morgan finally doubled Orlando’s advantage in the 79th minute. The forward got in down the left side and tucked a shot just inside the right post to make it 2-0.

A late Jessica McDonald goal in the 89th minute made for some nervy final moments in stoppage time but the Pride managed the game and had back-to-back games without a loss to start an NWSL season for the first time in club history.

I’ve already told you about the next game, because Morgan and Leroux scored again in the 2-1 home win over Portland on May 26 — our No. 9 moment of 2021. It was just the Pride’s second win ever against the Thorns and the team’s first at home. You can read about that match in full at the link above in this paragraph.

Now playing confidently, with a 2-0-1 record to start the year, the Pride welcomed Kansas City to Exploria Stadium on May 30. The match was tougher than anticipated against the expansion side, but Morgan scored for the fourth consecutive match to lead Orlando to a 1-0 home win.

The win wasn’t without some controversy. A corner kick from Courtney Petersen found Morgan’s head in the box and the striker nodded toward goal. The ball took a deflection on its way and goalkeeper Abby Smith parried it away but it was judged by the referee to have crossed the line. The goal was originally credited to Marta, who was in the scrum in front, but it was later changed to Morgan as it had come off a defender. The assist was Petersen’s first in the NWSL.

The win was Orlando’s third in a row, giving the Pride their longest win streak since 2017.

The Pride and the Spirit played another tight match on June 6 in Washington. It was Hatch again providing Washington with a 1-0 lead before the Pride came back to earn a 1-1 draw. The heroics weren’t left quite so late this time. Hatch scored in the 64th minute but Taylor Kornieck notched her first NWSL regular-season goal just three minutes later to level things up.

Harris made some big saves to keep Orlando in this one and shortly after the Pride fell behind, Marta made a great hustle play, stepping in front of a long throw by Bledsoe and feeding Kornieck. The first-year Pride player took the ball into the box and fired inside the left post to equalize.

It was Orlando’s second road result to open the season and ran the unbeaten streak to five matches (3-0-2).

That streak got longer despite a week off before Orlando hosted Gotham FC on June 20. The Pride left it very late after allowing a Caprice Dydasco “shross” goal in the last minute before halftime. Whether it was an intentional shot or a cross that happened to go in, it gave the visitors a lead and momentum heading into the break. But the reverse happened in the final minute of normal time when Petersen provided a mirror image from the left side for Orlando. Her shross also ended up inside the far post and it lifted the Pride to a 1-1 home draw and a sixth consecutive game without a loss.

But Orlando wasn’t finished at six games without a loss (3-0-3). The Pride visited Kansas City on June 23 and got their most complete win of the streak. But it didn’t start easily.

Kansas City opened the scoring in the eight minute of first-half stoppage time (yes, you read that correctly) on a goal by Mariana Larroquette. But Leroux pulled that back two minutes later — in the 10th minute of stoppage time (!). Cutting in from the left, Leroux’s lunging shot deflected and somehow beat Smith to tie the game just before the break.

Leroux completed her brace shortly after the restart. Taking a long pass up the left sideline, Leroux cut toward the middle near the top of the area and smashed an unstoppable shot inside the back post to give the Pride the lead in the 49th minute.

Not to be outdone, Marta put the game away late with a ridiculous strike from just inside the center circle.

The 3-1 road win was Orlando’s biggest road offensive output of the year and capped a magical 4-0-3 unbeaten streak to start the season.

The run came to a halt in Houston with a 2-1 loss in the next game. The international starters leaving for the Olympics and rumblings of Skinner’s interest in accepting a job with Manchester United — which he eventually took — combined to undo much of the Pride’s hot start. Orlando went its next six games without a win and lost four of those, to fall back to the pack fighting for the last couple of playoff spots.

Becky Burleigh’s arrival as interim coach seemed to right the ship a bit as the Pride lost only one of its next six matches, going 3-1-3 between July 31 and Sept. 11. However, a five-game losing streak to end the season dashed any playoff hopes and left the Pride in free fall all the way to eighth place in the 10-team NWSL.

Regardless, that seven-game run to start the season gave Pride fans a lot of thrills and ignited not only playoff dreams but hopes of a potential Supporters Shield run. Those good feelings and all those points to start the season make the streak worthy of one of our top 10 moments of 2021.

Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2021.

Previous Top 10 Moments of 2021

10. Orlando City takes part in club’s first international competition against Liga MX side Santos Laguna in the Leagues Cup.

9. Orlando Pride get only their second win ever against Portland as Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux lead the way.

8. Orlando City opens the 2021 MLS season with a club-record six-match unbeaten streak.

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.

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

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)

Continue Reading

Orlando Pride

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)

Continue Reading