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Orlando Pride

Interim Coach Seb Hines Gets First Pride Win Under Difficult Circumstances



The Orlando Pride finally got their first home win of the NWSL season in Friday night’s 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash. The win was also the first under Seb Hines’ watch, as the interim manager got the club its second consecutive result.

While it would be easy to pick holes or downplay the match as a success or reason for celebration, that would be an injustice to the difficulties that Hines and his team have had to endure. Sure, Houston was down several players who were on international duty. But the Pride aren’t exactly at full strength themselves. The team’s leader, Gunny Jonsdottir, is with Iceland for the European Championship, superstar Marta is out for the season, and Angharad James and Leah Pruitt were also out. You have to play the team that’s in front of you and the Pride have been in Houston’s position many times in the past without anyone feeling sorry for them.

One could point at the own goal being fortunate, but those are the kinds of things that can happen with sustained pressure and set pieces. Carrie Lawrence sent a good secondary ball into the area and Kylie Strom did well to time her run and get under it, getting a head to it to keep it alive. Had it gone where she wanted it, instead of off of Ally Prisock, Mikayla Cluff probably would have scored anyway.

The Pride were simply the better side throughout the match. While there were still issues with too many misplaced passes, some rushed attacks that broke down, and a lack of precision in front of goal, Orlando nearly doubled Houston’s shot total and tripled the Dash’s number of shots on target. The Pride’s five shots on target in the first half may have all been right at Jane Campbell — one of the league’s top goalkeepers — but that’s an improvement over the off-target chances the team has wasted in previous games.

But besides all that, Hines led his team to three points vs. Houston and four points out of a possible six in the last two games under conditions that would give any coach pause. The former center back took control of the team a month ago on June 7, when Head Coach Amanda Cromwell and key assistant Sam Greene were placed on administrative leave. While a joint investigation into whether the two violated league policy on player treatment got underway, the thought was that Hines would serve as interim coach with the help of the rest of the Pride’s coaching staff working with him.

That hasn’t been the case. Assistant and Player Development Coach Michelle Akers and Goalkeeping Coach Aline Villares Reis haven’t been around. While neither was placed on administrative leave with Cromwell and Greene, both are officially taking paid time off. As the soccer season is a highly unusual time for coaches to take paid time off, these are highly unusual times.

“The environment, what is going on with our coaches (Cromwell and Greene) is very personal to them as well,” Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said. “Any personal time that they need off right now is time that they’re going to get.”

Without Akers and Reis, Hines has made do. He brought in former Orlando City forward Giles Barnes, who lives in the area, as an interim assistant. OCSC broadcaster and former USL-era Orlando City goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo has helped replace Reis’ absence to lend a hand as well.

“Giles came in at the beginning of last week, and the reception to him has been great, and to his credit, he has jumped in sort of headfirst and is doing a wonderful job as an interim assistant right now,” Fleming said. “He’s got a really good head on his shoulders for the game, has taken to the group really quickly, understands the landscape of the league actually much more than I ever would have anticipated, coming into this environment, and he’s been a really positive influence so far.

“Miguel Gallardo is out working with the goalkeepers right now. He’s doing so on a voluntary basis, but the feedback so far on Miguel as well has been really great. So, it’s something that everyone is working extremely hard through right now. Certainly not an easy situation for anyone, but I really feel like everyone is doing an incredibly admirable job right now.”

The recent results, including the win Friday and last weekend’s 2-2 comeback draw against Racing Louisville, show the team is willing to work hard for Hines, who is a fledgling coach. The past four matches have been his first in charge. Things are rarely easy for any first-time coach, but Hines has handled more adversity than most. His squad is young and in the early stages of a rebuild. Orlando has jettisoned veteran defender Amy Turner and star forward Sydney Leroux since he took over. His best midfielder is away on international duty and arguably his second-best midfielder, Angharad James, has been excused for personal reasons the past couple of matches.

Through it all, Hines has remained relaxed while wearing his ever-present smile. Under his watch, young midfielder Viviana Villacorta continues to develop her game — she was one of the best players on the field for either side on Friday.

“Seb has stepped up to the plate in a really, really great way. The response to Seb so far has been wonderful,” Fleming said.

How long Hines has to step up for as the Pride’s interim coach is still anyone’s guess. Despite the NWSL now having had ample time to interview every Pride player, coach, and staff member, as well as any other human even remotely linked to Cromwell, nothing continues to happen and it’s logical to think nothing will change until after the season. All one has to do is read between the lines of the past month.

Cromwell has gone from coaching to not coaching, and Leroux, one of the team’s star players — who was not shipped off in the rebuild as other aging veterans were — suddenly picked up a knock but was immediately available for her new team the moment she was traded. The NWSL front office doesn’t seem authoritative in the best of times, and with a recent, less-than-stellar history of coaching improprieties around the league, it won’t be quick to side with Cromwell against a star player, even if no evidence of wrongdoing is found. That’s bad optics, because — unfairly or not — Cromwell has already been convicted in the court of public opinion to some degree and lumped in with previous coaches around the league.

Neither NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman or Orlando City President of Business Operations Jarrod Dillon had any comment about the investigation when asked at the Daytona SoccerFest last week. Fleming didn’t offer much either in our talk with him on Wednesday.

“We can’t really talk about that much right now,” he said. “The most important part is just that the joint investigation does their job thoroughly and that they come to the right conclusion. There’s not a lot more to say about it than that at this point. I just want to make sure that what comes out of this is right and fair.”

With a tougher schedule on the horizon, it’s going to be difficult for the Pride to continue to get results — not impossible, but it’s going to take a lot of effort and the squad must minimize mistakes. Orlando has yet to play either of its two matches against league-leading San Diego Wave FC or fourth-place OL Reign. In addition, another meeting with the Portland Thorns awaits.

Hines will take each game ahead that he has left in this uncertain season the way he always does — with a smile on his face and an intent to get a result. Even with the most seasoned coach, it’s not easy to win with a young, unfinished team. But he will be getting reinforcements. The addition of 18-year-old Malta international Haley Brugeja could be a boost to the club’s struggling offense. And, very quietly, first-round draft pick Caitlin Cosme is getting healthy for the first time. The Pride have had a few games recently without a single center back on the bench, but with Cosme’s return, they’ve had two the last couple of matches. Additionally, Carrie Lawrence had her first start Friday since sustaining an injury to her ribs, helping her team shut out Houston.

A better defense, another scoring threat, and the continued development of Villacorta and Cluff in the midfield might be enough to keep this Pride team at least in contention for a playoff spot. The Pride entered today just two points behind sixth-place Angel City, although the expansion side has a game in hand — that will take place tonight at home against San Diego — and three points behind fifth-place Houston.

If Hines can continue to work on his team’s fundamentals and keep his players believing, it just may be enough.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Kylie Strom to Three-Year Deal

The Pride have signed starting left back and free agent Kylie Strom to a new three-year contract.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed starting left back Kylie Strom to a new three-year contract. The defender became a free agent following the 2023 NWSL season, but the Pride said they were in negotiations to bring her back.

“Kylie is coming off the best season of her professional career, a season in which she was one of the most underrated defenders in the league, and we believe she deserves much more recognition than she’s received,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “It means a lot to us that she has not only seen what we are building here, but she has completely bought into it and has chosen to stay in Orlando. She is a vital leader within the locker room and on the field, and we couldn’t be more excited to keep her onboard. Our goal is to build off last season’s success and ensuring her return was a key aspect of that.” 

The Endicott, NY, native joined the Pride from Spanish side Atletico Madrid on July 5, 2021, where she spent two seasons. Her initial contract with Orlando was a two-year deal with an option for a third year. The club picked up her option after the 2022 NWSL season and she became a free agent this off-season. However, she says her intention was to remain in purple and be a part of what the club is building.

“I have said it since the beginning of last year, what we are building here throughout the Pride is really special,” Strom said in a club press release. “I think the team that we have, from the players to the people, is all really exciting and I am just excited to continue to be a part of it. I think we can achieve a lot after coming up just short last year. Moving forward, we have learned and grown and have a lot to look forward to.” 

In her first three seasons with the Pride, Strom has made 58 appearances in all competitions, with 46 starts, and has played 4,163 minutes. She made her debut on July 9, 2021 in a 1-1 draw against Racing Louisville. Her Pride career began on the bench, but she took over the starting left back job from Courtney Petersen midway through last season. This year, she started 26 of the team’s 28 games in all competitions and all 22 of the Pride’s leagues games.

The 30-year-old had a breakout year in 2023, starting 26 games and recording 2,281 minutes. She had a goal and an assist, playing the second-most minutes on the team behind center back Emily Madril. Additionally, she was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for both May and August.

What It Means for Orlando

The signing of Strom means that the Pride will have their starting back five returning next season. They previously signed goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse and center back Madril to new contracts, so the next one up is right back Haley McCutcheon. Everyone else is under contract through at least the 2025 NWSL season (McCutcheon is currently signed through 2024).

Finding the right defensive unit has been a struggle for Pride Head Coach Seb Hines since he took over the role on an interim basis midway through the 2022 season. But he settled on Strom, Madril, Rafaelle, and McCutcheon in front of Moorhouse last season. The Pride’s 28 goals conceded last year was sixth in the 12-team league, but they showed improvements as the season went on. They only gave up multiple goals once in their last five games, though it was a key 3-2 loss to Racing Louisville, eventually knocking them out of the playoffs.

Regardless, the team sees this defensive unit as essential to the team’s success next season and there was little question Orlando wanted Strom back. The only free agent from last year’s team now is defensive midfielder Jordyn Listro, who is a restricted free agent. With the club having traded Mikayla Cluff to the Utah Royals for expansion draft protection, bringing Listro back likely becomes the club’s new top priority.

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2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Messiah Bright

The Pride’s rookie striker made a name for herself in 2023.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride selected Messiah Bright with the ninth pick of the second round (21st overall) in the 2023 NWSL draft, and she may have been the steal of that draft. The Pride then signed Bright to a three-year deal on March 2. The Dallas, TX native started all 102 matches she played at TCU during her college career.

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

Statistical Breakdown

Bright appeared in 22 regular-season matches, starting 16, logging a total of 1,379 minutes. She scored six goals on 41 shots with 12 on target and 10 blocked. She did not have an assist, but she made seven key passes. Bright completed 184 of her 273 total passes (67.4%). She was accurate on 52.7% of her passes in the opponent’s half, and 83.7% in her own half. She was three of four on her long passes (75%). She also completed two of her 25 crosses. Defensively, she made one interception and five blocks, won 14 of her 26 tackles (53.8%), won 99 of her 211 duels (46.6%), and won 38 of her 64 aerial duels (59.4%). She also committed 20 fouls, suffered six fouls, and was booked twice.

The 23-year-old made six appearances in NWSL Challenge Cup play, starting three games and playing 307 total minutes. Bright scored one goal on seven total shots with three on target. She attempted four crosses, though none were successful, and registered no assists. Bright completed 48 of her 72 total passes (66.7%). She was accurate on 58.5% of her passes in the opponent’s half, and 73.9% in her own half.  Bright was one for three on her long passes (33.3%), and made nine key passes. Defensively, she won two of her four tackles (50%), 20 of her 45 duels (44.4%), and eight of her 14 aerial duels (57.1%). She also committed four fouls, suffered one foul, and was not booked in the tournament.

Best Game

Bright’s best match was the 5-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars on Aug 20. She scored the first brace of her professional career with the first goal coming in the 23rd minute on this absolutely stunning volley into the upper right corner of the goal.

Bright followed up that goal with her second early in the second half. In the 49th minute she received a gorgeous through ball from Marta, went around the keeper and then calmly put it inside the left post past the surging defenders. 

Bright only played 60 minutes, but she made the most of each minute. Her goals came on four shots with three on target. She also completed seven of her eight passes (85.7%) on 19 touches, committed no fouls, suffered no fouls, and was not booked.

2023 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Bright a composite rating of 6 out of 10 for the 2023 season. She had a very solid rookie season, but she was still a rookie and thus made some mistakes. Bright has all the tools to be a great striker in the NWSL and perhaps eventually for the USWNT. Given this was Bright’s first season, she did not receive a grade in 2022.

2024 Outlook

Bright is signed through the 2025 season, though if she continues to develop as expected she may get a new contract before then. She will be a consistent starter for the Pride in 2024 as she was in 2023, and I expect her production to increase despite teams now knowing what she is capable of doing. Her size and strength can’t be taught, though she can learn to use those attributes more effectively.

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2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Emily Madril

The first-year defender played almost every single minute available in the 2023 season.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride selected former Florida State defender Emily Madril with the No. 3 overall selection in the 2023 NWSL Draft. The 5-foot-7 Navarre, FL native decided to forego her last season of eligibility in Tallahassee to begin her professional career. A two-time national champion (2018 and 2021), Madril left FSU, signing a contract with the National Women’s Soccer League through 2025 and was loaned to Swedish side BK Hacken FF.

Following a standout first NWSL season in which she played all but three minutes in the regular season, Madril was rewarded by the Pride with a new contract through 2026.

Let’s take a look at her first season with the Orlando Pride.

Statistical Breakdown

Madril started all 22 of the Pride’s regular-season games in 2023, leading all rookies in minutes played (1,977), and coming off only moments before the end of the club’s season finale against the Houston Dash when the Pride were desperately trying to score a game winner to stay in playoff contention. The defender did not record a goal or an assist on the season, attempting just one shot, which was off target. Madril completed 814 of her 953 passes (85.4%), 46 of her 103 long passes (44.7%), and one of her three crosses, while recording five key passes. There wasn’t much drop-off in her passing rate related to position on the field, as Madril completed 88.7% of her passes in the defensive half and 75.6% in the attacking half. Defensively, she added 19 blocks and 19 interceptions, won 17 of her 28 tackles (60.7%), and was successful on 76 of her 122 duels (62.3%). She also won 54.5% of her 33 aerial duels. She won 23 fouls while conceding only nine and was booked twice during the regular season.

In the NWSL Challenge Cup, Madril appeared in five of the team’s six matches (all starts), and played 450 minutes. She did not score a goal or assist on one and did not attempt a shot. She completed 193 of her 224 passes (86.2%), including 13 of her 25 long passes (52%). Madril passed at an 89% rate in her own half and a 78.3% in the attacking half, recording one key pass, but not attempting a cross in the competition. She recorded 10 blocks and four interceptions on defense, winning 55.6% of her tackle attempts, 68.1% of her duels, and 71.4% of her aerial duels. She committed five fouls, drawing six on the opposition, and was not booked in the tournament.

Best Game

With a number of standout games to choose from, I’ll go with the Pride’s 1-0 win over OL Reign on July 7. Paired with Megan Montefusco as the center back tandem, Madril and her teammates limited the Reign to just five shot attempts (two on target) across the 90+ minutes of the game. Madril had 55 touches and completed 89.1% of her 46 passes. She recorded two tackles and drew two fouls on her opponents while not committing any. Madril and her teammates helped Messiah Bright’s 16th-minute strike hold up over the remainder of the match without constantly being under siege. It was a complete performance and one of the team’s best defensive efforts of the year. It was also just the Pride’s second win ever against OL Reign.

2023 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Madril a composite rating of 6.5 for the 2023 season. There were several shaky moments early in the year for the first-year NWSL defender that prevented that score from rising higher (such as conceding a penalty against Angel City), but as the season progressed and she became more comfortable with Seb Hines’ system, the league, and her teammates, Madril was a solid player on the Pride’s back line. She showed her versatility in being able to play both center back positions as well as right back for a couple of matches. A 6.5 is a good rating for a first-year NWSL center back, and Madril showed that she has the potential to develop into one of the league’s best defenders.

2024 Outlook

Madril is obviously highly regarded by the organization and has a huge upside. She has expressed on multiple occasions how happy she is to be with the Pride, and I would expect her to be in Orlando until/unless the Pride get an offer they can’t refuse from a bigger club or if Madril decides to leave once she’s eligible for free agency. Madril should be a starter on the back line for the Pride in 2024 barring something unforseen.

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