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Orlando Pride Are Again in Free Fall as Season Closes



The Orlando Pride are doing it again. Since the team’s first NWSL season in 2016, it has become an annual tradition for the Pride to go into freefall in the final weeks of the season. With the exception of the club’s 2017 playoff season, Orlando has hit a winless downward spiral to finish out each year, regardless of who is playing and coaching the squad.

The traditional collapse is in full swing again as 2022 draws to a close.

In the team’s inaugural season, the Pride were 6-6-0 on July 10 and a postseason berth in the team’s first year seemed possible. But the team tanked the rest of the way with an eight-game winless streak to end the year, with seven of those matches ending in losses and just one of them a draw. It was a disappointing end to what had been a solid inaugural year that began with four wins in a five-game stretch in the first two months of the NWSL campaign. The Pride won three straight that year from May 8-20 and sat at 4-2-0 before finishing 2-11-1 with that eight-game winless skid providing most of those losses.

By contrast, and (so far) serving as the lone exception that proves the rule, Orlando finished the 2017 regular season on a nine-match unbeaten streak (6-0-3), reaching the playoffs for the first time with a record of 11-6-7. Sure, the team got mauled in Portland in its lone postseason appearance to date, but that final stretch run was incredible. It was also, unfortunately, unique.

Orlando seemed poised for a return to the postseason in 2018. Despite a slow start to the year in which the Pride won only once in their first five matches (1-2-2), the team was sitting pretty at 8-6-4 by July 14 after a road win at Utah, with a chance to return to the playoffs with a strong finish. But the Pride went the other way. A pair of home draws against Seattle — OL Reign was known as the Seattle Reign then —and Sky Blue FC (now NJ/NY Gotham FC) weren’t devastating but they did kick off a six-match winless streak to end the year. Orlando finished with losses to Portland, North Carolina, Chicago, and Sky Blue, and the Pride scored only one goal in that four-game stretch, getting outscored 9-1.

The 2019 season was a disaster from the start, with Orlando starting the year 0-7-2 and sinking to the bottom of the NWSL standings. But the Pride won four of the next eight games to “climb” to 4-11-2 on the season before the bottom dropped out yet again. After a 2-1 win at Chicago on Aug. 21, 2019, the Pride finished on a seven-game winless skid (0-5-2) and ended the year just 4-16-4. The team managed to draw two of its last three after a four-game losing streak, but it was yet another downward spiral to close out the season. Whatever the opposite of “finishing strong” is, the Pride had mastered it.

It’s probably not fair to even count 2020 among these poor finishes, because the season was canceled essentially. The NWSL teams took part in two competitions — the NWSL Challenge Cup and the NWSL Fall Series. The Pride, however, did not take part in the Challenge Cup due to COVID issues within the team that surfaced just before the team was set to take part. Orlando participated in the Fall Series and failed to win a single game, going 0-2-2 in four matches to “close” the season on a four-game winless streak and run the team’s winless streak in all competitions to 11 matches (0-7-4).

The 2021 Orlando Pride campaign began with a ton of promise. Marc Skinner led the team to just a 1-1-2 record in the Challenge Cup before the regular season, but the team got out to its strongest start ever, going seven matches without a loss in a 4-0-3 run. The team then went winless in six straight (0-4-2) to fall to 4-4-5. That stretch coincided with rumors that Skinner was headed back to England to coach Manchester United, his departure, Carl Green coaching the team to a 2-0 home loss in the first match without Skinner, and Becky Burleigh leading the team to a 1-1 draw at North Carolina in her first game as the club’s interim coach.

The team seemed to more or less right the ship with a 3-1-2 run in the next five games and had a shot at a playoff run when sitting at 7-5-7 on Sept. 11. And then it happened again. Orlando lost its last five consecutive games, getting shut out three times in that span and the Pride were outscored 11-3 down the stretch.

Orlando began a major rebuild after the 2021 season. Big-name stars were sent to other teams and the Pride chose to go with a lot of younger players and some holdover veterans. Not much was expected in 2022 as new coach Amanda Cromwell arrived, but there was some satisfaction in getting to see which young players developed and how the team would augment the roster to build around them. The Pride tried many different players in the Challenge Cup and went 0-4-2, failing to score in the first three games and getting outscored 11-4. The team then lost its opener 3-0 at home to Gotham.

But the team seemed to be correcting course under Cromwell, getting a result in the next three games, including road wins at Angel City and North Carolina. The team was suddenly 2-1-1 and limiting the opposition’s offense after surrendering 12 goals in the previous four matches. And then, well…something happened. We still don’t know what. But the team got shelled in a 4-2 loss to Chicago, managed to draw a bad Washington Spirit side thanks solely to a pair of goals deep in stoppage time to erase a 2-0 hole, and then tied its worst loss in club history in a 5-0 beatdown at Houston.

Cromwell and one assistant coach were placed on administrative leave, two other assistant coaches decided to take personal leave rather than pick up the pieces, and Seb Hines was the last one standing, taking over as the team’s interim coach without a staff under him. Hines struggled out of the gate with back-to-back shutout losses, including a franchise worst 6-0 defeat at Portland.

But then, improbably, Hines got the team playing better. With help from former Orlando City forward Giles Barnes as an interim assistant coach and some help from Miguel Gallardo on a volunteer basis, Hines led the team to an incredible seven-match unbeaten run. It started with another two-goal comeback — this time to draw Racing Louisville 2-2 at the Daytona Soccer Fest at the Daytona International Speedway. The team then beat Houston on a late own goal and played the Spirit to a scoreless draw on the road. Two more draws had the unbeaten run at five games, albeit just a modest 1-0-4 run. Hines then took the team to San Diego and got a huge 1-0 shutout win over the Wave and backed that up with a 2-1 win at Gotham.

The team was back to the .500 mark at 5-5-6 and just three points below the playoff line. It had gone seven matches without a loss and seemed to finally find a way to turn those draws into wins. A home win over the Reign would have pushed the Pride just above the playoff line with five matches remaining.

But the Pride reverted to their old ways. Orlando led the Reign 1-0 at halftime. But the visitors leveled things early in the second half. Still, a draw wouldn’t have been the end of the world and the game went into stoppage time tied at 1-1. Then the Pride fell asleep and conceded a 92nd-minute goal to Megan Rapinoe and things have only unraveled from there.

The team has now gone five consecutive matches without a win, losing the first four of those games by a combined 9-1 and getting shut out three straight times against Portland, Louisville, and North Carolina. Orlando then threw away a 2-0 lead late at home Sunday night against San Diego.

If the team doesn’t win at OL Reign this Saturday night — and the Pride are 0-3-3 on the road against all incarnations of the Reign combined — it will cap yet another winless free fall at the end of the season. It will be the team’s sixth collapse in seven years (or fifth in six if you only want to count “normal” seasons). Any way you look at it, it’s a worrying trend that the team finishes so meekly when in several of those seasons there was a realistic chance to make the postseason with a strong close to the year.

The team has one game remaining and it’s largely meaningless, except to the Reign, who have a shot at the Supporters Shield. However, the Pride can make a statement on Saturday with a win. They can show supporters that it’s time for a change in Orlando with an ending that isn’t yet another loss or draw in a long string of them. They can tell fans that things are turning around. They can provide hope for 2023 by breaking the cycle.

The Orlando Pride have not won a game after Sept. 11 in any season except 2017. Historical data says they’ll lose again on Saturday night. Hopefully they can put an end to that tradition and finish on an unexpectedly high note.

Orlando Pride

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.



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?



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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Orlando Pride’s Summer Yates and Amanda Allen in Line for Breakout Seasons

Summer Yates and Amanda Allen could have breakout seasons for the Pride.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride are in the third year of a full rebuild, although there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Last season saw multiple young players take big steps forward in their development and this year will undoubtedly see more. Two players who currently look like they’ll play bigger roles in the team are midfielder Summer Yates and forward Amanda Allen.

Yates and Allen are two young players with bright futures that the Pride brought in during 2023. They drafted Yates out of the University of Washington with the third pick of the fourth round (39th overall) of the 2023 NWSL Draft. You usually don’t find this level of talent that late in the draft, but Yates was expected to go much higher. She began slipping through the second and third rounds, enabling the Pride to complete what could be the steal of the draft.

Rather than coming in through the draft, the Pride were able to sign Allen directly. The teenager made her way through the Canadian national team system, making her senior team debut in November 2022. She was seen as a player for the future but didn’t see much of the field last year.

It’s not a surprise to see young players in this team see significant minutes, as the Pride have focused on it over the past few seasons. It’s something that Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter spoke about with The Mane Land’s SkoPurp Soccer podcast last week. 

“I think you develop through meaningful match minutes,” Carter said on SkoPurp. “Even if you look at some of the signings that we’ve made, young athletes, you look at Amanda Allen for instance, making sure she’s getting meaningful match minutes is really important to us.”

Yates and Allen are both likely to see more minutes this year but face different situations. Yates saw more time on the field during her rookie season, making 10 league appearances and recording 108 minutes. She made a further six appearances (two starts) in the NWSL Challenge Cup for 259 minutes and recorded two assists in the competition.

The Pride signed Marta to a two-year extension following the 2022 NWSL season, so this could very well be the last year of her career. Once the star is gone, the Pride will be looking for a long-term replacement and Yates could be that player. Carter even told SkoPurp that she’s seen development in the midfielder this off-season.

“(Yates) is flying, by the way. Summer Yates is chef’s kiss flying,” Carter said. “She had an unbelievable off-season. She’s like a whole new player this year.”

The midfielder was the primary playmaker for Washington in college and played that role when she appeared for the Pride last year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her play more minutes this season, especially since the club will likely lose Adriana at times to international duty.

Allen is in a different position than Yates but might have a similar opportunity to prove herself this season. At the end of last year, she was the fourth striker on the depth chart behind Messiah Bright, Ally Watt, and Mariana Larroquette. However, Bright asked for a trade this off-season due to personal reasons and was shipped to Angel City FC. The club could still bring in a veteran striker to replace the young forward, but Carter said it’s not a major concern for the team at the moment.

“We feel like we’re in a good place,” Carter said about the striker situation. “It’s not something that we’re terribly concerned about.”

However, she also said that the club has worked at strengthening the back line and midfield positions over the past two seasons. Now it’s time to look for goal scorers that can push the team to be a contender in the NWSL.

“If you look at it from a strategy standpoint, how we’ve approached the last year, we got to improve the back line. And that’s what we did first,” Carter said. “And then the priority became the midfield. And that’s what we did in the beginning of the off-season. And now we’re looking for established goal scorers.”

Watt was the starter at the forward position last year when Bright wasn’t available or needed rest. While it’s fair to assume she would simply move up to the number one spot on the depth chart, Carter further indicated the veteran would be the team’s nine.

“I feel like this is going to be the year of Ally,” Carter said about the forward.

The Pride emphasize versatility, something they’ve shown the past few seasons. While Watt will likely be the starting forward when the season starts, she also played on the right in 2023. Following her appearances last year in the midfield, her attacking teammates gave glowing reviews about having the speed of Watt on the right and Julie Doyle on the left.

The club’s focus on Watt up top might seem like a negative for Allen’s playing time. After all, the teenager didn’t appear much last season, only making three league appearances for nine minutes. She didn’t play much more in the NWSL Challenge Cup, making three appearances, with one start, for 91 minutes.

However, Allen has two things going for her. One is that the club values providing meaningful minutes to young players and Allen is seen as part of the future of this team. It’s also not easy to find proven goal scorers. Unless the club can find a proven goal scorer by the trade and transfer deadline on April 22, Allen will move up on the depth chart.

The focus for the Pride this season is improving on last year and making the playoffs for the first time since 2017. However, they also have an eye on the future with the team still being young. Last year, we saw young players like Bright and Emily Madril prove themselves at the professional level. This year we could see Yates and Allen make a similar jump.

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