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NWSL Terminates Contract of Orlando Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell, Assistant Coach Sam Greene

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The NWSL has completed its investigation into Orlando Pride Head Coach Amanda Cromwell and Assistant Coach Sam Greene. The results found that Cromwell and Greene were in violation of the NWSL’s policy against workplace misconduct and their contracts have been terminated by the league, effective immediately.

The joint investigation found that charges of verbal abuse and improper favoritism were substantiated and that both Cromwell and Greene were engaging in “retaliatory conduct towards players who they believed had initiated, participated in, and were supportive of the March investigation.” As a result, the Pride will be searching for the team’s next permanent head coach.

Public acknowledgement of an investigation came in June when the Pride placed Cromwell and Greene on administrative leave. Assistant Coach Michelle Akers and Goalkeeping Coach Aline Reis took personal time off for the remainder of the season. As a result, Assistant Coach Seb Hines, who was on staff prior to Cromwell’s arrival and the only coach to remain on the job, took over as the interim manager with assistance from Giles Barnes and Miguel Gallardo. Barnes served as an interim assistant while Gallardo was coaching on a voluntary basis. The interim staff continued coaching the team for the remainder of the 2022 NWSL season.

According to the report, allegations of verbal abuse and improper favoritism by Cromwell and allegations of improper favoritism by Greene were initially reported in March 2022. Since some of those were substantiated by the NWSL/NWSLPA joint investigative team, Cromwell and Greene received written warnings at the time. Additionally, Cromwell was required to participate in leadership training.

In May, the joint investigative team received reports that Cromwell and Greene were engaging in retaliatory conduct towards players they believed had initiated the original complaints or were supportive of the March investigation. These claims were also substantiated by the joint investigative team.

The investigation revealed that Cromwell and Greene discouraged reporting to the league and “fostered a general fear of retaliation.” The coaches took negative action against players by seeking to trade or waive them. Additionally, Reis failed to fully cooperate with the investigation, including pressuring players to share favorable information with the investigators.

In June, Cromwell, Greene, Reis, and Akers complained that they were subjected to various forms of misconduct. A third-party investigation looked into these claims and found that they were unsubstantiated.

As a result of the findings, Cromwell and Greene have been terminated and the pair will not be able to work in the NWSL unless they are approved by the league commissioner. To re-enter the league, they will have to take part in mandatory training regarding retaliation, discrimination, harassment, and bullying and must participate in mandatory executive coaching. They will only be considered for reinstatement after completing these mandatory trainings, acknowledge wrongdoing, and “demonstrating a sincere commitment to modifying their behavior.”

For her part, Reis has been placed on unpaid administrative leave, effective immediately. Reis must participate in the same training as Cromwell and Greene to return to the league. However, unlike Cromwell and Greene, Reis can return to coaching while she completes the executive coaching requirement.

The league is also requiring additional training on retaliation, disrimination, harassment, and bullying for the entire Pride organization to ensure that everyone understands the league’s expectations on appropriate conduct and behavior.

“As we continue to build a league as elite as the players on the pitch, it is critically important that we foster a culture where individuals can safely come forward with concerns without fear of reprisal,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. “These retaliation concerns were identified during the NWSL/NWSLPA Joint Investigation and interim measures were put in place due to the ongoing nature of the misconduct.” 

As for the Pride, Chairman Mark Wilf released a statement this afternoon approving of the investigation, its results, and the league’s actions.

We would like to thank our players, staff and the Joint Investigative Team for their commitment to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation. Our organization has received a review of the findings regarding retaliatory conduct toward Pride players and supports the actions taken by the National Women’s Soccer League, including the league’s decision to terminate the contracts of Amanda Cromwell and Sam Greene, effective immediately.

Our Club is dedicated to providing a safe, inclusive and respectful environment, and we apologize to our players who may have experienced otherwise. We are committed to learning from this process as we continue to build and grow the Pride into the premier organization our players and fans deserve. As a step in that process, we will be implementing anti-retaliation training for all Pride staff members, on both the Soccer Operations side and in the front office.

As we move forward, we will work with our coaching staff to determine the best next steps for all parties.

As for Cromwell, she used a Twitter post to deny any wrongdoing and questions the integrity of the investigation.

Cromwell coached 13 games with the Pride in all competitions (six NWSL Challenge Cup matches and seven in the NWSL regular season), posting a record of 2-7-4 (0-4-2 in the Challenge Cup and 2-3-2 in the regular season). She used the Challenge Cup as a way to evaluate the players and to see how different combinations of players worked together. Once the season started, the Pride got off to a better-than-anticipated start despite the loss of Marta for the season as the Brazilian sustained a knee injury. Her last match in charge was a 5-0 road loss at Houston on June 3 — which, at the time, tied the franchise’s worst ever loss. It was the club’s first road loss of the regular season.

Hines took over starting with Orlando’s June 12 match at Chicago. Under Hines, the Pride went 3-7-5, earning 14 points in 15 games. Cromwell’s 1.14 points per game were slightly better than Hines’ 0.93 points per game, but Hines took the team on a seven-game unbeaten run before struggling down the stretch with an 0-5-1 skid.

Wilf mentioned in his statement that Orlando has begun the search for its next head coach.

We recognize that hiring the club’s next head coach is a critical step forward, and we will immediately begin a process to identify a leader that will embody the values of our organization, bring a competitive roster to the field and, most importantly, protect and advocate for our players.

The next Pride manager will be the team’s fourth full-time head coach when the club’s eighth year of existence begins in 2023, and the seventh person to manage the team on either a full-time or part-time basis since the team was announced in 2015.

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Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals: Final Score 1-0 as Pride Claim First Win of 2024 NWSL Season

Marta’s 68th-minute goal lifted the Pride to their first win of the season over the Utah Royals on the road.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride (1-0-3, 6 points) claimed their first win of the 2024 NWSL season by defeating the Utah Royals (1-3-0, 3 points) 1-0 at America First Field in Sandy, UT. Marta’s 68th-minute goal shortly after coming on as a second-half substitute was the difference between the two teams.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines only made two changes to the team that drew the Chicago Red Stars 1-1 two weeks ago. Julie Doyle and Summer Yates joined the starting lineup in place of Luana and Marta. The back line in front of Anna Moorhouse was Kerry Abello, Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, and Brianna Martinez. Angelina moved from the attacking midfield back to the defensive midfield alongside Morgan Gautrat. The attack midfielders were Doyle, Yates, and Adriana with Ally Watt up top.

The most surprising omission from the lineup might have been Marta. The team captain was left on the bench after playing a pair of games for Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup during the international break.

“She had a different role today,” Hines said of his captain. “We were mindful of her energy levels. She played 90 minutes for Brazil on Tuesday and it was a quick turnaround with the travel also.”

It was also the first start of Yates’ young career. The midfielder played minimal minutes during her rookie campaign but has made a significant impact on the team’s attack this year, earning her first start for the Pride.

“That’s been coming with her,” Hines said about adding Yates to the starting lineup. “With the level that she’s had at the start of the season, she’s been brilliant. So she fully deserved the start today.”

Despite being the visiting team and playing in a difficult climate, the Pride were the better team from the opening whistle. Excellent performances by Yates, Adriana, Angelina, and Marta in the attack kept the Royals on their back foot and the center back pairing of Sams and Strom made it a relatively easy night for Moorhouse.

In the early minutes of the game, the Pride looked to attack through Abello on the left. In the third minute, she sent a cross into the box looking for Watt or Doyle, but Royals goalkeeper Mandy Haught was there to catch it. Three minutes later, Adriana tried to set her up for a cross, but Abello’s first touch was too strong and the ball went out of play.

The Royals nearly had their first chance in the eighth minute when a turnover by Doyle enabled rookie Ally Sentnor to send Hannah Betfort forward. Moorhouse initially was coming out to challenge, but retreated. Fortunately, Strom did well from her center back position to challenge the Utah striker and knock the ball out of play.

The game’s first shot came from an individual effort by Betfort. Receiving the ball from Dana Foederer at the top of the box, Betfort turned to lose Gautrat and get a shot off. It was on target, but Moorhouse was there to catch it.

The Pride had their first good chance in the 15th minute when Yates’ cross was blocked out of play by Madison Pogarch. Angelina’s corner kick was met by Adriana, who flicked it towards the back post with her right foot. Unfortunately, nobody could get on the end of it and the ball went harmlessly out of play.

In the 26th minute, Pogarch lost the ball to Yates and pulled on the midfielder’s arm trying to get it back, receiving a yellow card for her trouble. The ensuing set piece eventually ended up with Angelina outside of the box. The Brazilian took a shot aiming for the near post, but missed just wide. However, Haught wasn’t comfortable with the attempt, diving to ensure it didn’t sneak in.

The Pride had an excellent chance in the 37th minute when pressure by Yates forced a turnover to Angelina. Watt picked up the ball and played it forward for Yates, who found Angelina behind the Royals’ defense. It looked like Angelina had a chance from a tight angle, but she sent the shot wide.

An Adriana shot in the 40th minute was blocked and Pogarch got the last touch as it went out of play for a Pride corner kick. Yates took the set piece, sending it to the back post where Sams was charging in. The center back headed the ball back across the box where Gautrat attempted to redirect it on goal. Unfortunately, she sent her header wide of the target.

While the Pride had most of the attacking chances, Utah had one of its own in the 44th minute when Brecken Mozingo sent a long ball down the right for Paige Monaghan between Sams and Strom. Monaghan took possession in the box and shot from a tight angle, but Moorhouse was there to collect it.

Less than a minute later, the Pride nearly scored the opening goal. Adriana forced a turnover, enabling Yates to take control with her momentum going forward. The second-year midfielder found space between two defenders to shoot and it appeared to be on target, but Haught tipped it wide with a diving save.

Martinez might’ve gotten a little lucky a minute into first-half stoppage time when she lifted her foot near midfield to send the ball forward and caught Sentnor in the face. There was a brief stoppage of play, possibly as the video assistant referee checked for a possible red card. But Martinez was lucky to avoid any booking on the play.

At halftime, the Pride held the advantage in most statistical categories. They had more possession (51.5%-48.5%), shots (7-3), corners (6-1), and crosses (15-1), and better passing accuracy (83.5%-82.7%). However, a common problem early this season reared its head as the Royals put more chances on target (3-1) in the first half.

It didn’t take the Pride long to create a chance in the second half. In the 46th minute, a quick give-and-go between Adriana and Angelina sent Adriana forward. She sent a dangerous cross through the box that went past Watt and to Doyle at the back post. However, the midfielder couldn’t get a solid foot on the ball, sending it off target.

A minute later, Doyle had another chance when she intercepted a lazy pass by Agnes Nyberg. Dribbling into the box, Doyle decided to play it back for Watt at the top of the box instead of taking the shot herself. It was the wrong decision, as Kate Del Fava reached it first and cleared it away.

The Pride had a third good chance in the 53rd minute when Adriana made another long run into the Utah box. She found Doyle on the right, and the winger sent a low cross looking for Abello in front of goal. However, it was too close to Haught, who made the stop.

In the 54th minute, a challenge on Adriana resulted in the ball popping out wide to Watt. The forward carried it to the top of the box where she shot towards the near post. Once again, a long-distance attempt by the Pride was just wide.

Utah did little to trouble the Pride until the 58th minute, when Sentnor took a long shot. It was a strong hit and on target, but didn’t cause any problems for Moorhouse.

In the 58th minute, Adriana had a collision with Olivia Griffitts that resulted in the Brazilian requiring treatment. She briefly came back on after leaving the field, but quickly went back to the ground. As a result, Hines made his first change of the game, replacing Adriana with Marta.

It didn’t take long for Marta to make her mark on the game as she gave the Pride the lead in the 68th minute. It started with a quick pass from Marta to Watt on the right. The forward sent a cross to the back post that landed at the feet of Abello. Yates slid into the box to meet Abello’s first-touch cross, but missed. Instead, it went to Marta, whose first touch was a shot into the far netting, giving the Pride a much-deserved 1-0 lead.

“I saw that Ally (Watt) was getting into a crossing position and I knew that I had to make that back post,” Abello said about the play. “So I got up there and she hit it back post and I knew that we had other players in the box. So my only thinking was just to put it back across and let them do their thing. Someone almost got to it which opened up that path to Marta who put it away.”

“Marta takes a goal really, really well,” Hines added about the strike. “It comes from waves of attacks. One, two, third phase within that moment and then she just finished like perfectly into the corner.”

Hines made his second change shortly after, replacing Doyle with Haley McCutcheon in the 71st minute.

The Pride nearly doubled their lead in the 74th minute when Angelina sent a long ball for McCutcheon on the right. Cutting inside to beat her defender, McCutcheon played it to the far post where Watt was making a run. Nobody picked up the forward and she redirected the ball on target, but Haught did well to get down and block it out of play.

The ensuing corner by Yates was to the back post where Strom and Foederer both went for it. The collision sent the ball over the crossbar for a goal kick and left Foederer on the ground holding her left shoulder.

The Pride made their final changes in the 83rd minute as Mariana Larroquette and Ally Lemos entered the game for Watt and Yates. A minute later, Utah made three changes that included an appearance by former Pride midfielder Mikayla Cluff. It was Cluff’s first time facing the Pride after being traded this off-season.

Utah had a chance for an equalizer in the second minute of second-half stoppage time when Strom headed Griffitts’ cross out for a corner. The ensuing set piece by Zoe Burns went all the way through the box where Kaleigh Riehl collected it. The defender played it across for Sentnor, who took a long, on-target shot. However, it was too close to Moorhouse, who made the save.

While the Royals had plenty of possession during injury time, they struggled to threaten the Pride. As a result, the visitors were able to hold on for the 1-0 win, their first of the young season.

At full time, the Pride had more shots (14-5), corners (10-3), and crosses (22-5), and better passing accuracy (83.4%-82.6%). Utah had more possession (50.2%-49.8%) and shots on target (5-4), but Marta’s 68th-minute goal was the only conversion.

“We’ve obviously set out at the start of the year, considering how well we did last year, we knew that we needed to pick up more points away from home,” Hines said about the win. “What a great example today with three points away from home under tough conditions. Obviously, after an international break as well, and so I just love the commitment and the desire for the players to keep going and play the right way. And it’s a massive reward for them to come away with three points after having a really good performance tonight.”

“We were just missing that kind of final piece,” Strom added about getting a win after three consecutive draws. “We were knocking on the door, knocking on the door, and we finally got one through. What a goal by Marta. Are you kidding me? So I think we just needed that confidence and self belief. We knew it was coming. We were never in doubt. We were not leaving this field without three points. So, so happy we got it.”

The Pride arguably had their best performance of the young season tonight, controlling the game for the entire 90 minutes. It was a defensive accomplishment to get the first shutout of the season and holding onto the lead to claim all three points.

“I’m really pleased with the, obviously, shutout. That’s something that we need to continue to grow on,” Hines said after the game. “I do feel like both in possession and out of possession, we controlled the game for the most part. I thought Summer (Yates) and Ally (Watt) did a really good job with dictating the press for us in errors from Utah. And then I think what we can do to improve more is being a little bit more threatening in transition. You know, maybe get a few more shots at the opponent’s goal. But other than that, I’m just so pleased for them.”

The Pride were trying to avoid being the first team in NWSL history to draw its first four games of the season and did so with this away win. They also move to six points on the season and move into fifth in the league standings.


With a win under their belt, the Pride will now return home to Orlando, where they’ll welcome San Diego Wave FC next Friday night.

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Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride return to action tonight as they travel west to face the Utah Royals.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to your match thread as the Orlando Pride (0-0-3, 3 points) travel west to take on the Utah Royals (1-2-0, 3 points). This is the first of two games the teams will play against each other this season with the return meeting in Orlando scheduled for June 21.

Here’s everything you need to know about tonight’s game.

History

The Royals first played in 2018 and 2019 before the team was purchased and relocated to Kansas City. The new owners of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake bought an expansion side, so it’s the first time the two teams have met since 2019, although this is an all-new side. The Pride were just 1-3-2 against the original Royals, with all games coming in the NWSL regular season.

The last time the Pride met Utah was on Aug. 17, 2019 in Orlando. Christen Press gave the visitors the lead in the 60th minute and Amy Rodriguez doubled the advantage in the 77th minute as the Royals won 2-0. Prior to that game, the teams played in Utah on May 25 with the same result. Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 31st minute from the penalty spot and Makenzy Doniak made it 2-0 in the 89th minute. The first game between the teams in 2019 was on April 27. The difference was a familiar goal scorer, as Press netted the lone goal in the 19th minute in a 1-0 result.

The 2018 campaign was the Royals’ inaugural season, and Orlando got the better of the newcomers, going unbeaten in three matches (1-0-2). In the 2018 season opener, Utah and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw. The Royals scored on their first chance of the game. They had an excellent spell of possession and, in the third minute, Diana Matheson put in a cross, and Gunny Jonsdottir — who later played for the Pride for two seasons in 2021 and 2022 — volleyed it into the back of the net. Marta tied things up from the spot in the 21st minute, and the game ended 1-1. 

About a month and a half later, the teams met again, playing to a 0-0 draw, this time in Rio Tinto Stadium. It was a relatively dull night with no goals and the majority of the action in the middle of the field. Both teams struggled on the attacking end. There were no shots on target in the first half and just three in the second.

While those first two matches ended in draws, the last meeting of 2018 finally saw a winner. On July 14, 2018, there was end-to-end action, and both teams saw chances in front of the net. Utah found an early goal, this time from Rodriguez in the eighth minute, and then Alex Morgan tied it up with a penalty kick just before halftime. In the 52nd minute, a good through ball from Ali Krieger found Kristen Edmonds one-on-one with Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith, who was caught out of position. Edmonds chipped the ball past Smith for the game-winner, and Orlando got its first-ever victory against the Royals.

Overview

The Pride have claimed points in all three of their games so far this season, though they’ve drawn each one. It started with a late Summer Yates goal to draw Racing Louisville FC 2-2 on the road before returning home for a two-game homestand. Marta’s late strike enabled the hosts to draw Angel City FC 1-1 and they drew the Chicago Red Stars by the same score two weeks ago.

Injuries and a lack of goals have been problematic for the Pride early this season. While their back line is almost completely healthy, the team is still missing Barbra Banda, who will likely be the starter after she arrives in Orlando Sunday morning. In the meantime, they’ll need other attacking options like Ally Watt, Marta, and Adriana to step up.

Utah is one of the NWSL’s two expansion teams, returning to the league after a four-year hiatus. As a result, they have a roster that’s trying to get used to playing with each other. Former Royals star Rodriguez is the head coach and has built the team with a combination of veterans and young players. The Royals lost two of their first three games, but beat the North Carolina Courage 2-1 on March 22, placing them even on points with the Pride.

The Royals used the first overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft on former North Carolina Tar Heel Ally Sentnor and the selection has been paying off. The rookie has scored two of the three goals for the Royals this season, coming in the two most recent games. The other goal was scored by Kate Del Fava in the team’s win over the Courage.

Tonight’s opponent has two former Pride players on its roster. Mikayla Cluff was traded on Nov. 15 for Expansion Draft protection, and Carly Nelson was sent west on Dec. 12 for an international spot and Allocation Money. Both players grew up in the Salt Lake City area and went to local colleges, with Cluff attending Brigham Young University and Nelson the University of Utah. For this reason, the trades weren’t very surprising.

Nelson started the team’s first game, a 2-1 loss to the Red Stars, but has been on the bench for the two most recent games. So far, Cluff has only made one appearance, coming on as a late substitute against the Courage.

While the Royals have had a tough start to the season with two losses, Pride Head Coach Seb Hines likes what he’s seen from the league newcomers and believes that claiming points will be a tough task for the Pride.

“You look at Utah being a new team, (but) they have been in every game that they have competed in,” Hines said. “We looked at their first game against Chicago. I felt they controlled a majority of the game against Chicago and were unlucky not to get anything out of the game. They played North Carolina at home and managed to get a win against a difficult team, so they showed that togetherness and their willing to battle and fight. Even without the ball, they managed to get points, and then Washington could have gone either way. They have got three points out of three games and been unlucky in a couple of games, so it is going to be a challenge for ourselves to go to Utah and try to get something out of the game.

“It is more about ourselves and what we can do and what we can produce on the day. If we play some of our best football and we reward ourselves by getting ourselves in those areas of the field where we can be threatening and execute in that final third, then I think everyone will walk away with what we feel we deserve. Utah is going to be a tough game, obviously going to Utah is going to be a challenge with the altitude, but the players will be more than prepared and know what is at stake in the game.”

The Pride are still without three players that have suffered season-ending injuries in Simone Charley (right leg), Megan Montefusco (right heel), and Viviana Villacorta (left knee). Luana is also listed as out with an excused absence. While Rafaelle (foot) is listed as questionable, she’s been upgraded after a fractured foot has kept her sidelined for the first three games of the season.

Utah has two players out for tonight’s game, including Imani Dorsey (Achilles) and Ifeoma Onumonu (ankle). Additionally, Nelson is listed as questionable (illness).


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Anna Moorhouse.

Defenders: Kylie Strom, Emily Sams, Kerry Abello, Brianna Martinez.

Defensive Midfielders: Angelina, Morgan Gautrat.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, Adriana.

Forward: Ally Watt.

Bench: McKinley Crone, Ally Lemos, Amanda Allen, Evelina Duljan, Mariana Larroquette, Celia, Carrie Lawrence, Haley McCutcheon, Marta.

Utah Royals (4-3-3)

Goalkeeper: Mandy Haught.

Defenders: Madison Pogarch, Kaleigh Riehl, Kate Del Fava, Olivia Griffitts.

Midfielders: Agnes Nyberg, Paige Monaghan, Dana Foederer.

Forward: Ally Sentnor, Hannah Betfort, Brecken Mozingo.

Bench: Lauren Flynn, Michele Vasconcelos, Zoe Burns, Addisyn Merrick, Frankie Tagliaferri, Cameron Tucker, Mikayla Cluff, Emily Gray, Cristina Roque.

Referees

REF: Thomas Snyder.
AR1: Noah Kenyawani.
AR2: Darren Bandy.
4TH: Jordan Downs.
VAR: Laura Rodriguez.
AVAR: Tom Felice.


How to Watch

Match Time: 9:30 p.m.

Venue: America First Field — Sandy, UT.

TV: Bally Sports Florida.

Streaming: NWSL+.

Twitter: For live updates and rapid reaction, follow @TheManeLand and the Orlando Pride’s official Twitter feed (@ORLPride).


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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The Orlando Pride Midfield Rebuild: Key Stats Through Three Matches

Going inside the numbers on the Pride’s rebuilt midfield and overall team play.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride embarked on the past off-season with a clear plan of rebuilding in the center of the pitch. Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter described this as the second step of a back-to-front roster overhaul. To that end, the Pride signed Morgan Gautrat and Angelina from elsewhere in the NWSL and veteran Luana from her native Brazil.

Reviewing the profiles of these players, the skills recruited are clear. They are versatile athletes who are comfortable playing with the ball at their feet, passing through the lines to connect play, and doing the dirty work defending out of possession. They were brought in to act as the heart of a team that challenges for the playoffs in the 2024 season. Now, admittedly with just three matches played, it is time to take a look at the early performances of the new midfield compared to the prior season and evaluate the improvements so far, the areas for continued attention, and what it all means for the long season ahead.


Play Style and Roster Shakeup

Head Coach Seb Hines has a clear vision of what he wants from his midfield. Orlando almost always lines up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, where there are two central midfielders (CMs) in front of a traditional back four defense. The role of these CMs, sometimes dubbed defensive or holding midfielders, is twofold. When not in possession, they act as an additional line of defense in front of the center-backs in order to break up the play and stop the opponents’ progress forward. In possession, they are tasked with receiving the ball from the defense or goalkeeper, playing in congested spaces, and progressing the ball forward to the attacking players. 

In 2023, Mikayla Cluff, Viviana Villacorta, and Jordyn Listro garnered the lion’s-share of minutes at CM, featuring in 53 combined NWSL matches. Of this trio, Cluff was traded to Utah, Listro’s contract expired without her being re-signed, and Villacorta is still recovering from the ACL tear that cost her the end of the 2023 season. While everyone wishes Villacorta a swift recovery, it will be important for the Pride staff to bring her along slowly as she recovers from her third season-ending injury in as many seasons. This group, with the occasional fill-in player due to a lack of depth, helped the Pride finish seventh in the NWSL with a record of 10-11-1, just missing out on the playoffs due to goal difference. 

The new additions for 2024 — Gautrat, Angelina, and Luana — have each appeared in every match so far. Gautrat has started at CM three times and Luana twice, while Angelina has started each match, but twice in a more attacking, wide-midfield role to accommodate absences around the pitch. Evaluating the new CMs requires a statistical review of their performances in three key areas — defensive interventions, passing and possession, and attacking contributions. This is followed by a look at overall team performance to assess how the job done by the CMs fits into the bigger picture.


Defensive Metrics

The first set of metrics used for comparison between the 2023 and 2024 central midfielders is their defensive contributions. While there is no one-size-fits-all statistic to analyze individual players perfectly, combining several “defensive action” statistics can help. Clearances, blocks, interceptions, and successful tackles have been tallied for the six primary CMs from the past two seasons and normalized per 90 minutes to create the chart below. The calculated number of “Defensive Actions per 90 Minutes,” shown at the top of the bar for each player, summarizes how many times per match the chosen player is breaking up the opponent’s attack in these ways.

Of the six CMs, Luana is the most productive defender by this metric. The player typically starting beside her, Gautrat, is contributing significantly on the defensive end as well, providing a robust tandem in front of the back line. Combined, they are contributing three more defensive actions per 90 minutes than Cluff and Villacorta, the most common CM pairing in 2023. Lastly, Angelina’s defensive contributions should be taken with a grain of salt, as she has spent more minutes as a wide midfielder than a central one so far in 2024, which places her farther from the defending. Taken together, the 2024 CMs are showing promising improvement on the defensive end relative to the prior campaign.


Passing and Possession

Up next are two of the most important metrics for midfielders, starting with individual passing, and then team-wide possession metrics. To compare the passing abilities of the Pride CMs, the plot below shows how often and how accurately a player passes the ball. These numbers, again normalized per 90 minutes, are plotted on the horizontal and vertical axes, respectively.

Looking at the data above, it is immediately apparent that each CM from the 2024 squad is attempting more passes per game than the 2023 squad. Not only that, they are doing so more accurately, on average. Individually, Luana is passing at a similar statistical level to Cluff,  while Angelina is completing her passes at a slightly higher clip on much greater volume. Gautrat’s security with the ball is especially striking, demonstrating the composure expected of a player heavily involved with the U.S. Women’s National Team prior to several injury-marred seasons. It is important to note again that Villacorta, the most accurate passer from the 2023 trio, could have a role to play this season when she recovers from her injury.

Beyond the individual statistics, the impact of the improved passing abilities of the new midfielders can be seen in the full-team passing and possession data. The table below compares Orlando’s possession per match and the same passing metrics from above on a team-wide basis, as well as the Pride’s relative ranks in the NWSL.

Pride Possession and Passing in NWSL Matches 2023 to 2024
2023 Team % (League Rank)2024 Team % (League Rank)
Possession %46.4% (12th)53.7% (6th)
Passing %73.8% (5th)78.6 (4th)
Passes per Match302 (10th)395 (4th)

Reviewing the table above, not only have the pride improved in each of the passing and possession metrics from last season to this one, they are now in the top half of the league for all three statistics and the top third of the league for passing. It is credit to the new midfielders that they have made such an immediate impact on the overall style of play for the Pride in 2024. This is something Seb Hines and Haley Carter would’ve been keen to see implemented on the pitch after the squad lacked the appropriate skills for more possession-based play in prior seasons.


Attacking and Results

The last piece of the statistical puzzle for the central midfield rebuild is attacking contribution. Unfortunately, there is little data to this point in the season. Through the whole of the 2023 campaign, Cluff, Villacorta, and Listro combined for two goals and two assists — total — with three of the four goal contributions coming from Cluff. In 2024, the new-look midfield has assisted once so far, as Angelina fed Marta from a corner. Angelina also created an own goal from a corner that does not appear in the statistics. The 2024 CMs have only attempted two shots, placing one on target and not scoring. It may be a safe assumption that Hines and staff hope the occasional goal can be scored from the CM role, but so far in 2024 that has not been the case. Considering the number of absences from the back line to start the year, more conservative play from the likes of Gautrat and Luana may have been necessary to alleviate stress on the makeshift defense.

Lastly, looking beyond the individual performances, the most important metric for the Pride is whether they are playing well, creating goal-scoring chances, and preventing them at the other end. To evaluate this, the table below looks at the expected goals (xG), expected goals against (xGA), and points accrued per match between 2023 and 2024.

Pride xG, xGA, and Points Earned in NWSL Matches 2023 to 2024
2023 (League Rank)2024 (League Rank)
Expected Goals per Match1.40 (5th)1.00 (9th)
Expected Goals Against per Match1.31 (7th)1.20 (6th)
Points per Match1.41 (7th)1.00 (7th)

The table above paints the picture of a team that is defending marginally better than it did last year but attacking with less effectiveness. As for points, the Pride are undefeated with three draws from three games, two in comeback fashion, and sit seventh, the same as the end of 2023.  

The goal of this table is not to say that the team is worse off now than it was a year ago. Context matters, and just the opposite may be true. The context is that in the days leading up to the season, Megan Montefusco and Simone Charley suffered season-ending injuries, hurting both the defense and attack. Starting center back Rafaelle was also injured, but has since returned to training. Lastly, marquee summer signing Barbra Banda will be arriving after the international break and should be the game-charger that sparks a so-far listless attack.

Considering the early adversity faced, the rebuilt midfield has acquitted itself well to start the long NWSL campaign. The new CMs have been better equipped to pass and possess the ball, and the defensive metrics have shown an uptick individually and as a team. The final step is to turn these improvements into better results, and there is every reason to believe that this midfield can be the foundation to build off and push for a spot in the postseason.

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