The muddled roster picture of the Orlando Pride blurred even more today as veteran midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard signed a two-year contract as a free agent with the San Diego Wave. While it’s not completely unexpected for a free agent player to switch teams, the native of Largo leaves her home state to play on the other side of the country, joining multiple other former Pride players, including Alex Morgan and Taylor Kornieck.
The 27-year-old originally joined the Pride via trade from the Washington Spirit on Dec. 24, 2020. Dougherty Howard was part of the deal that sent Emily Sonnett to the Spirit without ever having played for Orlando. The Pride also received $140,000 in Allocation Money, the Spirit’s first-round pick in 2023 — which was subsequently flipped for $350,000 in Allocation Money and a 2024 fourth-round pick — and the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, which turned out to be UCLA midfielder Viviana Villacorta.
In two seasons with the Pride, Dougherty Howard appeared in 36 NWSL matches (28 starts), logging 2,294 minutes. She scored three goals — all in 2022 — and added three assists, attempting 22 shots and getting four on target. She also appeared in eight NWSL Challenge Cup games (five starts), logging 453 minutes and notching two assists. She was named to the NWSL Team of the Month last August after a good run of form by both her and the team.
What It Means for Orlando
A source confirmed that MDH held an offer from the Pride, so the club was interested in having the midfielder return to Orlando for the upcoming 2023 season. What we don’t know is the extent of that interest (read: the financials). Prior to joining the Pride she had been a backup with Washington, so it’s difficult to imagine that there was a significant offer made, particularly given the club’s efforts toward becoming younger and faster.
Dougherty Howard, who will turn 28 this summer, is an experienced player with a good feel for the game, but she lacks pace. The Pride would likely be better served getting Villacorta more minutes and could still bring in other options to either start or provide depth.
As a free agent, Dougherty Howard had options that were out of the club’s hands. Her departure leaves another roster spot that needs to be filled. It’s not clear how quickly the roster will come together with the preseason looming at the end of the month and no general manager in place. Teams around the league continue to make signings, but Orlando has been quiet this off-season aside from re-signing Marta, Villacorta, Carrie Lawrence, Erika Tymrak, and Ally Watt to new deals — all through 2024. However, the most recent of those came three weeks ago.
The Mane Land staff gave MDH a rating of 6 out of 10 in 2021 and the same score in 2022. She was a solid, if unspectacular, option to have on the pitch or on the bench during her two years in Orlando. While that consistency is admirable, the club isn’t losing an irreplaceable player who was dominant in the league. There are still some good midfielders out of contract and the Pride have a lot of Allocation Money and some open roster spots with which to work.
With the NWSL Draft happening in a few hours, hopefully business will pick up on the Pride side soon.