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Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Couarge: Final Score 1-1 as Pride Drop Points on Another Last-Second Goal

The Pride conceded a second-half stoppage time goal for the third straight game to draw the Courage at home.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride opened their 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup campaign by conceding another late goal at Exploria Stadium, but this time they pulled out a point against the North Carolina Courage. Ally Watt gave the Pride (0-0-1, 1 point in the NWSL Challenge Cup) their first lead of the year early in the second half, but Denise O’Sullivan equalized for North Carolina (0-0-1, 1 point) deep in second-half stoppage time, resulting in a 1-1 draw.

Pride Head Coach Seb Hines made six changes to the team that lost 2-0 to NJ/NY Gotham FC over the weekend. After Kaylie Collins started in goal Saturday night, Carly Nelson got her first minutes in goal for the Pride tonight. Tori Hansen, Megan Montefusco, Viviana Villacorta, and Summer Yates also started for the first time this year. The back line in front of Nelson was Hansen, and Montefusco in the middle, between fullbacks Emily Madril, and Kylie Strom. Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff were the defensive midfielders, with Yates, Erika Tymrak, and Watt in the attacking midfield, and Messiah Bright up top.

“We wanted to use this as an opportunity to give players game time,” Hines said about the six changes. “And the ones who haven’t played the last couple of games to get out there and play. We got hit with the injury bug. And we had to really manage players going into this game. You know, there were some players that suffered a couple of injuries after the Gotham game. We had a few injuries after training and it was ultimately just trying to manage players.”

The Pride got off to an attacking start in this game, but were unable to connect passes in the final third. In the third minute, Watt used her speed to dash down the right wing and send the ball towards the top of the six-yard box. It was a good cross, but she was well out in front of her teammates and her cross was sent in too early and easily cleared.

The visitors got their first attempt of the night in the fifth minute when Kerolin took a shot from the top of the box. She had space, but her effort was low and relatively soft, creating no trouble for Nelson to make her first official save as a member of the Pride.

After attempting to use Watt’s speed on the wing didn’t work, the Pride tried to send her through on goal from the midfield. In the eighth minute, Tymrak played a good ball forward, looking for the speedster to beat the center backs and goalkeeper Casey Murphy. Unfortunately, it was a little too far for her.

O’Sullivan sent Kerolin into the Pride box in the 16th minute and it looked like the Brazilian international would get a shot on goal. But Madril, playing right back instead of her usual center back position, did well to get in front of the shot and block it out for the game’s first corner kick.

The ensuing corner by Ryan Williams was headed out by Montefusco, but it went right to Kerolin at the top of the box. The midfielder sent in either a cross or a shot, but it went over the goal, giving the Pride a goal kick.

The Pride had their best chance of the early portion of the game in the 22nd minute, created by Watt. The attacker initially lost possession to Malia Berkely, but immediately won it back and sent a low cross into the box. It found Bright at the top of the six, but her first touch was too heavy, resulting in the loss of possession.

After attempting to create chances for Watt and Bright, Yates took her first shot in the 32nd minute. Bright played the ball back to her fellow rookie at the top left corner of the 18 and the fourth-round pick took an ambitious attempt. But O’Sullivan was too close, blocking it with relative ease.

In the 34th minute, Strom pushed forward down the left and got a cross off into the North Carolina box. Watt was making a run, but couldn’t connect with it and the ball skipped through, allowing the Courage to clear it.

North Carolina had a good chance in the 41st minute when a Williams cross was blocked, but went right out to Tyler Lussi. It looked like the midfielder had a clear look at goal, but her shot hit the back of O’Sullivan.

That was the last decent chance of the half as the game went into halftime scoreless. There was little action in the first 45 minutes, with North Carolina logging more possession (58.1%-41.9%), shots (5-1), shots on goal (1-0), corners (1-0), and passing accuracy (85.9%-81.4%). The Pride ended the first half with more duels won (28-22) and both teams had three crosses.

North Carolina got the first chance of the second half in the 49th minute. It was started by O’Sullivan, who sent a low cross into the six-yard box. Montefusco was there but couldn’t clear it and Lussi beat a flat-footed Strom to the ball. Lussi attempted to redirect the cross on target with her first touch, but it went wide of the goal.

The Courage had a quick flurry of chances in the 53rd minute when O’Sullivan sent Berkely into the Pride box. The right back attempted to cross it for Kerolin, but Montefusco was there to make the block. The ball went right back to Berkely, who shot again. This time, Nelson knocked it out for a Courage corner.

The ensuing corner kick ended up with Kerolin just outside of the box. The playmaker cut inside and was taken down by Kerry Abello, who came on for Cluff at halftime. Kerolin decided to take the kick herself and went for goal. The shot was on target, but Nelson blocked it away, enabling the Pride to clear.

Two minutes later, the Pride broke the deadlock. In the 56th minute, a long set piece by Nelson found Yates and the rookie quickly played Watt behind the North Carolina defense. Murphy came out to cut down Watt’s angle and got a piece of the ball, but she didn’t get enough of it and the ball bounced in to give the Pride the 1-0 lead.

“I know she’s gonna make that run in behind. I love that slip ball to her,” Yates said about the goal. “Ally’s so fast it makes my job easy. Just finding the gaps and, yeah, we’ve studied it a lot and we did it a lot in training.”

Right off the kickoff it looked like the Pride would give up their lead. Kerolin sprinted down the field and into the Pride box. Hansen was tracking back to defend and the attacker was near the end line so she cut back. Hansen went down, and the ball hit her arm. Referee Gabriele Giusti immediately pointed to the spot, awarding North Carolina a penalty.

Fortunately for the Pride, Giusti received an alert from the video assistant referee to go to the replay monitor and have another look at the play. After a review of over four minutes, Giusti returned to the field waving his arms, signaling no penalty, and allowing the Pride to avoid conceding a penalty in three consecutive games.

In the 64th minute, a clearance attempt by the Pride only went as far as Lussi at the top of the box. The midfielder took a shot towards goal, but missed just over the crossbar.

Three minutes later, Abello went to her knee with an injury. The Pride medical staff came out to look at her and ultimately took her straight back to the locker room. The Courage got a shot off from Ratcliffe, while the Pride were a player down, but it was blocked and Abello was replaced by Maliah Morris, who signed as an injury replacement on Tuesday. Hines also decided to make another change in addition to the Abello sub, bringing on Haley McCutcheon for Villacorta.

Ratcliffe nearly tied the game in the 72nd minute when a lovely turn beat Madril, taking her behind the Pride defense. Her shot towards the far post was beyond the reach of Nelson, but missed just wide.

The Courage had another chance in the 76th minute when a Berkely cross nearly connected with Ratcliffe at the near post, but she couldn’t get her foot to it. However, it went straight to Kerolin at the far post, but she couldn’t get on the end of the pass either and the Pride escaped.

The Pride finally created another chance in the 80th minute when Bright won a 50-50 ball and played it off for Yates. The attacker shielded her defender, dribbling into the Courage box and fired, but missed wide of the right post.

In the 82nd minute, Hines made the Pride’s fourth change, bringing on Adriana for Tymrak and it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to get involved. Two minutes after coming on, she completed a long run and sent the ball for Bright making a run into the box. But it was a little too far for the rookie.

In the 88th minute, substitute Rikke Madsen played Kerolin past Montefusco and into the Pride box. It was a game-defining moment for Nelson, who stood tall and made an excellent save to maintain the 1-0 lead.

The Courage continued their pressure in the 89th minute when the Pride couldn’t clear a Narumi Miura corner. It ended up at the foot of Williams, but she seemed unprepared for it and could only knock it out for a goal kick.

As the game entered second-half injury time, the fourth official Richonne Clark showed eight minutes. The visitors needed a goal, so they pushed forward, opening up the game and providing multiple chances for both teams in the final minutes.

The first chance came two minutes into injury time when quick passing by Kerolin and Madsen found Muira in the box. But McCutcheon did well to slide in and block it away.

With most of the North Carolina team pushed forward, the Pride quickly went the other way. Bright played a nice ball across the field to Watt on the right, giving her enough room to get a shot off, but Sydney Collins was there to block it.

Seven minutes into injury time, Madsen found O’Sullivan, who took a shot on goal from the top of the box, but it was right at Nelson, who fell on the ball.

On the other end, Adriana received the ball and made a long run into the Courage box. She was aiming for the far post, but her shot was too close to Murphy, who got down to knock the ball away.

As the eighth minute of stoppage time wound down, Strom fouled Ratcliffe on the Courage half of the field, giving the visitors a last attack into the Pride half. Looking for a last-minute equalizer and with only seconds remaining, they desperately attempted to keep the ball around the Pride box. Collins lifted the ball wide to Ratcliffe to create a final cross, which Madril was able to clear. But it only went to O’Sullivan at the top of the box. The Courage captain got over the ball, sending a direct shot past Nelson for the equalizer in the 99th minute.

“I had, I don’t know how many players in front of me, but the ball popped out I think just perfectly and there was a line of players,” Nelson said about the goal. “It may have had a deflection, I don’t know. But the ball, I couldn’t see it until it was in the back of the net.”

It’s the third consecutive week that the Pride have conceded in second-half injury time, though that goal nine minutes into stoppage time was the earliest of the three — the last four goals Orlando has conceded in competitive play came in the 99th, 107th, 100th, and 100th minutes. It also robbed the Pride of their first win of 2023.

Statistically, North Carolina dominated the game, ending with more possession (65.2%-34.8%), shots (18-6), shots on goal (6-2), corners (8-2), crosses (20-5), and passing accuracy (86%-73.2%).

“Feels like the weekend,” Hines said. “You know, I think that the players were tremendous. They put the work in, they were brilliant. They stuck to the game plan. You know, you take a 1-0 lead, we have to learn. That’s the only way that we can develop is that we have to learn from these moments that can’t keep happening. Put ourselves in a really good position to win the game and, you know, we’ve fallen short again. And we’re just repeating ourselves at the moment.”

“It just comes down to focus and game management,” Yates added about conceding late again. “We’re a young team and we could have probably done a better job of going into the corner, stalling a little longer, keeping the ball, winning the 50-50 balls on clearances, stuff like that that we need to learn from. We’re a young team and we’re going to watch this game back and we’re going to fix our mistakes.”

It’s been the same story for the Pride in their first three home games of 2023. They’ve struggled to convert on the attacking end and conceded late goals to drop points. Fortunately, they had a lead heading into second-half stoppage time tonight, so they still managed to pull out a point instead of dropping all three.


The Pride will look to bounce back from another devastating result when they hit the road to face the Kansas City Current in regular-season play on Sunday.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Claire Winter and Kenna Caldwell to National Team Replacement Contracts

The Pride have signed Claire Winter and Kenna Caldwell as National Team Teplacement Players during the Olympics.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

The Orlando Pride announced the signing of midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell today to National Team Replacement Contracts. The pair will join the team during the upcoming NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup while six players are away at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Both players will be available when the team begins the new competition on Saturday night in North Carolina.

“Kenna and Claire have both put in a massive amount of work and we’re excited to reward them with these contracts,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Kenna has added further competition and depth to our goalkeeping corps since joining us in preseason. Claire, although she joined us only a few weeks ago, has already established herself within the group and continues to push herself and everyone around her to perform. Both athletes are infectiously positive and have integrated seamlessly into our environment. We’re thankful for their contributions and look forward to helping them further develop their game during this period.”

Caldwell spent five years at Texas A&M between 2019 and 2023, making 72 appearances (all starts) and recording 6,309 minutes. She recorded 231 saves during her collegiate career and saved 231 of her 689 shots faced for a save percentage of 74.8%. Her 78 goals conceded in 72 games gave her a goals-against average of 1.11 per game.

Despite a solid collegiate career, Caldwell went undrafted in the 2024 NWSL Draft. She joined the Pride as a non-roster invitee during preseason and continued with the team in a training role. However, she was unable to supplant Anna Moorhouse, McKinley Crone, or Sofia Manner.

Winter is a veteran, having played in multiple leagues and previously signed a National Team Replacement Player contract with another club. Following her collegiate career, Winter played for Spanish club RCD Espanyol de Barcelona in 2018 and 2019 as well as Puerto Rico Sol FC in 2020 before making her NWSL debut for NJ/NY Gotham FC as a National Team Replacement Player in April 2021. After her stint in New Jersey, the California native played for Treaty United FC in Ireland and Danish club Thisted FC in 2023 before joining the Pride a few weeks ago.

Prior to her professional career, Winter played collegiately at UCLA. From 2013 to 2017, she made 54 appearances with 27 starts, recording 2,381 minutes. The midfielder scored three goals with one assist while at the NCAA women’s soccer powerhouse under former Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell.

What It Means for Orlando

The Pride will have seven players at the 2024 Summer Olympics (Emily Sams with the United States; Marta, Adriana, Angelina, and Rafaelle with Brazil; and Barbra Banda and Grace Chanda with Zambia), so they had some space open on their roster to sign replacements during the inaugural Summer Cup.

Winter provides the versatility desired by Carter and Pride Head Coach Seb Hines with the ability to play both in the midfield and defense. The veteran played both positions in college and it was a reason why she was wanted by professional clubs. This might provide her with opportunities on the field since the Pride will be losing midfielders and a pair of defenders to the Olympics.

The surprising signing is Caldwell because goalkeeper is not a position of need. Moorhouse joined the England Women’s National Team for its final European qualifiers against the Republic of Ireland on July 12 and Sweden on July 16, but will return for the Summer Cup. Neither Crone nor Manner will be away, so the Pride will have four goalkeepers for the tournament.

While Winter fills a position of need, Caldwell’s signing likely a reward for her performances in training all season. The Pride have built depth at every position over the past two years and, despite losing seven players, aren’t in need at any position. Since the league is taking a break for the Olympics and the Summer Cup is only three scheduled games, the club has the opportunity to reward a player like Caldwell.

It’s unlikely that either of these players will see significant minutes during the Summer Cup. Hines will use the absences to provide playing time for reserves that haven’t seen the field much, which could be crucial as the Pride look to win the NWSL Shield and their first-ever trophy. But the signings serve to add depth, and are a reward for their hard work during training and potentially an opportunity to earn future contracts with the club.

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Barbra Banda is On Pace to Shatter Multiple NWSL Scoring Records

There is a blueprint to number 22 moving to the top of the queue.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

On Monday, The Mane Land’s Sam Denker wrote an excellent piece detailing how the Pride could (will) win the 2024 NWSL Shield. One of the primary reasons for the Pride’s undefeated start has been the offensive prowess of Barbra Banda, who in only 918 minutes of NWSL play has already amassed 17 goal contributions (12 goals, 5 assists). As someone who has followed the NWSL closely since the Pride joined the league, 17 goal contributions, 12 goals, and five assists all felt like pretty high numbers to me, so I pulled up my spreadsheets and started looking at where those ranked in NWSL history. I then extrapolated out where Banda would be by the end of the season if she continued at her current pace, and…yeah, you will want to read on. As Kerry Abello has been known to say, vamos.

While the NWSL has existed since 2013, there have only been 10 completed seasons in 12 years due to the pandemic in 2020 and because the 2024 season is still going. Every team in the NWSL has played 16 of its 26 games thus far — approximately 62% of the season (I know you all did that math in your head too). During those other 10 completed NWSL seasons teams played different numbers of matches, as few as 20 in 2015 as many as 24 during four different seasons. As a matter of comparison of yearly performances, we will look at it two different ways: actual total counts and then per 90 minutes played counts, which helps to standardize the different numbers of games played during different years. Let’s start with actual totals goals scored (all data courtesy of fbref.com, powered by Opta):

A few notes on this chart:

  • This is the all-time ranking for goals scored in a NWSL season and Banda, after 62% of the 2024 season, is already in the top 15.
  • It may seem strange to see Kansas City and Current listed under Team, as well as Sky Blue, but this chart, and all others in this article, reflects the team name during the given year.
  • Sam Kerr was, and still is, a powerhouse. I am glad she plays in another league and the Pride do not have play against her anymore.
  • Banda is one behind Marta for the Pride’s single-season record. Methinks that record is going to be broken this season.
  • Last but not least, the Pride as a team all deserve credit for having Banda on this list, as it takes an excellent team offense to have an individual player get the opportunity to score a lot of goals. Six different players have assisted on her goals this year and four others have secondary assists.

The first note in the list above made reference to the fact that, again, we are not even two-thirds of the way through the season and Banda is already in the top 15 all-time for goals scored. If you look at goals scored per 90 minutes, as opposed to just total goals scored in a season, the list of top goalscorers changes quite a bit:

I believe the chart on the right is a better indication of goal-scoring prowess, since it normalizes all the data. Kerr is still a powerhouse, but the per-90-minute evaluation shoots Banda to second overall all-time. Nadia Nadim’s 2014 season does come with an asterisk as well, since she only played a total 495 minutes during that season. Now, Nadim did score seven goals, so she was unquestionably prolific during those 495 minutes, but small sample sizes often produce outlier results. Back to Banda though, let’s play out that she stays on a similar pace of 1.18 goals per 90 minutes for the rest of her 2024 season.

Thus far this season she is averaging 76.5 minutes played per game. Now, that is skewed a little bit because she suffered an injury during one game, which affected her minutes played for that game and the next game. However, because it is the actual value, let’s go with 76.5 minutes per game multiplied by 10 games, which is 765 minutes. Multiplying by 10 is so easy! 765 minutes is 8.5 iterations of 90, and Banda averages 1.18 goals per 90 minutes. At this current pace Banda would end up with…drum roll please…10.03 more goals this season. We will go ahead and round that down to 10. And, adding that to the 12 goals she has already scored, we see that if she continues at her current pace, the Pride’s No. 22 will end up with 22 goals — an increase of, you guessed it, 22% over the current record. Sam Kerr, welcome to second place.

If Banda was only a goal scorer this would still be tremendous, as you have to score goals to win games, but as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, she also already has five assists on the season. That is tied for 28th all-time, so I’ll spare you the long chart showing you everyone above her who has six assists or more. I will, however, show you the assists-per-90-minutes chart, because once again she is already near the top:

If we play out the same exercise for Banda’s final 10 games as we did earlier for goals, she would add another 4.17 assists to her five she has already accumulated, taking her to nine on the season (rounding down). A total of nine assists would rank Banda tied for second all-time with Lauren Holiday, behind only Tobin Heath’s 2016 season, when she had 10. As an aside, that is the Lauren Holiday who used to be Lauren Cheney, one of the best midfielders the U.S. Women’s National Team has ever had, a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, and a member of the 2015 World Cup champions.

Back to Banda.

By the power of extrapolation, Banda would end up with 22 goals and nine assists if she continues on her current pace. She currently has 17 goal contributions, which is good for a tie for ninth all-time. Let me repeat for emphasis, she is already tied for ninth all time and she still has about one-third of her season still to play. The all-time leaders in goal contributions in the NWSL are Kim Little during her 2014 season, when she had 16 goals and seven assists, and Kerr during her 2019 season when she had 18 goals and five assists. Banda is on pace to blow that record away, and here are two more nuggets about that:

  • Only 43 NWSL players have more than 30 goal contributions in their careers. Banda may do it in one season.
  • There have been 621 NWSL player-seasons when a player was listed as an attacking player and played 495+ minutes (495 in order to include Nadim). The average goal contributions per player for those 621 players: 5.24. So, 31 is, in my best Bob Uecker voice, juuuuussssssst a bit more than 5.24.

I think my favorite chart of all though is the one below, which takes those 621 player-seasons and shows them as a scatterplot for their actual goal contributions and their goal contributions per 90 mins:

The ideal place to be on this chart would be in the upper right, meaning that you have a high number of goal contributions (the x-axis) and a high total of goal contributions per 90 minutes (the y-axis). The light blue circle is Banda so far this season, ahead of nearly everyone in NWSL history in goal contributions per 90 minutes but still behind in total goal contributions. The orange circle is her extrapolated numbers at her current pace of goal contributions per 90 minutes. Look how big that gap is between the orange circle and every other season! Barba looks like she is living out a Jay-Z line from the The Blueprint 2, she is “so far ahead of her time she is about to start another life.”

The comparison that came to mind first for me though was a cross-sport comparison to Babe Ruth, back when there were seasons when he hit more home runs by himself than some teams hit as a team. Banda has scored more goals herself than the Utah Royals (8) and Houston Dash (11) in 2024, so it is quite possible that by the end of the season she will have matched the Babe’s feat with her feet and, if so, at that point I will use all the superlatives I can think of in writing about just how amazing, outstanding, incredible and transformational the 2024 season was for Banda.

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Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Ally Watt to New Contract

The Pride have signed forward Ally Watt through the 2025 NWSL season with a mutual option for 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed forward Ally Watt to a new contract. The deal runs through the 2025 NWSL season and includes a mutual option for 2026.

“Over the last couple years, we have really seen Ally grow both on the field and off. She has worked incredibly hard to be the fittest she has been in her career, and it shows through the impact she brings to our front line,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Ally brings great competitiveness to the forward position on our team, while also being a great influence on our team culture. We’re excited for her to continue pushing herself and her teammates to be the best versions of themselves, and to have her continue as a vital part of what we are building.”

The Pride initially acquired Watt in a trade with OL Reign (now the Seattle Reign) on Aug. 15, 2022 in exchange for $125,000 in Allocation Money. The Watt trade was among the first that indicated the Pride were ready to begin dealing the assets they acquired for some of their older talent traded following the 2021 season.

Watt made her debut for the Pride on Aug. 20, 2022, coming on for Julie Doyle in the 64th minute of a 2-1 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC. She scored nine minutes later to create the dream debut for her new club, earning a new deal at the end of the season that kept her with the Pride through 2024. In nearly two years in Orlando, Watt has made 46 appearances (18 starts) in all competitions, recording 1,958 minutes, six goals and two assists. She also scored the fastest goal in team history, converting after 39 seconds on Sept. 17, 2023 against the North Carolina Courage.

So far this season, Watt has made 15 appearances with seven starts, recording 657 minutes. She has scored two goals and added an assist. Her most notable game this year was on May 1, when Pride Head Coach Seb Hines switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, teaming Watt with Barbra Banda. Watt scored the opener and assisted on Banda’s second goal in a 4-1 win over the Courage.

“We’re building something very special here in Orlando and I am grateful that I get to continue to be a part of it,” Watt said in the club’s press release. “I feel I have only grown since I’ve been here, and I’m more than excited to keep developing my game. This team and organization are my family, and staying here in Orlando to play in front of some of the best fans makes me so happy. Vamos Pride!”

Watt was initially selected with the ninth overall pick of the 2020 NWSL Draft by the Courage out of Texas A&M. She played professionally in Australia for Melbourne City before joining North Carolina for the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. However, she tore her ACL minutes into the first game, sidelining her for an extended period.

The Courage traded the speedster before the 2021 season to the Reign, where she made five appearances after returning from injury. She became a regular in 2022, playing in 21 of the Reign’s 22 games, recording a goal and an assist, before being dealt to the Pride.

What It Means for Orlando

Whether she starts with Banda in a 4-4-2 formation or comes off the bench later in the game, Watt has proven to be a valuable part of the Pride’s success since joining the club. Injuries were a concern since she’d had a previous ACL tear, but she’s remained healthy and has continued to be one of the fastest players in the NWSL.

The forward is already having her best season with the team this year, and there are still 10 games left in the regular season. With Banda away at the Olympics, Watt should get plenty of time starting during the upcoming NWSL X Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, providing valuable minutes.

While this signing provides depth at the forward position, Watt also has the versatility that Carter and Hines crave. In addition to playing striker, Watt’s speed has been utilized on the right side of the midfield before, matching the similarly fast Doyle on the left for a dangerous pairing. Her attributes make this signing an expected one as the Pride look to build on their historic season.

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