Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Sign Brazilian International Defender Rafaelle Souza

The Pride bolster their defense with the addition of a Brazilian national team player.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride announced today the signing of Brazilian international defender Rafaelle Leone Carvalho Souza to a contract through the 2025 NWSL season using Allocation Money to acquire her services. Known simply as Rafaelle, the defender played the last two seasons with Arsenal in England’s Women’s Super League. She is currently with the Brazilian Women’s National Team to participate in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, joining new Pride teammates Marta and Adriana. She will arrive in Orlando following Brazil’s participation at the World Cup.

For Rafaelle, it is a return to the NWSL, as she played 16 matches with the Houston Dash in 2014, contributing one assist.

“Anyone dreams of living in a city like Orlando and playing in a league as strong as the NWSL,” Rafaelle said in a club press release. “With my experience of having played in other leagues and other countries, for everything I’ve experienced in soccer, I think I can add a lot to the team. I dedicate myself a lot and I think fans will see that, my dedication every day and every game. I really hope and want to help the team a lot, be with the girls, and join the group and adapt as soon as possible. My main goal now is to help the team qualify for the playoffs. Orlando deserves it for all the investment it has made and for all of their support for women’s soccer.” 

“Rafa and I were teammates in Houston and since then, I have watched her grow into one of the best defenders in the world,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “She is an incredibly intelligent player with the physicality and technical ability to make an immediate impact in our back line. Her leadership, on and off the pitch, also offers a major competitive advantage for the club. We could not be more thrilled to bring her experience, quality, and infectious, hardworking attitude to Orlando.” 

The 32-year-old played 35 games with Arsenal from January 2022 through the recently completed WSL season. She contributed four goals playing mainly center back, although she can also play midfield. Rafaelle helped the Gunners win the Conti Cup — the FA Women’s League Cup — in March, causing an own goal in the tournament’s final, which Arsenal won, 3-1.

Prior to joining Arsenal, Rafaelle spent the 2021-2022 season with Palmeiras in Brazil, where she helped win the Copa Paulista. Before Palmeiras, she spent 2016-2021 with Changchun Shuoyue in China.

At the international level, Rafaelle debuted with Brazil in December of 2011. Before earning her spot on Brazil’s World Cup roster this year, she previously was on her nation’s 2015 World Cup side, where she paired with former Pride defender Monica for a Brazil side that did not concede in group play and was knocked out of the competition in a 1-0 loss to Australia.

Rafaelle made the team for the Olympics in 2016 and 2020. She served as Brazil’s captain in 2022 as the Canarinhas won the Copa América Femenina championship — her second time winning the event. She has previously played at Exploria Stadium, helping Brazil finish second in the 2021 SheBelieves Cup. She has scored eight goals for Brazil.

The native of Cipó, Bahia, Brazil played college soccer in the United States, spending 2011-2013 with the Ole Miss Rebels, where she amassed 44 goals in 61 appearances. She ranks second among Mississippi’s all-time leaders in goals and points (108). She still holds the single-season mark for goals (22).

The Dash made Rafaelle the No. 10 overall selection in the 2014 NWSL Draft.

What It Means for Orlando

At 32, Rafaelle doesn’t fit in with the team’s plans to build for the future but there should be enough tread on the tires to provide leadership and immediate impact. The Pride add a veteran defender with the versatility to play elsewhere if needed. It will be interesting to see if the plan is to use her as a shield for the back line or at center back, where she could either replace Megan Montefusco or Emily Madril, or if Seb Hines might start using a three-player back line.

She is comfortable playing on the left side, which could move Madril back to the right back position she occupied early in the 2023 season.

Regardless of how she’s deployed, this is a quality signing. The Pride have shipped 21 goals in 16 matches, which is ninth in the 12-team league. It might make Orlando a little more dangerous on set pieces, but it is unlikely to help the team’s biggest area of need, which is to score more goals. The Pride have scored only 14 goals in 2023, and 11 of those have come in four matches. Only the Dash have scored fewer goals (10) this season, but they’ve gotten away with it by only conceding 11.


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