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Orlando Pride Sign Free Agent Forward Simone Charley

The Pride have signed veteran free agent forward Simone Charley.

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The Orlando Pride announced the signing of free agent forward Simone Charley this afternoon. The deal with the NWSL veteran is for two years, running through the 2025 season. Charley was originally listed as a non-roster invitee when the Pride’s 2024 preseason camp opened on Tuesday but that was pending the official approval of her contract.

“Simone is someone we have had on our radar for a while, and we are so happy she wants to join our team and be a part of what we are building here,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “She will provide an attacking spark to our front line and will undoubtedly cause problems for opposing back lines. We are thrilled to welcome Simone to Orlando and excited to see her on the field in a Pride kit.” 

The 28-year-old attacker was born in Boston, MA, but grew up in Hoover, AL. She attended Vanderbilt University and had a breakout final season, scoring four goals and adding six assists. She was named second-team All-Southeast Region and second team All-SEC that season. 

Charley went undrafted in the 2018 NWSL Draft and spent the 2018 season training with the Portland Thorns. That year earned her a contract for the 2019 season with the Oregon-based side. In three years with the Thorns, she played in 45 games with 26 starts and recorded 2,350 minutes in all competitions. She scored eight goals and added two assists. Her best season to date was in 2021, when she scored five goals — tied with Christine Sinclair for second on the team — just two goals behind Sophia Smith.

Prior to the 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft, Angel City acquired the forward in exchange for full roster protection, $100,000 in Allocation Money, and Angel City’s 2022 natural second-round draft pick. However, the signing didn’t go as well for Angel City as the club had hoped. She played in 23 games with 12 starts in 2022 for 1,296 minutes and recorded three goals and one assist. However, she ruptured her achilles against the Pride in the second game of the 2023 season, ending her year. The Los Angeles-based club decided not to bring her back in 2024, making her a free agent.

In five years of NWSL action, Charley has made 70 appearances with 38 starts and recorded 3,703 minutes. She’s scored 11 goals and added three assists while playing up top and on the wing.

“I am incredibly excited to be joining the Pride,” Charley said in the club’s press release. “The club’s strong coaching staff, talented roster, and challenging training environment are all reasons I am thrilled to be a part of the Pride. I am ready to push for the playoffs and a championship for Orlando!”

Internationally, Charley was named to the United States U-23 Women’s National Team for the 2019 Nordic Tournament, scoring in a 2-0 win over Norway. She also spent time on loan with Australian club Canberra United in 2019 and 2020, scoring five goals in 11 games.

What It Means for Orlando

Signing Charley is a bit of a risk, because she’s coming off a season-ending injury. However, she can have a significant impact on the team if healthy. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines prefers players with versatility and Charley can play both on the wing or up top. She’ll likely be coming off the bench and can fill the role needed by the team in a specific moment.

Another benefit of the singing is that Ally Watt can move into the midfield. Hines started Watt on the right at times last season, and her attacking teammates spoke about how they loved having her on one side and Julie Doyle on the other. With Watt and Charley, the team has two players who can play up top behind Messiah Bright or provide speed on the outside.

Whether this is a good signing will largely depend on how she returns from injury. Carrie Lawrence and Viviana Villacorta are both coming off ACL tears, so bringing in a player that missed most of last season is another question. If Charley can play as she did in Portland, she’ll be a key piece off the bench this year.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More

The Pride begin the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup away to the North Carolina Courage.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride return to action tonight as they begin the inaugural NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup away to the North Carolina Courage. This is the third time the two teams will meet this season, but the first in this tournament.

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

History

The Pride and Courage have played 25 times since the Western New York Flash moved to North Carolina and became the Courage in 2017. The Pride are 6-13-6 in those games (6-10-2 in the NWSL regular season, 0-0-2 in the Fall Series, and 0-3-2 in the NWSL Challenge Cup).

The most recent meeting between the two teams was on June 15 in Cary, NC. The Pride were the better team on the night with more possession, shots, and shots on target, but the game ended in a scoreless draw. While they were disappointed with the result, the Pride were the first — and so far, only — team to take points in North Carolina this season. On May 1 in Orlando, Barbra Banda and Ally Watt started up top together for the first time, a move that paid off in the game. Banda set up Watt for the opener in the first half, and Watt repaid the favor just over 10 minutes later, as the Pride went up 2-0. Julie Doyle added a goal just before halftime, giving the Pride a commanding lead. Emily Sams’ own goal was the only scoring for the Courage and Banda’s second of the night gave the Pride a 4-1 win.

The first game between the Pride and Courage in 2023 was on April 19 in Orlando. The Pride took the lead after halftime when Summer Yates set up Watt for the opening goal, but Denise O’Sullivan equalized in the ninth minute of second-half injury time, resulting in a 1-1 draw. On June 17 in North Carolina it was all Courage. Kerolin and Meredith Speck gave the hosts a 2-0 lead before a Haley McCutcheon own goal made it 3-0 to North Carolina.

The Pride didn’t show up for the July 29 Challenge Cup contest in North Carolina, getting demolished by the Courage. Brittany Ratcliffe and Malia Berkely gave the hosts a 2-0 halftime lead before Frankie Tagliaferri made it three, and a late brace by Haley Hopkins completed the 5-0 result. The Pride finally got a win on Sept. 17, 2023 at home. Watt got the Pride off to a great start, scoring inside the first minute. After assisting on the first goal, Adriana doubled the lead before halftime. Manaka Matsukubo got one back for the visitors, but it wasn’t enough and the Pride won 2-1.

The first meeting in 2022 came on May 18 in North Carolina. The Pride got off to a great start in that game, with Sydney Leroux scoring early. Mikayla Cluff doubled the lead with her first professional goal. A late goal by Brianna Pinto got the Courage back within one, but it wasn’t enough as the Pride took the 2-1 win. On Sept. 21, 2022 at Exploria Stadium, it was the Courage that got off to the better start when Debinha scored in the second minute. The Brazilian then assisted Tess Boade in first-half injury time to double the lead, and later added another, dooming the Pride to a 3-0 defeat.

The Pride and Courage were placed in the same division for the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, so the teams played twice before the regular season started. The first game was on March 26 in North Carolina. Merritt Mathias converted a penalty after Gunny Jonsdottir was called for a handball in the box, lifting the hosts to a 1-0 win. The return match in the tournament took place on April 16 in Orlando. The Courage got off to a fast start, scoring three goals in the first nine minutes. Darian Jenkins netted a brace to make it 3-2, but a late Debinha goal put the game away and North Carolina won 4-2.

The teams played three times during the 2021 NWSL season. On May 22 in North Carolina, goals by Leroux and Alex Morgan gave the Pride a 2-0 lead late into the game. Jessica McDonald scored late to pull one back but the Pride held on for a 2-1 win. On July 4 in Orlando, Debinha and Havana Solaun goals helped the Courage take home a 2-0 win. The final game came on July 31 in North Carolina. Leroux opened the scoring but Brittany Ratcliffe equalized moments later and the teams drew 1-1.

The two teams were also matched up in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup but they only played once in that tournament. Neither team was able to find the back of the net in that game in a scoreless draw.

Similar to the Challenge Cup, the teams were in the same group of the 2020 Fall Series, meeting twice. The first was on Sept. 19 in North Carolina and ended in a scoreless draw. The second was on Oct. 17 at Exploria Stadium. Led by a Debinha brace, the Courage went up 3-0. But the Pride came back with goals by Marisa Viggiano, Kristen Edmonds, and Ally Haran for an exciting 3-3 draw.

The Pride and Courage played three times during the 2019 season. The first game was on April 17 in North Carolina. The Courage took a 1-0 lead into halftime but scored four times in the second half to win 5-0. They played a second time on June 1 in Orlando. Again, it was a dominant performance by the Courage as the Pride fell 3-0. The final meeting that year was another thrashing by North Carolina. The Pride got a goal in that one but still fell 6-1.

The teams also met three times in 2018 but the results were much closer. On May 23 in Orlando, goals by Alanna Kennedy and Rachel Hill saw the Pride come back from a 3-1 deficit. But McDonald scored a winner in the 90th minute and the Courage won 4-3. The Pride went down by three goals in the final two games that season, but were unable to come back and fell 3-0 in both contests.

The 2017 season saw the teams meet for the first time. The Courage took the first game 3-1 on April 29 in North Carolina. They played a second time two weeks later in Orlando when the Pride took the 3-1 win. The final meeting in 2017 came in the final game of the season on Sept. 30. The Pride took a 2-0 lead but the Courage came back to even it at 2-2. It looked headed for a draw until Kennedy netted a late winner, leading the Pride to a 3-2 win.

Overview

The Pride are having their best season in club history, going undefeated through 16 games. The most recent match was a clash between the only two unbeaten teams in the NWSL in Kansas City. The Pride showed they were better than the Current, winning 2-1 despite being down a player for the second half after Carrie Lawrence was sent off just before halftime.

While the NWSL has played through international tournaments in the past, the league is taking a break for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. It’s beneficial for the Pride, as they’ll be missing fiveof their most important players. Captain Marta, leading scorer Banda, playmaker Adriana, starting center back Rafaelle, and starting defender Sams are all at the tournament, joined by Angelina and new signing Grace Chanda. Rather than risking losing their unbeaten run, the Summer Cup will provide Head Coach Seb Hines with the ability to get meaningful minutes for less-used players who can help down the stretch.

The Courage also have players away at the Olympics, but fewer essentials than the Pride. Starting goalkeeper Casey Murphy is with the United States and starting left back Feli Rauch is with Germany. Additionally, 2023 NWSL Most Valuable Player Kerolin was selected by Brazil, despite tearing her ACL in last year’s season finale. The Courage will still be difficult to beat as the Pride’s draw in June is still the only time they’ve dropped points at home.

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of players who are representing their country, which is massive for us as a team but also for the club. It’s not the same case for North Carolina, so they’ve only got I think three players missing from their current squad, which will be a challenge for us,” Hines said about tonight’s game. “They’ve got that consistency within their team selection. We’ll have a lot of changes to this opening game. We know it’s always difficult going to a place like North Carolina, but we’re going to build on what we’ve started this year, so it’s not going to change, regardless of the changes within the selection. We want to go out there and show everyone that even with our internationals away, we are still going to stick to our high standard and level.”

The Pride are without several players tonight due to injuries and international call-ups. Simone Charley (leg), Luana (illness), Megan Montefusco (heel), Viviana Villacorta (knee), Anna Moorhouse (excused absence), and Cori Dyke (excused absence) are out, while Kerry Abello (knee) is listed as questionable. Adriana (Brazil), Angelina (Brazil), Marta (Brazil), Rafaelle (Brazil), Barbra Banda (Zambia), and Emily Sams (USA) are all on international duty at the Olympics.

Estelle Johnson (maternity leave) and Bianca St-Georges (leg) are the only Courage players out injured. However, Casey Murphy (USA), Feli Rauch (Germany), Kerolin (Brazil), and Sydney Collins (Canada) are on international duty.


Official Lineups

Orlando Pride (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: McKinley Crone.

Defenders: Celia, Kylie Strom, Carrie Lawrence, Bri Martinez.

Defensive Midfielders: Haley McCutcheon, Morgan Gautrat.

Midfielders: Julie Doyle, Summer Yates, Amanda Allen.

Forward: Ally Watt.

Bench: Sofia Manner, Kerry Abello, Alex Kerr, Ally Lemos, Evelina Duljan, Mariana Larroquette, Claire Winter, Kenna Caldwell.

North Carolina Courage (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Marisa Bova.

Defenders: Malia Berkely, Kaleigh Kurtz, Dani Weatherholt, Ryan Williams.

Defensive Midfielders: Narumi Muira, Riley Jackson.

Midfielders: Ashley Sanchez, Meredith Speck, Tyler Lussi.

Forward: Manaka Matsukubo.

Bench: Hensley Hancuff, Brianna Pinto, Haley Hopkins, Denise O’Sullivan, Landy Mertz, Olivia Wingate, Natalia Staude, Victoria Pickett, Jenna Winebrenner.

Referees

REF: Lorenzo Hernandez.
AR1: Kendall McCardell.
AR2: Stephen Milhoan.
4TH: Marie Durr.


How to Watch

Match Time: 7:30 p.m.

Venue: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, NC.

TV: None.

Streaming: Paramount+.

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


Enjoy the match. Go Pride!

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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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