Orlando Pride

Carrie Lawrence’s Start at Angel City Completes Long Road to Recovery

Carrie Lawrence’s long journey back to the field culminated with her first start since 2022.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

The Orlando Pride defeated Angel City FC 3-0 on Sunday, keeping pace with the Kansas City Current for the top spot in the league and extending their unbeaten this season to 15 games. The win sets up a highly-anticipated matchup for first place on July 6 in Kansas City, but the game was extra special for one of the starters.

Carrie Lawrence, an Orlando native and product of the University of Central Florida, joined the Pride as a training player in 2019. Her performances in training sessions earned the young defender a first-team contract prior to the 2020 NWSL season. While the season was canceled due to the global pandemic and the Pride had to drop out of the inaugural NWSL Challenge Cup because of positive COVID tests, Lawrence made her debut in the Fall Series, playing in all four games with three starts.

The Pride were full of international stars in 2021, leaving little chance for the young Lawrence to receive playing time. However, former general manager Ian Fleming made the decision to rebuild the squad following that season, opening opportunities for the club’s young players.

Lawrence broke out during the 2022 NWSL season, playing in 14 games with 12 starts and recording 1,114 minutes. She also took part in four Challenge Cup games, starting three, and playing 229 minutes. The defender primarily played center back, but was also deployed at right back. Given her playing time and versatility — something valued by then-Pride interim head coach Seb Hines — it appeared as though Lawrence would be a key part of the team’s future.

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse during the team’s 2023 preseason trip to Port St. Lucie. Lawrence tore the ACL in her left knee during training, requiring surgery and sidelining her indefinitely. The result of the injury was the defender being placed on the season-ending injury list.

During Lawrence’s absence, the Pride had to move on. They signed Brazilian international center back Rafaelle last year, pairing her with rookie Emily Sams, and then moved Sams to right back this season while shifting left back Kylie Strom to center back. Filling in for Strom was Kerry Abello, who had played an attacking role professionally but on the back line collegiately at Penn State.

The defender finally recovered from her injury during the off-season and was able to take part in the team’s preseason. Despite the team moving on without her, Hines could see the benefit of having her back in the team.

“Carrie’s gone through a lot in her career here. You know, mostly last year with an ACL tear,” Hines said. “And so having her back this year has a feeling of having a new player.”

It took time for Lawrence to regain her role as a contributor in games. She was an unused substitute during the first five games before making her season debut off the bench on April 26 away to the Washington Spirit — her first appearance since Oct. 1, 2022. She also came on as a sub in the following two games before being an unused substitute again.

Lawrence came on as a center back in her first three appearances of the season, the position she’s played most since joining the Pride. But the defender has the athleticism and ball skills that can cause problems on the right. For this reason, Hines brought Lawrnece on for Bri Martinez in the 67th minute in the team’s historic 6-0 win over the Utah Royals.

Despite limited time on the field, Lawrence helped set up two attacks. The first one nearly resulted in a goal and the second ended with the team’s fifth conversion.

In the 81st minute, Lawrence sent an excellent ball forward for striker Barbra Banda, putting her in on goal and forcing Royals goalkeeper Mandy Haught into a quality save. In second-half injury time, she sent another great ball down the right for Banda. This time, the forward found Marta in the box and the captain extended the Pride’s lead to 5-0.

“You see her quality, you see what she brings to the group,” Hines said about the performance. “You know, she’s played center back a couple of times. We felt it was a great opportunity for her to go onto the field and play right back and use her energy and athleticism down the right hand side, and she created a lot of problems for Utah (that night).”

The performance against Utah earned Lawrence a starting spot in the team at Angel City, her first start since 2022.

“She’s been on a windy road of hers to get to this position,” Hines said about giving her the start. “Obviously, last year she missed a substantial amount of football and then we’ve had to make sure that she’s in a place to go out there and compete. And we felt that this was a great time for her to come in and start the game.”

Recovering from her ACL tear required a long rehabilitation, patience, and belief that she could return to her previous form. While it took a lot of effort on her own, she gave most of the credit to her teammates and the club staff.

“Obviously super happy,” Lawrence said about getting the start. “I couldn’t have done it without this group. They’ve encouraged me the whole entire way. And I felt good on the field (Sunday), so I’m going to give all credit to my teammates and the staff.”

The selflessness, attitude, and work ethic of the defender isn’t lost on her teammates. Following the team’s win over Angel City, Sams spoke about how the team feels about having Lawrence back in the team and earning her first start of the year.

“I think we’re all so happy for her. I mean, she’s worked her butt off to get back to this point,” Sams said. “You know, she’s a great person and love her energy in the locker room. So to have her get back on the field, I’m sure she’s pumped and really excited for her to get her first start.”

Whether Lawrence continues to earn time on the field remains to be seen. Rafaelle’s recent injury has forced Sams back to her old center back position and left the right back spot open for Lawrence to fill. However, Rafaelle was back in the team in California, coming on in the 74th minute. When she returns to her starting role, the right back position will likely be occupied by Sams.

The last two games have been the culmination of a long journey back to the playing field. For the first time, Lawrence showed the form she had prior to her injury, the form that had many thinking she would be a key part of the Pride’s future.

Lawrence signed a new two-year contract on Oct. 5, 2022, keeping her with the Pride through the 2024 season. The player and club will soon have to make a decision about whether she’ll remain with her hometown team. Regardless of that upcoming decision, Lawrence has come through the most difficult time in her soccer-playing career, coming out the other side well respected by her coaches and teammates. It might be the end of a difficult journey, but she and the club hope it’s the beginning of a new joyous one.


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