No games? No problem. It’s relatively easy to review 2015 for the Orlando Pride. First, the Pride were announced as the latest expansion team for the NWSL, revealing the name, colors, and logo to the WoSo world. Next on the to-do list was to fill the head coaching vacancy. The Pride did so in style, bringing Tom Sermanni gloriously back to American soil. Orlando could have just called it a year there, but that apparently isn’t their style. To round things out, the Pride only traded everything but the kitchen sink for Alex Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle, and then nabbed Sarah Hagen.
Losses and Additions
While the Pride didn’t necessarily lose any players, they did lose several draft picks and two international spots. We can’t really speculate about what additions those could have turned into for the club, so let’s focus on the players who will actually be suiting up. Technically, everyone is an addition to this team. Of the three draft picks, Sam Witteman was on the final roster released though midfielder Dani Weatherholt is with the team during its media day.
There’s a handful of extremely versatile players on this team so it’s a bit hard to pin down where everyone will be on the field for the upcoming season. That being said, in the net there’s no questions Ashlyn Harris will be starting for the Pride as long as she’s not injured or in Rio de Janeiro. In Harris’ absence, the team will call on Aubrey Bledsoe, a career backup who I think can more than hold down the fort.
Defensively, perhaps something involving Josée Bélanger, Toni Pressley, Laura Alleway, and Steph Catley. Obviously Bélanger, Alleway, and Catley will have Olympic duty, but during that time the club’s first draft pick, rookie Sam Witteman, is someone who could get a look when not in midfield. There’s also several players with a few years of professional experience under their belts to help plug the gaps.
Speaking of midfield, Becky Edwards should be the one running the show. As for the rest… your guess is as good as mine. Lianne Sanderson should be in the mix, but I think we’ll see some defenders or forwards with a position change given the Pride’s opening-day roster lists only five midfielders right now.
As for the forward corps, Alex Morgan is the clear and present headliner, but who’s backing her up? That should be Sarah Hagen, who was forced into a super sub role due to the proliferation of talent with FC Kansas City. Jasmyne Spencer provides speed but isn’t a dominant goal scorer, and Jamia Fields has yet to break through.
Off the Field
Tom Sermanni was brought in as the head honcho for the Pride. This is his second stint in an American league, as he was the head coach of the New York Power waaaaay* back in the Women’s United Soccer Association days. Also worth mentioning is that the Pride, in a similar situation to the Dash, will be playing in the same stadium as their male counterparts at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
*easy there — Brandi
The It Factor
Role players. Essentially, in the sports world, if you aren’t a “superstar” on your team but you do your job well with little to no real credit given to you, you’re considered a “role player.” For Orlando’s upcoming season, the most important cog in this entire machine will be the role players. Say the combined star power of Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris doesn’t pan out on the field, for example. While it’s been mostly out of her hands and due to injuries, Morgan hasn’t yet consistently shown her world-class talents at the NWSL level. Add in the fact that the duo will miss some time for the Olympics, and the need for the rest of the roster to play more like starters and less like “fill-ins” (a descriptor thrown around I don’t particularly appreciate), questions grow exponentially. There’s a nice group of talented and experienced players on this team, but how they handle the struggles of an expansion team in its first year will remain to be seen.
2016 Opening Day Roster
18 of 20 spots filled:
Ashlyn Harris (Federation Player, USA)
Laura Alleway (International Player, Australia)
Josée Bélanger (Federation Player, Canada)
Steph Catley (International Player, Australia)
Monica Hickmann Alves (International Player, Brazil)