Orlando Pride – 2016 NWSL Season Review

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Orlando Pride – 2016 NWSL Season Review

By Nigel G. Worrall

Much like their male counterparts, the Orlando Pride suffered a disappointing season. Finishing 9th in their first season in the National Women’s Soccer league wasn’t exactly what the franchise had in mind when it started out.

Hopes were high as the season started and with Tom Sermanni’s squad filled with seven international players, American’s Alex Morgan & Ashlyn Harris, Australian duo Laura Alleway & Steph Catley, Canada’s Kaylyn Kyle & Josée Bélanger and Brazilian Monica Hickmann Alves much was expected of the latest team to join NWSL.

Orlando Pride 3 Houston Dash 1, Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida - 24th April 2016 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

The excitement built as the team broke the NWSL attendance record in their opening home game, drawing a crowd of 23,403. They also managed the second highest average attendance in the league with 8,933 fans watching their games behind only the Portland Thorns, who averaged a remarkable 16,945.

The Pride were competitive for the first six games winning four and losing two but then came the crucial decision by team management to trade influential English midfielder Lianne Sanderson to Western New York Flash just two months into the campaign.

It was a costly mistake as the team would win just two more games all season as they missed their midfield heartbeat. While Sanderson went onto collect a NWSL Championship medal, the team she left behind slipped slowly down the league.

It seemed the team had lost its way and had no idea what style of play was needed to bounce back. Excuses were made around a few members of the team leaving for the Olympic Games but the reality was that it had very little impact. The season was suspended for most of that period anyway but once it re-started the team failed to utilize the resources they had at their disposal.

Orlando Pride 1 Western New York Flash 0, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 14th May 2016 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Alex Morgan (pictured above), one of the most devastating goal scorers in the women’s game, barely got a look in as her teammates completely failed to play to her strengths as the team frustrated fans with a brand of tippy-tappy football that ultimately had little to no end product.

Orlando Pride 1 Washington Spirit 2, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 26th August 2016 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

On the plus side the performances of Ashlyn Harris (pictured above) and Kaylyn Kyle were the highlights of the season. Harris, 30, was deservedly voted the National Women’s Soccer League Goalkeeper of the Year and finished the season with 62 saves posting a 1.33 goals-against-average (GAA) in 15 appearances for the Pride.

Kyle, meantime, started the season in midfield but as the injury list grew and the Olympics came round, moved back to become a very accomplished Center Back.

The team finished with just 6 wins 1 draw and 13 losses as they scored 20 goals while conceding 30. Top goalscorer was Kristen Edmonds with 6 goals.

Looking to next year, the team has already announced it has exercised options on 10 players and extended new contract offers to six additional players. Players definitely staying are:

Laura Alleway, McKenzie Berryhill, Christina Burkenroad, Lisa De Vanna, Kristen Edmonds, Sarah Hagen, Monica Hickmann Alves, Cami Levin, Dani Weatherholt and Sam Witteman.

U.S. Women’s National Team members Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris, as well as Canadians Josée Bélanger and Kaylyn Kyle, will also remain with the Pride as Federation Players.

Players currently negotiating new contracts are Aubrey Bledsoe, Steph Catley, Maddy Evans, Jamia Fields, Toni Pressley and  Jasmyne Spencer.

In all, it looks like the majority of the squad will remain in place with two or three places still to be decided. Players who have now left the club are Becky Edwards who retired and Kaitlyn Savage who has been placed on the Re-Entry Wire.

Orlando Pride 1 Sky Blue FC 2, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida - 10th September 2016 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Hopefully the move to the new stadium and having had a whole year behind them will galvanize the group to improve their play. They now have a few months to work on their skills and to improve as a team. 2016 was a year of coming to grips with the requirements of the league and learning to play with each other but 2017 will not be quite so forgiving as results will be demanded by Head Coach Tom Sermanni (pictured above) and his coaching staff. With the right additions the team can compete and we expect the squad to at least be in contention for honors come next September.

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