Injuries and international commitments namely the Summer Olympics in Rio took a toll on the Orlando Pride’s Inaugural Season. Tom Sermanni’s side got off to a good start in its first season, but that was undone by the Olympics and the loss of Steph Catley for the season with an injury.
Catley returned to the Pride last week after spending the NWSL offseason in her native Australia with Melbourne City FC’s women’s team.
This offseason, the Pride have been busy.
Team captain and U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) star Alex Morgan went on loan to Lyon in France. Morgan’s temporary departure gives the Pride an opportunity to build a squad that is less reliant on the USWNT Forward. Morgan will return to the Pride in July.
Ali Krieger, a star defender, was signed from the Washington Spirit. A standout performer in the 2011 and 2015 Women’s World Cups as well as in a commentary role for some men’s game on beIN Sports, Krieger adds star power and leadership to the Pride’s defense.
Alanna Kennedy was brought in from the reigning champion Western New York Flash (who have relocated to North Carolina) to help sure up the defense.
Of course, the biggest splash was the signing of five-time World Player of the Year, Marta. The 31-year old Brazilian superstar has scored 105 times for her native country in 101 appearances for the national team. Marta is considered one of the greatest players ever in the women’s game. The Brazilian who has spent many years plying her trade at clubs in the United States has been contracted to European-based sides for the past five seasons.
Morgan and Marta’s ability to connect will be critical to stimulating the Pride attack which was one of the weakest in NWSL last season. Both are attacking players with an eye for goal but also an ability to take opponents on one-on-one freeing up space to teammates. Morgan’s tendency to use her athleticism and pace to create goal scoring opportunities will be nicely complimented by Marta’s creativity on the ball, and her ability to spring a critical pass when needed.
The two should form a dynamic duo in the Orlando attack, and both have a common bond — having not been recognized by disgraced former FIFA boss Sepp Blatter at various awards ceremonies.
The NWSL this season will be aired nationally on Lifetime Network. Orlando’s opening game at Portland against the Thorns will be broadcast on Lifetime at 3 p.m. ET. The Thorns average a league-high 16,000 fans a game and this match will no doubt have a frenzied atmosphere.
The Pride’s home opener is Saturday, April 22, at 4 p.m. ET against the Washington Spirit.