NWSL Preview: Notable Additions Bolster 2018 Orlando Pride Attack

Orlando Pride
TALLAHASSEE, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Sydney Leroux of the Orlando Pride during a pre-season match against the Florida State Seminoles at the Seminole Soccer Complex on the campus of Florida State University on February 28, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. FSU defeated the Pride 3 to 2. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Editorial (March 21, 2018) — Tom Sermanni knows how to build a notable, popular NWSL roster.

Entering his third season as head coach of the Orlando Pride, Sermanni made some key acquisitions in the off-season.

However, the moves beg a single question: Does Orlando have too much depth?

2018 Orlando Pride: NWSL Preview

With a roster already piled with players like Alex Morgan, Marta, Camila and Chioma Ubogagu, it seemed like there wasn’t going to be much room left for any other attackers.

Then entered Sydney Leroux.

After her husband Dom Dwyer joined the Orlando City SC Lions last MLS season, Leroux followed suit. She completed the 2017 NWSL season with FC Kansas City. However, the Utah Royals and Orlando Pride worked together to send Leroux to Florida.

In return, Utah ended up gaining Orlando’s first-round pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft.

Leroux joins a stacked crop of forwards. In addition to Leroux, Marta, Morgan, and Ubogagu, the Pride also have Rachel Hill and Danica Evans under contract.

The midfield is equally talented, but not many flashy names stand out. However, after consistent seasons with the Seattle Reign, Christine Nairn made her way down south in a trade. In that same trade, the Pride also acquired Carson Pickett, a defender.

Nairn joins Alanna Kennedy, Camila, Emily van Egmond, Dani Weatherhold and Kristen Edmonds — all returning players, except for van Egmond.

On defense and in goal, Sermanni made a few quiet changes. He traded away goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and replaced her with former Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. After learning from Hope Solo for two seasons in Seattle, and then starting when she left, Kopmeyer now featured behind U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.

The Pride also added another Brazilian to complement Marta, Monica, and Camila. Poliana was acquired by the Pride in a trade with the Houston Dash. In return, Houston claimed Orlando’s second-round pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft.

Two former Washington Spirit teammates also reunited on defense. Ali Kreiger has been with the Pride since 2017 and reunited with Canadian international Shelina Zadorsky. The two were teammates in Washington for one season back in 2016.

Player to Watch

Chioma Ubogagu just recently received her first call-up for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the team’s November friendlies against Canada.

While she didn’t make an official appearance, Ubogagu’s call-up meant that head coach Jill Ellis took notice of her skill.

In Orlando, Sermanni has instilled a chunk of trust in the Coppell, TX native. Sermanni has never buried her beneath the talented — and well known — players around her.

However, with Leroux in the picture, the question stands to whether Ugobabu will take a backseat to her.

Last year, Ubogagu scored four goals and tallied three assists in 19 appearances. She started 16 matches.

Sermanni has to be careful with his decision. While Leroux is a big name and obviously has playing experience with Morgan, Krieger, and Harris, she doesn’t have the same status that Ubogagu already has in Orlando.

It wouldn’t shock me to see Ubogagu move to a midfield role, with Camila still recovering from a torn ACL in last season’s playoffs. However, Sermanni should steer clear of burying her beneath Leroux.

It all comes down to consistency between Leroux and Ubogagu.

Thoughts on Head Coach Tom Sermanni

Sermanni has been a dream coach for the Pride.

Despite a rocky, ninth place finish in their inaugural season, Sermanni brought Orlando back into serious contention with a third-place finish last year.

Like Chicago, Sermanni didn’t lose many layers, but he did bring in some big names. Grabbing Leroux seemed obvious from the start — and it was basically a done-deal when her husband moved down to Orlando.

However, Leroux still did have a choice to make, and she chose Orlando for a reason.

The Pride managed to secure a third-place finish last year without Marta or Morgan in the beginning half of the season. Also, for about eight weeks, starting goalkeeper Harris was out with an injury.

Now, aside from Camila’s ACL rehab, Sermanni has a healthy team — and nobody is playing the first half of the season overseas in Europe.

With a loaded roster, Sermanni just needs to come up with the right lineups.

Off-Season Losses

Sermanni only lost four players in free agency or trades this past off-season.

Stephanie Catley and Jasmyne Spencer are the newest members of the Seattle Reign.

Spencer was a dark horse for the Pride in her two seasons down in Orlando. Last year, Spencer scored three goals last year and provided four assists in 20 matches.

Catley was an anchor for the defense alongside Kreiger, Toni Pressley, and Monica. A veteran presence and member of the Australian Women’s National Team, Catley joins Yael Averbuch up in Seattle.

Also waived from the roster were midfielder Nickolette Driesse and forward Jamia Fields.

Sermanni has one more roster spot to cut and recently announced that the Pride’s lone draft pick in the recent 2018 NWSL College Draft, Nadia Gomes, did not make the final roster selection.

Season Prediction

I was tempted to pick Orlando to win it all this year, but I have them making it to the final NWSL Championship game against the Utah Royals.

However, I believe that Leroux will watch the team she left in favor of Orlando lift the trophy.

That being said, with a power group of U.S. National Team players and Brazilians, the Pride have a ton of notable, respected players. Orlando will make a playoff spot for the second year in a row.

Sermanni built his roster with star power. Now, they just have to deliver.

2018 NWSL Season Preview Series
Chicago Red Stars
Houston Dash
North Carolina Courage
Portland Thorns
Sky Blue FC
Seattle Reign
Utah Royals
Washington Spirit

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