2019 NWSL season review: Orlando Pride
2019 Orlando Pride (Photo by Joe Petro_Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In a season full of challenges on and off the field, the Orlando Pride fell to the bottom of the 2019 NWSL table. The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup coupled with key players departing and going down with injuries, Orlando were forced into a youth movement. In his first season at the helm, head coach Marc Skinner and the Pride finished with a record of 4W-16L-4D on 16 points. Despite all the trials, the team would welcome back two of their own for the feel good stories of the season.

Departures and Injuries

Forward Chioma Ubogagu was released to pursue opportunities in Europe. Nine veteran players participated in the Women’s World Cup. Camila, Ashlyn Harris, Alanna Kennedy, Ali Krieger, Marta, Alex Morgan, Emily van Egmond and Shelina Zadorski would travel to France to represent their countries. Morgan missed additional matches due to an injury in the World Cup and a concussion suffered in Chicago. Ultimately Morgan would be shut down near the end of the season for patella stress injury. Midfielder van Egmond returned to Australia to undergo ankle surgery. On August 7 Toni Pressely shocked the league when she announced that she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

On field struggles

Even with quality veterans in the lineup, Orlando got off to a dismal start. Struggles on both offense and defense lead to a 1W-7L-2D record in their first 10 matches. Ubogagu and Gina Lewandowski’s own goal lead to Orlando’s first win of the season on June 22 at Sky Blue FC. During the same 10 game span, Orlando was able to score only six goals. The frustrations came to a head after a 1-0 home loss against Utah Royals FC. Coach Skinner called out his team in a heated post match huddle and press conference. Skinner’s demeanor turned positive toward as his players responded well throughout the season. Irritations turned toward the officiating as calls seemed to go against Orlando. Ali Krieger and Skinner would express these concerns in a post game press conference after a loss against the Houston Dash

Biggest Win: Wednesday August 21 at Chicago Red Stars

Rachel Hill and Ubogagu each registered a goal and assist to upset the Chicago Red Stars by a 2-1 scoreline. The Pride would enjoy a 2-0 lead until the 96th minute when Chicago was able to pull one back. This would be Alex Morgan’s last game and Orlando’s final win of the season. The match would also be Ubogagu last as she was released the following week.

Accomplishments and Awards

A trio of young players scored their first career goals this season. Joanna Boyles scored on a free kick at Houston Dash. 2019 third round draft pick Erin Greening got her first goal against Portland Thorns FC on July 14 and fourth round draft pick Marisa Viggiano tailed the game winner against Sky Blue FC on July 21. Goalkeeper Lainey Burdett got her first career start in net October 5 against the Washington Spirit. Defender Ali Krieger was named to the NWSL Best XI. Marta and Morgan were named to FIFA FIFPro Women’s World XI. Marta will return to the Orlando Pride next season as she agreed to a new deal. 

Sydney Leroux and Toni Pressley return 

Three months after giving birth to her second child, Sydney Leroux returned to the pitch on September 29th at Sky Blue FC in the 86th minute. On October 12 against Reign FC, Toni Pressley made her first appearance after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Captain Ashlyn Harris immediately handed Pressley the captain’s armband. Marta would equalize the match in the 86th minute ending the season on a positive. Marc Skinner praised Toni and her teammates, “I’m so, so proud of the girls fighting for that tonight and I haven’t got the words to express just how I feel about Toni because she’s Wonder Woman.”