The fourth season of the National Women's Soccer League is little over a month away, and most of the players on the Orlando Pride are making their way down to the City Beautiful as the team prepares to open the preseason for its inaugural campaign. Does the team have what it takes right now to contend for the playoffs, or should the Pride attempt to nail down one final signing to assure success? What will the team look like when it opens play on the road in Portland on April 17?
The Current Roster
According to our Orlando Pride roster tracker, the team is at the league maximum of 20 players, using three out of the four international roster spots. At first glance, the midfield is one glaring area in which the Pride may suffer from a lack of depth; however, taking the level of talent and versatility with the existing players, the team will be able to have flexibility to create depth by having specific players in various places on the pitch.
Bottom line, we don't really need to go out and make another signing here because what we have is quality, and the team isn't signing Marta -- she'd have to take a pay cut to play in the NWSL from FC Rosengård in Sweden. Let's focus on who's on the team. This is a solid squad and Coach Tom Sermanni will have to get everyone on the same page quickly with over a third of the squad facing the possibility of national team duty.
Starting XI and Formation
Back in December, we projected the starting XI for the Pride prior to the NWSL draft and Canadian allocations. How have the changes to the roster impacted our projected starters? Let's take a closer look. Going into the preseason, there are three questions that need to be answered before the start of the season.
- When you have Alex Morgan on the roster, who plays next to her in Sermanni's 4-4-2?
When the team announced its first three players, Sarah Hagen was one of the three and people assumed she would be Morgan's partner up top. Establishing this partnership will be key since there are seven other players who are considered forwards. Lianne Sanderson will be moved to the No. 10 position, Josée Bélanger will be on the back line, and draft picks Sam Witteman and Christina Burkenroad will be coming off the bench. Hagen will battle Jasmyne Spencer and Jamia Fields for the starting position. The edge may have to be given to Spencer, who spent her off-season in Australia's W-League with Sydney FC. Hagen does have a height advantage over them, but for now, we see Spencer as the opening day starter.
- What's the midfield going to look like?
Midfield depth may seem like an overused term, but six players currently on the roster are projected midfielders -- no change from our December projections. As stated earlier, Sanderson is the 10 and Kaylyn Kyle is the six, while Becky Edwards and Maddy Evans will be the left and right midfielders, respectively. Expect our rookie players to come in off the bench with fresh legs and speed in the later parts of our matches.
- How well will the Pride center backs work together?
Coming into the season, the Pride will have a very solid back line with a distinct international feel. Australian defender Steph Catley will be left back and Canadian allocated player Bélanger will be right back, while newly announced signing Laura Alleway and Brazilian National Team defender Monica Alves will be the center backs in front of Ashlyn Harris. There may be a language barrier between the back line, but hopefully soccer can break any barrier. Here's how we see the team on opening day.
As the team comes together on the practice pitch this preseason, we'll get a better idea of how the Pride will take shape come April 17.