After a disappointing stretch run to their opening season, the Orlando Pride are going home early, missing out on the playoffs. As the players leave Orlando and return to their hometowns after the Sept. 24 season finale, the front office is back to the drawing board, looking for new prospects in an attempt to strengthen the young team.
As Orlando prepares for its sophomore season in the NWSL, there are plenty of questions regarding the current roster, mostly revolving around the defense and midfield. According to the Orlando Pride's website, only four players are listed as midfielders, two of which spent much of the season playing a defensive role. On the other hand, the defense has eight players, yet that position group produced the worst results, forcing goalkeepers to come up big in less than ideal situations and lacking general communication.
So where do they start? There are plenty of players to target in the off-season, but with all four International spots filled and zero draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2017 NWSL College Draft, the Pride have to make some trades and/or signings in order to boost their roster.
One move that would be beneficial would be trading Lisa De Vanna to a team like Boston, which needs a veteran forward. Ideally, the Pride could target Sinead Farrelly and Kristie Mewis. This move would bring two true, experienced midfielders to Orlando and reduce the competition at forward. A similar trade could be made with FC Kansas City, bringing someone like Yael Averbuch, or Erika Tymrak to the Sunshine State.
In addition to De Vanna, players like Sarah Hagen and Jamia Fields shopped around. With the caliber of talent up top, including Alex Morgan, Jasmyne Spencer, Kristen Edmonds, and newbies Samantha Witteman, Dani Weatherholt, and Christina Burkenroad, the Pride do not need to keep both Hagen and De Vanna. They could perhaps end up in Seattle involving a trade with Lauren Barnes, or Elli Reed, two veteran defenders who could pair nicely with Steph Catley and Josee Belanger.
This brings up the second major issue with the defense. For the amount of talent on the Pride's roster, the defense showed a disappointing season. While Catley and Belanger look like locks for next season, any of the other defenders should be worried about a possible trade.
After freeing up a few roster spots and opening up room for internationals, the Pride should look outside of the United States for a new central defender. Someone like Alina Garciamendez, whose rights belong to Seattle Reign, could be a target. Garciamendez is a young, strong, center back, who spent a year abroad with FFC Frankfurt and has received 51 caps for the Mexican National Team.
Another possible signing, Ali Riley, defender for the New Zealand National Team, has plenty of experience playing in the states. Riley spent her college years playing at Stanford with Kelley O'Hara and Christen Press, then played professionally for Pali Blues, FC Gold Pride, and Western New York Flash. She is currently playing with FC Rosengard, but if the Pride could secure a transfer for her they may be able to find their missing piece in the central defense.
Regardless of who they trade or bring to Orlando, it is clear that the Pride must make changes. No matter how good they were at the beginning of the season, there is always room for improvement. A couple of key trades could give the Pride the edge that they need going into their second season in the NWSL.