As the preseason for the National Women’s Soccer League is rapidly approaching, the teams are finally starting to take shape and we can begin to predict how the Pride will perform and play. For Orlando, this off-season has been filled with trades and acquisitions as Tom Sermanni has been working to form what he considers a playoff-ready team.
The big question on everyone’s mind is, can this roster pull it off? Let’s take a look at the new players and the impact that they will bring to the team.
Each player will receive an impact score, out of 10, based on their versatility, experience, and a little intuition.
Ali Krieger, D — 8.5: Perhaps the most well-known and talented of the new crop, Krieger comes to Orlando after four seasons captaining the Washington Spirit. While with the spirit she played in a variety of roles, including center mid, center back, wing, and right back. With Orlando’s decision not to retain former right back Josée Bélanger, it is clear that Krieger is expected to start in this position. Krieger’s national level experience and ability to play the ball up the field will significantly improve Orlando defensively.
Alanna Kennedy, D — 7.5: Australian defender Kennedy was traded to the Pride following her championship run with the Western New York Flash, which has since moved and is now the North Carolina Courage. During the last NWSL season, Kennedy made 15 appearances and anchored the defense, only missing games to attend the Rio Olympics. While only 21, Kennedy has been playing professionally since the age of 16 and has attended both the Olympics and the World Cup. She has played a major role in the Matildas’ back line alongside Orlando teammate Laura Alleway. With the addition of Kennedy, the defense consists of three Australians, which should give the Pride the cohesiveness that was missing in 2016.
Chioma Ubogagu, F — 7: Despite only playing professionally for two years, Ubogagu’s vast experience in international play for the United States Youth National Program makes her an asset to the Pride. A London native, Ubogagu spent her rookie season playing for the Arsenal Ladies and her sophomore season playing for the Houston Dash. Both seasons were marked by speed and versatility. She showed the ability to score with Arsenal but struggled on the score sheet in Houston in 2016. Her attributes should pair nicely with the likes of Jasmyne Spencer and Kristen Edmonds.
Rachel Hill, F — 5: Two-time MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist Hill comes to Orlando via trade from the Portland Thorns. This upcoming season will be her first professionally. While she does not have an extensive amount of international experience, her 140 goals during her time at the University of Connecticut make her a threat to any team. Hill will likely play a substitution role, coming on to bring fresh legs and energy to the game.
Danica Evans, F — 3: Known for her “flip throw,” Evans was drafted in the 2017 NWSL College Draft from the University of Colorado. While there, she scored 16 goals and had nine assists in 42 appearances. She has played for both the U-17 and U-18 U.S. national teams and recently participated in the U-23 camp. Evans is just another forward in a large pool of young forwards and in order for her to add to this team she will need to prove herself in preseason. I am not entirely sure of the role Evans will play in 2017, if any, and I do not expect to see much of her, but I hope she proves me wrong.
Nickolette Driesse, MF — 6: With a a much more impressive resume, Driesse come to Orlando after being selected in the 2017 NWSL Draft. Driesse is a two-time national champion, playing for both Florida State University and Penn State, and is a former college teammate of Jamia Fields. She also was on the U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team roster for the 2014 World Cup. If Driesse can prove herself in camp, and build off of the connection with Fields and the other forwards, she could be a great attacking midfielder. Her creativity and passing ability could add a spark to the midfield.
If Orlando decides to sign Evans, Hill, and Driesse, that means at least four players will need to be released in order to fulfill the rule that each roster can only have a maximum of 20 players. That being said, this new crop of rookies could put pressure for roster positions on current players such as Monica Hickmann Alves, Christina Burkenroad, and Toni Pressley.
Well, there are my predictions for how the newcomers will do in the 2017 season. How do you see these new faces fitting in? Let us know in the comments section below.