Ashlyn Harris seemingly had nowhere to go but down in the Orlando Pride’s second season of existence. After all, she was coming off an NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year season in 2016, complete with nine (!) NWSL Save of the Week honors along the way. She also had tied her career best with a 1.33 goals-against average in the club’s expansion season — a mark she originally set in 2015.
The 32-year-old from Satellite Beach, FL, didn’t miss a beat, with the exception of an 11-game absence with a quad injury sustained at Seattle in the team’s sixth game of the year on May 21. Harris still managed to win six NWSL Save of the Week awards in 2017 — sharing the Week 21 honor with teammate Monica for a combined save against Portland — and, even though backup Aubrey Bledsoe played outstanding soccer in her absence, she was Orlando’s rock, serving as captain for the season.
Harris played in 13 games — all starts — covering 1,106 minutes in 2017 and ending the regular season with an impressive 6-2-5 record in games she started. She made 36 saves and conceded 15 goals, finishing the year with a 71% save percentage and two clean sheets. The U.S. international made nine clearances and won all four of her duels in 2017. By my calculations, Harris finished with a career-best 1.22 goals-against average for the season and, of course, those six SotW awards from the league. Despite the quad injury, it was an impressive encore season from Harris.
She also started in the team’s first ever playoff game in the 2017 NWSL semifinals at Portland. That was a 4-1 win by the Thorns, and not Harris’ best match of the season, but there were factors besides goalkeeping that sunk the Pride that day.
This was a tough one. Harris faced by far the most shots of the season on April 29 at North Carolina, when the Courage took 13 shots on frame and Harris stopped 10 of them in a 3-1 loss. One of those goals came from the penalty spot after a Laura Alleway handball in the box. However, the Courage’s insurance goal came after a wayward pass by Harris resulted in a turnover and North Carolina capitalized. The Courage had 24 shot attempts that day in all.
Another good candidate was Harris’ return match against Sky Blue on Aug. 12, which the Pride won, 5-0. Harris needed to stop only three shots that day, but two of those were difficult stops, knocking a Sam Kerr shot off the bar and making another diving save to preserve her clean sheet.
In the end, let’s go with that feel-good 5-0 win. What Harris lacked in quantity of saves, she made up for in quality.
Final 2017 Grade
For her work this season, The Mane Land staff gives Harris a composite grade of 8. There are only a couple flaws in Harris’ game. The first is that she can sometimes drift slightly out of position and sometimes, and, although her athleticism usually allows her to make up for that, it’s a part of her game she can work on. The second is that she sometimes sits too deep when the team plays a high line. It will be difficult to chip her from distance by playing that way, but in the semifinal match against Portland, there were opportunities to sniff out danger if she played a bit higher or if she’d been quicker off her line.
As a player allocated by the U.S. Soccer Federation, Harris should be back between the pipes in 2018, along with Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, but we’ll get official word on that prior to next season. Provided nothing unexpected happens, Harris should be defending the Pride’s goal next year for Tom Sermanni, and there’s no reason to think she won’t continue to be on top of her game. Harris’ quick reflexes were never in doubt, but in 2017 she showed her leadership attributes by serving as team captain — a role she will likely continue to play in 2018.