One of the few positions on the field that Tom Sermanni had no concerns about entering the 2017 NWSL season was left back. Steph Catley was one of the best in the league at her position a year ago and one of the club’s most outstanding players. The only drawback to having her as a starter in 2016 was her long international absence during the Olympics.
Catley was back in her old spot when the 2017 Orlando Pride season began and once again she turned out to be one of the team’s strongest performers.
Appearing in 23 of the team’s 24 games — all starts — and the Pride’s lone playoff match, Catley did not score a goal but did assist on two of them. She finished third on the club in minutes played (2,030). Catley passed at an 81.4% rate in the third-most attempts on the team and led all players in touches (1,667) and crosses (75).
Catley won 75% of her tackles and committed just 12 fouls while drawing 14, earning a single yellow card in 2017. She attempted only nine shots, getting three of them on target. That’s a significant drop, considering she attempted nine shots in 11 appearances last year and got six of those on frame, but with the addition of Marta and Camila, and a return to top form by Alex Morgan, offense wasn’t a necessity from the left back position.
In the NWSL semifinal match at Portland, Catley played all 90 minutes, created one scoring chance, won one free kick, committed no fouls, made three tackles, and passed at just a 60% clip.
Catley put in many outstanding performances throughout the season, making it tough to zero in on just one. However, her efforts in a 3-0 shutout win over the Washington Spirit on Aug. 8 does leap to mind. In addition to helping the Pride keep a clean sheet for goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, the Aussie fullback passed at an 81% rate, made one tackle, committed no fouls on the day and created two chances. One of those chances was perhaps the assist of the season for Orlando and created one of the prettiest team goals of the year:
2017 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Catley a composite grade of 8 on the season — one of the highest marks on the team. Aside from an offensive drop-off in shot attempts and not scoring a goal like she had in 2016, it was a better 2017 in almost every category for the Australian star. She continues to be one of the NWSL’s best fullbacks on both ends of the pitch and she was one of the Pride’s most important pieces in their first-ever playoff season.
Following the 2017 season, Sermanni and company offered Catley a new contract. She was one of four players — Chioma Ubogagu, Dani Weatherholt, and Australian national teammate Alanna Kennedy are the others — to garner a new contract offer. While fans may be biting their nails awaiting word of the contract to be signed, there’s no need to rush at this point. Should the club come to terms with Catley, she’ll most likely return to her left back spot, however, she’s also shown versatility with some standout play at center back for her national team, giving Sermanni flexibility should a top left back become available, allowing him to move Ali Krieger to right back. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out.