Tom Sermanni must have really wanted Alanna Kennedy in Orlando. After all, he traded the Pride’s first-ever first-round draft pick — Sam Witteman — to get her. Kennedy came over from the North Carolina Courage on Jan. 19, having already won an NWSL championship while the club was in Western New York in 2016.
“In bringing in Alanna we have acquired one of the best center backs in the league and a high-quality, international player,” Head Coach Tom Sermanni said at the time of the trade. “Though she’s just 21, Alanna has extensive experience with Australia and she will be a terrific addition that both strengthens and adds experience to our lineup next season.”
And defender is where Sermanni started Kennedy, as the Aussie international played center back for the team’s first seven matches before moving to holding midfield for the remainder of the season and even turned into a free kick specialist. Her set piece in Week 22 was the NWSL Goal of the Week.
So, how was the rest of her season?
The 22-year-old appeared in all 24 of the Pride’s matches in 2017, starting 23 of them. The first seven, as mentioned, were in central defense, with the rest all coming in the midfield. Only Ali Krieger played more minutes than Kennedy’s 2,101 for Orlando this season. Her four goals tied for third best on the team and she added one assist. Kennedy took 32 shots (10 on target), passed at a 75% rate, and she had the third most touches on the team (1,470). She was also third on the team in clearances (80), committed 22 fouls while drawing 19, and earned three yellow cards on the season.
The Australian international started and played the full 90 minutes in Orlando’s playoff game at Portland and scored the Pride’s first postseason goal in the loss to the Thorns. She took three shots in that match (one on target), created one scoring chance, and connected on 79% of her passes.
Like several Pride players, Kennedy had multiple “best games” to choose from, but let’s go with the 4-1 win over FC Kansas City on July 15. Starting at right midfielder in Sermanni’s 4-3-3, Kennedy had a strong match on both ends of the pitch. Just 22 minutes into the match, Kennedy put the Pride ahead by nodding home a cross from Marta after Camila played her a short corner. Kennedy’s header made it 1-0 and the Pride were on their way.
She also created three chances in the match, passed at an 86% rate, and made a match-high five tackles, drawing one foul without committing one. Her defense helped limit Kansas City’s chances, as the visitors attempted just nine shots and got only four on frame. It was a complete performance.
2017 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Kennedy a 7.5 composite grade for the 2017 season. Had she played the entire season in the midfield or if she had played center back with Ali Krieger as a partner beyond the first two matches, she would likely have had a higher score, but a 7.5 over the year at 22 years old is not too shabby. The central defense started slow, and that didn’t help her grade, and she’ll need to improve her passing percentage a bit, but she played at a very high level most games.
Kennedy is one of the four players — Dani Weatherholt, Steph Catley and Chioma Ubogagu are the others — to be out of contract, but the Pride did offer her a new deal after the season. Kennedy has an opportunity to become Orlando’s version of Julie Ertz. She’s dangerous on set pieces — both taking them and getting on the end of them. She defends well, wins the ball in the middle of the pitch, and has good awareness. Assuming she re-signs, expect Kennedy to be a fixture in the Orlando midfield in 2018.
Previous 2017 Player Season in Review Posts (Date Published)
- Dani Weatherholt (11/17).
- Nickolette Driesse (11/18).
- Ashlyn Harris (11/19).
- Aubrey Bledsoe (11/20).
- Monica (11/21).
- Ali Krieger (11/22).
- Jamia Fields (11/23).
- Toni Pressley (11/24).
- Kristen Edmonds (11/25).
- Jasmyne Spencer (11/26).
- Steph Catley (11/27).
- Danica Evans (11/28).
- Chioma Ubogagu (11/28).
- Rachel Hill (11/29).