With the prospect of playing without Alex Morgan for the first part of the season due to the USWNT star being loaned to Lyon, Tom Sermanni and the Orlando Pride needed to find an offensive fulcrum for the 2018 season. All they did was go out and find one of the best women’s soccer players in the history of the game.
Orlando announced the signing of Brazilian international superstar Marta on April 7, bringing excitement to Pride fans and injecting instant credibility to the club as a serious contender for an NWSL playoff spot in Year 2. The late completion of the deal meant Marta would miss the opener and need some time to get up to speed but it turned out she got on the field in the club’s home opener on April 22, less than 48 hours after landing in Orlando. After that, she was a fixture in the starting lineup.
So, how did she do?
Obviously with a team that’s existed only two seasons, it’s a small sample size, but Marta put together the best statistical year the Pride have yet seen. Marta played in 23 of the club’s 24 regular-season games, starting 21, as well as Orlando’s playoff match in Portland. In a total of 1,938 minutes (fourth on the team), Marta scored a team-high 13 goals (second in the NWSL) with six assists (also second in the NWSL). She created a league-high 64 chances for her teammates and her goals + assists total of 19 was second only to Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr (17/4), the league’s Golden Boot winner.
Marta fired a team-high 65 shots (fifth in the NWSL) and her 25 attempts on target was second to Alex Morgan among Pride players. Her 84% passing accuracy was second only to Monica (84.4%) on Orlando, although she had a much higher percentage of attempts in the attacking half than her fellow Brazilian. She also won 74% of her tackle attempts and had five clearances, committing 16 fouls while drawing 32, and earning three yellow cards on the year.
The Pride voted Marta the team’s Most Valuable Player in their annual Golden Swans awards. She was also honored by the league multiple times, winning the NWSL Player of the Month for September. Marta was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for June, July, August, and September. She also earned the league’s Goal of the Week award for Week 16 for her perfectly worked give-and-go combination with Morgan, culminating with a finish from a tough angle while stumbling.
In the NWSL semifinal game, Marta started and played the full 90 minutes, attempting one shot, creating one chance, and getting a secondary assist on Alanna Kennedy’s goal. Her 89 touches led all players in the game, but she passed at only a 66% rate on a day when no one really shined in that department. She made two tackles and drew three fouls without committing one.
Marta’s best is harder to pin down than nearly any player on the Pride in 2017. After all, she netted three braces on the season. In the end, let’s go with her highest scorer’s points-getting day. The Brazilian, coming back from an international break where she scored the game-winner in a 1-0 friendly at Iceland four days earlier, had a hand in all four goals in the Pride’s 4-2 win at the Houston Dash on June 17.
The Pride’s big day started just 16 minutes in when Marta found Camila in space and the younger Brazilian star blasted a golazo from distance to open the scoring.
In the 22nd minute, Marta scored her first of the day, taking on two Dash defenders, slipping into the left side of the box and beating goalkeeper Lydia Williams to the far side to make it 2-0 for Orlando.
Marta completed her brace at the 57-minute mark, taking a gorgeous through ball from Jasmyne Spencer and beating Williams almost exactly the same way she did the first time.
Her big day finished with an assist on the Pride’s final goal of the game. Marta lined up a corner kick in the 68th and delivered a perfect ball in for Kennedy to nod home for her first goal of the season, putting the game well out of reach.
With two goals and two assists in the match, Marta was easily the player of the game.
Marta came off after 82 minutes with her team up, 4-0. She scored goals on her two shot attempts, notched assists on two of her three chances created, and passed at a 94% rate, completely bossing the midfield throughout the game. She also made three tackles and drew three fouls while committing just one. It was a tour de force performance in a season full of them.
2017 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Marta a composite grade of 9 for her standout season. Aside from netting a hat trick, winning the Golden Boot and the assist race, there’s not much Marta didn’t accomplish during her first season in Orlando. She occasionally showed some frustration when things weren’t going well but aside from that there were so few flaws in her game this season that she delivered everything the club had hoped for and more. Sermanni would no doubt take a repeat of this performance next season.
Marta remains under contract for 2018 and the expectation is that she’ll provide similar production for Orlando in 2019. While teams around the NWSL will have more film on her to study and she now has more mileage on her 31-year-old body (she’ll turn 32 in February). She keeps herself in great condition, so although she may not quite have the top-end speed she did a few years ago, her feel for the game and individual skill should keep her among the NWSL’s top players next season. That’s something the Pride will need while they wait for Camila to return from a season-ending knee injury.
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).
- Alanna Kennedy (11/30).
- Camila (12/1).
- Alex Morgan (12/2).