There are quite a few similarities between Orlando City’s 2015 MLS debut and the Orlando Pride’s sophomore season in the NWSL. Both have been highlighted by the arrival of Brazilian superstars, genuine legends of the game, that piqued interest and intrigue off the pitch and sparked the offenses on it.
And while Kaká dominated in MLS play back in 2015, scoring nine goals and adding seven assists, Marta has potentially been even better for the Pride. She has already outscored any Pride player over the last year and a half in only twelve matches. With eight goals to her name already — including a brace in Orlando’s 2-2 draw with the Washington Spirit — to go along with three assists, she has proven to be the revelation that the Pride were looking for. She’s in the thick of the MVP race and if she and Alex Morgan can get clicking, the rest of the league should be incredibly concerned.
Marta has shown the ability to take over games by herself -- she had a hand in every goal in Orlando’s 4-2 victory over the Houston Dash — and has been the emotional spark that has willed Orlando on when trailing late. The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year was crucial in the Pride’s comeback victory on the road over Sky Blue FC, scoring the equalizer and beginning the move for the game-winner. Without her, Orlando would likely not even be within touching distance of fourth place and the red line.
“She has actually surpassed my expectations of her playing ability,” Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said this week. “I think she’s affected the team and her ability affects the team so we create more chances. So that makes life better and easier for players around her.”
And Marta isn’t the only Brazilian addition to the team that has made waves in 2017. Camila Martins Pereira — known simply as Camila or even Camilinha — was signed on as a fullback but has made herself a staple higher up in Sermanni’s team. Whether she’s in the midfield or a member of the forward line, Camila has become a key piece on both ends of the field. With a respectable three goals and three assists, Camila has been another great addition to the Pride’s attack in an attempt to build on the inaugural season’s successes. It helps that Marta has taken her 22-year-old teammate under her wing.
The added skill that Marta and Camila have brought in has revitalized a languid Pride attack. Joining fellow Brazilian international Monica, who has been the rock at the base of the midfield in Sermanni’s 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, the Pride have built a solid spine for the present and the future. All three have been consistently called up to the national team this year under Emily Lima and will take part in the upcoming Tournament of Nations.
If Orlando wants to surge up the NWSL table to achieve the team’s first playoff appearance, it will be on the shoulders of the Brazilians to do so. The Pride have already been the most consistent performers in Sermanni’s squad while the infusion of youth has picked up some of the slack waiting for Morgan to return from France. It has been Marta, and not Morgan, that has picked up the reins in Orlando to drive the offense. If the two can coexist, it would turn an efficient offense into a deadly one. With Monica acting as the anchor in midfield, the Brazilian trio is vital to the success of this Pride outfit.