Marta, like the majority of the Orlando Pride, took a step backward in a disjointed 2018 season that saw the club struggle, especially down the stretch. The Brazilian played well overall in her second season in Orlando but something was missing at times — a problem that plagued the entire squad all year.
She began the season with the Pride but then quickly left to rejoin Brazil for the Copa America Femenina. She helped lead her national team to the championship in that tournament and qualification for the 2019 World Cup. Upon her return to her club team, she showed the moments of magic we’re used to seeing but there weren’t quite as many of them in 2018 and she didn’t seem able to elevate her teammates as much as last year.
Let’s take a look at her overall season.
Marta played in 17 of the club’s 24 games, starting 15. Her absences due to a couple of knocks, a red card suspension, and international duty were noticeable, as the team definitely played better with the Brazilian on the field. Her 1,310 minutes played were the fewest of the regular starters at forward. Marta scored four goals and added four assists in 2018, tying her for third and first on the team, respectively in those categories.
Her 917 touches were good for fifth on the team and first among forwards, showing just how much she influenced the game when she was on the pitch. Her 81% passing rate was second only to fellow Brazilian Monica on the club in 2018 and she created 36 scoring chances. Marta attempted 44 shots on the season, getting 18 on target. She committed 23 fouls, drawing 19 from the opposition, and she saw two yellow cards and one red this year.
Marta’s best game was pretty easy for me to pick out. She only scored one goal but she was a dominant force in a 2-1 home win over the Washington Spirit on July 7. Marta got going early in this one and was robbed of a goal by former teammate Aubrey Bledsoe just eight minutes into the match. She spent much of the night in the Spirit’s end, firing a season high 11 shots toward Bledsoe’s net and getting five of them on target, narrowly missing the goal a few times as she came close to scoring repeatedly.
But Marta saved her best for last. With virtually nothing left in her legs, she took a late pass from Sydney Leroux, dribbled in on goal, faked both directions, and drilled the game-winning goal past Bledsoe on the short side in the 86th minute to grab all three points for Orlando.
It was vintage Marta. She also passed at an 86% clip that night, drew two free kicks and showed her feisty side, picking up a yellow card.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff ultimately landed on a 7 for the Brazilian, just one year after she earned a 9 for her MVP-like performance in 2017. In fact, the grade of 7 was unanimously submitted by all involved. Along the way, she fought through some nagging injuries and sasw many of her sparkling passes that should have been Pride goals wasted by her teammates, but she still was the Pride’s best hope for a moment of brilliance, game after game.
Marta’s not getting any younger at age 32. In fact, she’ll be 33 before the 2019 NWSL season kicks off. The Pride still picked up her contract option after the season because that was an obvious move. Sure, the club will be without her for a large chunk of the summer due to World Cup duty, but when you have the chance to have one of the all-time greats on your team, you take it. I expect Marta will play at or above her 2018 level next season if she can stay clear of those nagging injuries and get a bit more cohesive play out of her teammates. It remains to be seen who will coach the team and whether the new skipper will keep Marta up top or place her where she can pull more of the strings in the midfield like so many Pride fans wanted to see this season.