In my personal opinion, Ashlyn Harris was the most disappointing player for the Orlando Pride in 2018. Not because she played so poorly, but simply because she did not live up to her typical standards. Harris is one of the most consistent U.S. Women’s National Team call-ups, and the keeper is one of the most talent players — not just goalkeepers — in the league. In 2018, her performances did not reflect all of this.
In July I argued that Haley Kopmeyer should start above Harris. This is another reason why Harris was disappointing — her backup was having more impressive starts than the veteran. Statistically, she was not too poor — more on that below — but watching her play this season it looked like she lost a step.
Taking a look at the stat sheet, a few numbers jump out. The first is her 70 saves. That is good enough for fourth-best in the league. However, add in her 35 goals allowed and Harris’ save percentage is 11th-best in the league at 66%. Reminder: There are only nine teams in the league, so two backups put up higher save percentages. These two players are Michelle Betos and Britt Eckerstrom, who played eight and 10 games, respectively, so they still got plenty of game time in.
Harris’ 70 saves are the highest she has put up as a member of the Pride. She went from 62 saves in 15 games in 2016, to 41 saves in 13 games in 2017, and 70 saves in 21 games this past season. Harris also finished the year with four clean sheets, tied for her total in Orlando’s inaugural year.
Harris was poor distributing the ball. Her passing accuracy was 57% and only six out of the 18 goalkeepers who saw the field in 2018 did worse than that, including Kopmeyer. Part of her poor rating came from trying long balls, with 75% of her balls going forward while connecting on just 40% of long passes and 37% of passes into the opponents’ half.
The most impressive stat for Harris is her seven NWSL Save of the Week awards, including three in the last five weeks of the season. Perhaps it should just be named the Ashlyn Harris Award.
Harris’ best game came back on June 23 against the Washington Spirit. Orlando scored early via Alanna Kennedy from midfield. From there, Harris had to continuously save the day. She finished with just three saves, but this included the Save of the Week and she held a shutout.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Harris a grade of 5 for 2018. She was poor at times, excellent at others, and an average grade seems appropriate for the 32-year-old. Harris continuously made some amazing saves, but she also let in a number of soft goals.
There were times when she tried to punch the ball clear and it never left the box. There were times when she was one-on-one with an attacker and misread the play, giving easy goals to the opponent. And, she even managed to get chipped from inside her six-yard box. Things like that don’t happen to Ashlyn Harris, and her form dipped this season.
Still, there were times when Harris made that impossible save to get the Pride in the game. She is one of the biggest leaders on the field, and a vital part of the team. When she plays well, there are not many better keepers, but 2018 was definitely not her best.
Harris will come into the season as the No. 1 goalkeeper and will play in the majority of games. The only ones that she should miss will be during the World Cup. With a new coach coming, Harris will need to step up, but that is never really an issue with her. Expect a better 2019 than 2018 from the American as Harris continues to pile on the saves. The biggest question might just be how many Save of the Week awards will she win?