As we count down to the new year of 2019 — which will be Orlando City SC’s fifth in MLS and Orlando Pride’s fourth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2018, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year.
The NWSL off-season prior to 2018 was a crazy one, with several high profile players changing teams, including Sam Kerr, Carli Lloyd, and (eventually) Christen Press. The Orlando Pride got in on that action when they acquired Sydney Leroux’s rights from Utah Royals FC on Feb. 2.
The former USWNT striker had long been rumored to be joining her husband, Lions’ striker Dom Dwyer, in Orlando, but it finally became real in a deal that sent a first-round draft pick in 2019 to Utah. The Pride got that pick from the Seattle Reign in exchange for two selections in the Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft. So, in essence, the Pride passed on Boston’s players to get what they needed to acquire Leroux’s rights.
Although fans were scratching their heads at Orlando’s inactivity in potentially getting a useful player from Boston’s roster, the Pride had a longer game in mind and worked it to get the player they wanted. It definitely made then-Pride gaffer Tom Sermanni happy.
“I’m delighted to bring a player of Sydney’s caliber and pedigree to the Pride,” Sermanni said in the club’s release. “Sydney has a great work ethic, strong footballing skills and a wonderful personality that I know will fit in well with the team culture here in Orlando. We’re excited to add her to our already potent offensive force.”
The UCLA product was a big-time signing for a Pride team that had aspirations of challenging for an NWSL title. While that didn’t ultimately happen, Leroux’s arrival did energize the Pride fan base. She appeared in 20 of the team’s 24 matches, missing time with what was described as an illness at the time but tragically turned out to be a miscarriage. Leroux also suffered a concussion upon her return to the field, so it was an unfortunate end to a season in which she led Orlando in goal scoring, with six. That turned out important as the Pride saw unexpected offensive struggles, as well as key international absences and some minor injuries, from Alex Morgan and Marta in 2018.
As we stated in Leroux’s Season in Review piece, in which she received a 6.5 composite score from The Mane Land staff:
Leroux made 20 appearances in 2018, 15 of them starts. She had the second-most minutes among strikers (1,431), with only Alex Morgan having a higher total. Leroux led the team in scoring with six goals, adding two assists. It took her 10 games to finally find the back of the net, and from there she recorded another brace just two weeks later. Only once this season did Leroux get a goal or an assist in a match the Pride lost. That was on July 11 against the Houston Dash — one of the most disappointing results of the season.
While the goals did not occur too often, the shots were there. Leroux tied Morgan for the most shots (51) and led the team in shots on target (24). Her passing accuracy was low at just 70%, but take away Marta and Danica Evans, who only played 49 minutes in 2018, and Leroux had the highest passing accuracy among strikers. She also had the second-highest assist total, with Marta again leading the pack among the forwards, with four.
Unfortunately for the Pride and their fans — but certainly fortunate for Leroux and Dwyer — Sydney is expecting a child in 2019. Leroux made that announcement on social media on Nov. 28. That will have a big impact on Orlando’s 2019 NWSL campaign and potentially on the club’s roster moves this off-season.
Regardless, her arrival in Orlando in 2018 and her importance to the team’s surprisingly struggling offense, was worthy of one of our top OCSC moments of the year. Could her current pregnancy mark the end of her playing career? I wouldn’t bet against another Leroux comeback.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2018.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2018
10. OCSC hires Oguchi Onyewu as OCB’s new technical director.
9. Orlando City bolsters defense with Carlos Ascues and Shane O’Neill in the summer window.
8. Orlando City B re-launched as a USL League One side for 2019.
7. Orlando Pride finally beat Chicago Red Stars.
6. Orlando City acquires Sacha Kljestan in a trade with the New York Red Bulls.