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Recapping the 2018 NWSL Off-Season Ahead of the Orlando Pride’s Season Opener

A brief preview of the Orlando Pride’s season and the biggest NWSL moves ahead of the 2018 campaign.

The NWSL season is now just four days away! On Saturday, the Portland Thorns travel to Cary, NC to take on the Courage in the NWSL Game of the Week. All NWSL Games of the Week can be seen at 3:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime. Following the opening match, the Orlando Pride take on newcomers Utah Royals FC.

While opening weekend will be here before you know it, what can we expect for the entire season? Below is a short preview of the Pride’s season as well as the three biggest NWSL off-season moves.

Brief Pride Preview

The Pride enter their third year with the end goal of winning the league. Newcomer Sydney Leroux will join a starting lineup already headlined by world class players like Marta, Alex Morgan, and — eventually — Australian international Emily van Egmond. Poliana, Shelina Zadorsky, and Carson Pickett, come in to strengthen the defense. While it certainly was not awful, defense was the weakest part of the 2017 Pride. Jasmyne Spencer, Steph Catley, and Aubrey Bledsoe are all big losses, but with the new additions the Pride are an overall better team than last year. Bledsoe was arguably the best backup keeper in the NWSL and should now play a starting role for the Washington Spirit.

Down to Nine Clubs

Almost exactly two months prior to the NWSL season, the Boston Breakers ceased professional operations. Boston participated in the College Draft and selected USWNT member Savannah McCaskill. McCaskill, along with the rest of the Breakers’ roster, was put into a dispersal draft.

The league also lost FC Kansas City but most of the team simply relocated to Utah. Leroux was one of the few players that left Utah after the relocation, albeit via trade.

Coaching Changes

The biggest coaching changes of the off-season came from two clubs. The Seattle Reign and Utah Royals swapped Laura Harvey and Vlatko Andonovski. Andonvoski was the only coach in FC Kansas City history, but will now call Seattle home. Harvey became Utah’s first ever coach, but many thought that she would coach for the national team.

Vera Pauw became the second head coach in Houston history, taking her first club coaching job. Denise Reddy joined Sky Blue in November after an assistant role with Washington.

Old Faces, New Places

The biggest trade in the off-season — and possibly the biggest in NWSL history — came in January. Reigning MVP Sam Kerr, two-time World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd, and USWNT star Christen Press were all involved in a three-team trade. Kerr joins Chicago, Lloyd was moved to Sky Blue, and Press’ rights are owned by Houston but that may not last.

Crystal Dunn has returned to the NWSL after a brief stint in England. The U.S. National Team defender comes back to North Carolina, where she played in college from 2010-2013.

Aside from the Pride’s return, what are you most looking forward to in the NWSL this season?