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Looking Back at the Orlando Pride’s 2018 Off-Season Moves

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With the season now in the rear-view mirror, how did the Pride’s off-season moves turn out?

Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

After the Orlando Pride fell in the first round of the 2017 NWSL playoffs, they had the goal of winning it all in 2018. To help boost the team, Orlando made a few notable trades and player acquisitions. Many of the assets traded away were draft picks and Orlando, as of right now, is only left with a fourth-round pick in 2019.

Steph Catley and Jasmyne Spencer were also traded away, both of whom were Pride originals and combined to total 76 appearances, eight goals, and seven assists in two seasons.

With 2018 in the books, let’s take a look back and evaluate how the trades ended up.

Lotta Ökvist

The value of this one is hard to judge. On one hand Ökvist never played a game and the Swede was waived in the beginning of July. She was only brought in for a third-round pick in the 2019 draft, so we will have to keep an eye on what Houston does with that pick. Overall, it is disappointing that she never got a chance, and since she never saw any game action this has to be seen as a poor trade, giving up an asset for a player that didn’t step on the pitch.

Poliana

The Brazilian defender was brought in from the Houston Dash for a second-round pick in the 2019 draft. She is one of the players who we thought would make an immediate impact on the roster, especially with fellow Brazilian Camila starting the year injured.

Poliana made 22 appearances in 2017 with Houston (seven more than in 2016), scored four goals, and added two assists. This season, she had a completely different impact and, ultimately, did not live up to expectations. Poliana played in just 10 games this year and that should speak volumes by itself. She did not provide any goals or assists and was frequently more of a liability than an asset, committing large number of turnovers. After she was signed, The Mane land’s own Michael Citro said this of the Brazilian:

“Poliana is versatile (hey, there’s that word again!) enough to play multiple positions and she has tremendous creativity and skill, with the desire to get forward into the attack. She can solidify the right back position.”

That shows why now former Head Coach Tom Sermanni and the front office brought her in, but Poliana just did not produce as expected, and she could be on the way out this off-season.

Sydney Leroux

Leroux was the best piece of business that the Pride, or possibly the entire Orlando City organization, has completed in 2018. The former USWNT starter was brought to Orlando for a first-round draft pick and became a key part of Orlando’s attack, while still getting back on the defensive end and continually breaking up the opponent’s chances.

It was a slow start to the season for Leroux, but she eventually got it going and finished the season as the team’s leading goal scorer, with six. Her 20 appearances are among the highest on the team and she probably would have had the most appearances among Pride players if not for a late-season illness followed by a concussion on her return. Also, only once this year did the Pride fail to win when Leroux got a goal or assist. The down side of her scoring was that four of her goals came in just two games.

Look for her to remain a key part of the Pride in 2019.

Emily van Egmond

One of the more intriguing signings of the off-season, Australian international Emily van Egmond signed on Feb. 14 with high expectations. After missing the preseason and the first month of the NWSL campaign while with the Matildas in the Women’s Asian Cup, van Egmond appeared in 17 of the team’s matches in 2018 and it’s safe to say the club expected more. Van Egmond did not contribute a goal and mustered only one assist in 1,098 minutes, with a pedestrian 67% passing rate. She got only four of her 15 shots on target. Missing preseason made it tough for van Egmond to integrate fully into the group in 2018 regardless of how many times Sermanni put her in the lineup.

Shelina Zadorsky

Canadian international center back Shelina Zadorsky came over from Washington in a trade that sent the Spirit backup goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe — currently up for NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year — and the club’s first-round draft pick in 2019. Zadorsky was a solid addition, appearing in 23 of the Pride’s 24 matches in 2018. Her 2,070 minutes led the team and she tied Dani Weatherholt for the most appearances on the Pride.

She didn’t score a goal, but Zadorsky assisted on two others, while being perhaps the club’s most reliable player on the back line this season. At 75.6%, she was just behind Ali Krieger in terms of passing accuracy among the team’s defenders. Her 100 clearances were easily the most on the team, surpassing the next closest Pride player (Krieger) by 40. Her 81.3% tackle rate also led all Orlando defenders.

Zadorsky filled a need for Orlando, so her acquisition was a good one, but the defense still conceded too many goals and it’s difficult to say the Pride got the better of this trade considering how Bledsoe played in comparison to Ashlyn Harris in 2018 — and that’s with next year’s first-round pick in Washington still to be determined.

Christine Nairn, Carson Pickett, and Haley Kopmeyer

I have to admit, these trades were difficult to get on board with right away. There was no question about the quality that was coming in — Nairn had over 100 NWSL appearances, Pickett was a promising young defender, and Kopmeyer was a starting quality keeper — but the Pride gave up Steph Catley and Jasmyne Spencer to get them. After an entire season, these trades were overall a good move. They were also necessary due to Catley’s request to be traded to a West Coast team to give her a shorter flight back to Australia for international duty.

Nairn was really the only player that did not live up to expectations out of the three and, in fact, Pickett and Kopmeyer exceeded expectations. Pickett immediately became the starting left back and finished the season with 19 appearances. There is still a lot of room for the 25-year-old to grow and improve for next season, but mostly she did her job well this season after a slow start getting acclimated.

Nairn came in with the expectation that she would be an everyday starter and was in the starting XI for the first five matches of the season. However, by the end of the season she started in just three of the last 10 matches. Statistically, she was still a team leader — tied for sixth in appearances and touches, tied for the most assists with four, with the highest tackle percentage, and second-fewest fouls conceded. While this all is great, she never really changed the momentum of a match. She did her job well, but as the season went on her production went down.

Finally, Kopmeyer might just be the most underrated player on the team. She came in twice when Ashlyn Harris was on international duty and played in the season finale to face a total of 16 shots. Of those 16 shots in three games, she kept one clean sheet, won the NWSL Save of the Week in her first game for the Pride, was nominated for Save of the Week in her second game, had an impressive 88% save percentage, allowing just two goals — an unstoppable Carli Lloyd Goal of the Week nominee and another unstoppable goal from a wide open Jodie Taylor. Kopmeyer may not be back in Orlando next year, though, as she is clearly good enough to be starting and it will be interesting to see what other teams offer for her.