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Orlando Pride: Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

As the season draws closer, there are five things that have been weighing on my mind.

Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

We made it, folks. The road might not have been as comfortable or glorious as we wished, but we somehow made it to 2019. The NWSL off-season has been a pretty busy time for me personally, and I haven’t gotten to watch anywhere close to the amount of games I had planned to watch over in Australia’s W-League. That didn’t keep me from always thinking about the Pride though. Here are my personal top five things, in regards to the Pride’s fourth season, I’ve been thinking about most.

Head Coach

Easy choice right here. I think it’s been on all of our minds since the Pride parted ways with Tom Sermanni all the way back on Sept. 14. Whether you thought it was the right move, an untimely move, or even the wrong move, there is always a bit of excitement with the possibilities of who will take over the team. The next person to take over will have (if announced this week) a short turnaround on preparing for the draft, guiding the team through a World Cup year, and — depending on where they’ve been working — getting acclimated to the country and the league. The draft is just over a week away, and the Pride front office still hasn’t announced a coach. I can’t get any more on the edge of my seat without falling off.

2019 NWSL Draft

Speaking of the draft, it’s almost here. Jan. 10 is the day when all teams will start picking and choosing their future. Five teams hold the first 16 picks of the draft currently, and the Pride don’t enter the fray until picks 25 and 30. Obviously a lot can change, and I’m excited about the possibilities of what could occur on draft day. As for our only two picks being a little deep in the draft? I’m not too worried about that, as there are always a few gems out there. A great example of that is Dani Weatherholt getting taken 31st overall in 2016. My only concern is the lack of picks. Every team will have a depleted roster throughout the season leading up to the World Cup, and I imagine almost every pick will see some playing time this year depending on which team they land on. Which leads me to number three on my list.

The Prides Ability to Navigate International Absences

I believe Orlando has a pretty solid starting 11 even without all the international players. My only worry is a cohesive back line. I’m excited to see how they do, and in those hot summer months, if they can overcome the many obstacles that present themselves and put together a good season. If the team remains largely intact, then a good portion of the players we’ll be watching are over in Australia right now getting consistent minutes and should be good to go when the time comes.

Watching Dani Weatherholt and Rachel Hill Continue to Develop

I made it no secret that I enjoyed watching Dani all through the 2018 season, and I believe, along with Rachel Hill, they’ll be leaned on heavily in 2019. Both are over in Australia, and have played every minute over there so far. Although I’ve missed most of the season this year, the numbers look pretty good. Dani has a couple of assists, her passing has dipped below 77% just three times, and it seems she’s been fairly consistent in midfield. Rachel went on a tear from November to December, getting four assists and four goals in the process. Her crossing was off to start the season, but she’s starting to drop them on a dime more often now.

A quick look at Rachel doing her thing:

My New Seats

Although this one doesn’t have much to do with the happenings on the field, I moved over to the other side of the stadium. I use to sit in Section 10, Row E, right next to the tunnel, but decided to hop over to the other side and get under the roof, and a little closer to some friends. For various reasons, it’ll be good to get away from the tunnel. My 2-year-old son could only take so many kamikaze teenagers pushing him to get to one of their idols. Another year older, it’ll also be a joy to see his growing interest in the game.

Those are my thoughts as we draw closer to a new season. I’m pretty excited about all of the above and want to know what you think. Whether it has to do with the team specifically or your personal experience rooting for the Pride in 2019, let me hear it below in the comments.

Happy 2019 everyone!