The 2019 season must have been a whirlwind for Toni Pressley. She battled injuries early in the season. She then became a mainstay in Marc Skinner’s back line before a breast cancer diagnosis shocked the team. She raised over $40,000 in an auction for charity and then returned back to the field after undergoing treatment to play in the Orlando Pride’s season finale.
Pressley played in just 10 games in 2019. Julie King and Morgan Reid are the only defenders to have played in fewer matches than her for Orlando. Nine of those were consecutive starts. She made her season debut on May 11 and started every match until July 20. She returned in the last match of the season, coming in off the bench.
She did get a goal while only taking three shots, all of which were on target. Nobody else scored a goal taking fewer shots on the team. She did not register an assist on the season. Her 447 touches were about average when compared to Orlando’s defenders, averaging just under 45 touches per game. However, her passing accuracy was on the low side, at just 69%. This is a vital area that she will need to improve on next season, especially as the team attempts to build out from the back more.
She attempted 42 duels, winning 55% of them, made 52 clearances, 11 blocks, 15 interceptions, and had a 73% tackle rate. In 2018, Pressley had 28 clearances and four blocks, with seven interceptions. She also had a 78.6% tackle success and a 61.8% duel success rate. So, she had significantly more clearances, blocks, and interceptions in fewer games played.
Pressley’s most memorable game was definitely the season finale. She returned from breast cancer on a night that was dedicated to her. On her entrance in the match, Ashlyn Harris took off the captain’s band and gave it to Pressley. She only played 18 minutes but it was a game that never will be forgotten.
Her best game, however, was back on May 11. The Pride lost 3-1 to the Portland Thorns, but Pressley got the game underway with a terrific header in the 10th minute. Carson Pickett sent an in-swinger corner kick cross to the near post. Pressley flicked it on past the ‘keeper for the Pride’s first goal of the season.
While the Thorns scored three goals to go on and win, Pressley did well defensively. She had six clearances, two interceptions, and a couple of blocks. She did have two fouls against her, one that resulted in a Portland penalty kick. However, this was due to her lack of speed. Speed has never been a strength for Pressley and she struggled with it against the quick forwards on the Thorns but she earned a rating of 6 and Player of the Match honors from our Jack McAwesome for her performance in that game.
2019 Final Grade
Pressley earned a composite grade of 5.5 for the season. That is the same grade that The Mane Land staff gave her back in 2017. In that Season in Review, we said:
“There were periods of standout play by Pressley but there were also holes in her game. She had the lowest passing rate of any of the team’s back line players. And she cost the team points twice with fouls in the box late in games to concede penalties.”
That statement remains the same for 2019. She was arguably the best defender at times this year, but her lack of pace and poor distribution hurts her ability. In 2018, Pressley’s score dropped to a 4.5, but again she had impressive games and games where she could have done much better. Morgan Reid and Shelina Zadorsky are both better than Pressley in those categories. While Zadorsky has the starting spot on lock for 2020 — assuming she’s back on the squad next year — Pressley will need to improve her passing accuracy to remain a starter.
After the season, Pressley said that she will work all off-season to get in shape. She obviously missed a significant amount of time in 2019, and she will be working towards being in better shape next season. After her transformation from 2016 to 2017, I have little doubt that she will be even better next season. If she stays healthy, Pressley could be the starter for the majority of the season as the Olympics will again keep many internationals out of league action.