The Orlando Pride signed Claire Emslie at the end of May. Head Coach Marc Skinner said that Emslie is a player that he “wanted to work with for a long time” and that she “possesses many desirable talents that will only help improve the team.”
Glimpses of those talents were seen in her 11 games for Orlando this season. It is never easy joining a new team in the middle of a season, and it is especially not easy given the season that the Pride had. She coped with the pressures well enough, but like almost every other Pride player in 2019, there was still much to be desired. Here’s how the former Manchester City winger did in her first NWSL season.
She played in 11 games in 2019, with nine starts for a total of 773 minutes. The most significant number that jumps off the board when looking at Emslie’s stats are her goals: zero. She failed to find the back of the net once in her 773 minutes. As an attacking player, not scoring is obviously a big issue.
Skinner brought Emslie in to help with services into the box though, as the Pride struggled with crosses and were unable to feed the strikers. Emslie only had one assist and her service could have been better as well. However, she provided quality service many times only for the forwards to be unable to convert. Another disappointing stat was her 20 shots, with only four on target.
In possession, the Scot logged 419 touches and 194 passes. That averages to about 38 touches and 18 passes per game. Her passing accuracy in 2019 was just 67.5%.
Emslie also had 25 cross attempts. Only Carson Pickett, Erin Greening, and Rachel Hill had more and each of those three also had more than double the number of minutes than Emslie. Defensively, the Scot had an impressive 127 duels but was only successful in 35% of them. She committed 11 fouls on the season but drew 13 on the opposition. Emslie also received four yellow cards in her 11 games but was not sent off.
Emslie’s best game was her first for the Pride. She only played in 26 minutes, coming off the bench for Hill, but was a key reason why the Pride were able to scrape out a win. Two minutes after she went on, the Pride won a corner. She took the corner short to Marta, who passed it right back. Emslie cut inside and sent in a bending shot. It was a good effort, but the ball was far too close to the goalkeeper for an easy save.
Just moments later, she did an excellent job getting down the wing. She put in a perfect low cross for Marta, but the Brazilian missed the sitter.
She finished the match with one shot, one shot on target, and three chances created. She had 100% passing accuracy on eight passes and 18 total touches.
Numbers don’t do her performance justice, though. Skinner had given the winger high praise since it was announced that Orlando signed Emslie. The 25-year-old lived up to all the hype in that match. She immediately provided a burst of energy to the field, her pace was deadly, and she had a level of confidence that rivaled Marta’s.
2019 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Emslie a composite grade of 5 for her performance in 2019. She certainly showed her ability, but as the season went on, she became less and less effective. It almost seemed as if she got tired at the end of the season. Her confidence also appeared to take a hit.
Still, she showed what she is capable of doing on the field. As a natural winger, she needs forwards to help her out, and the lack of depth up top certainly hurt Emslie. Given an off-season of rest, a transfer window that will likely see at least one forward brought in, and Sydney Leroux likely available for the entire NWSL season, Emslie should be much more productive.
Emslie should be back with the Pride for 2020 and she’ll have an opportunity to go through preseason camp with her teammates. While with the Pride, expect for her to start just about every game. If Orlando brings in at least one more striker this winter — as is expected to happen — Emslie will have a much better season. She will likely be one of the most important players for the Pride and will be a key part of the attack. Her speed and crossing ability make her threat to any opposition in the league.