Rachel Hill has steadily become more of a mainstay with the Orlando Pride over the past three years. Selected by the Portland Thorns 14th overall in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, the Pride traded for her rights shortly after. Hill played 21 of 24 games during the 2018 season with seven starts. This year, Hill became a regular starter for the first time in her career. With two of the team’s primary attackers (Marta, and Alex Morgan) out for much of the summer at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, new Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner depended on the young forward to pick up some of the slack.
The Pride suffered from offensive struggles this season, ranking seventh in the league with 24 goals scored. The absence of the team’s primary attackers was obvious as Hill and Chioma Ubogagu failed to fully replace the team’s attackers when they were away on international duty or injured.
Her third NWSL season was the year that Rachel Hill became a regular starter, starting a career-high 22 of 24 games. With several regular starters gone at the World Cup, Hill led the team in appearances, starts, and minutes, with 1,850. Hill scored four goals this season, tying her for second on the team with Ubogagu, two behind Marta’s six strikes. While she only accumulated two assists, they were enough to tie her for the team lead with Ubogagu and Joanna Boyles.
Nearly half of Hill’s shots were on target this season, hitting the target 14 times from 32 attempts. All four of Hill’s goals were scored from inside the box as the young forward was able to find the open space in front of goal. The majority of Hill’s passes were forward or outside with only 23.5% of her passes going backwards. Additionally, she contributed 25 key passes in the attack, finishing the season with a 64.1% pass success rate.
While Hill was whistled for 33 fouls on the season, she won 27 free kicks for her team, helping to create attacking chances for the Pride. She was booked twice during the season, but was never sent off.
Hill’s best performance this season came in a mid-week game against the Chicago Red Stars on Aug. 21. A forward is usually judged by what they do on the attacking end and Hill and Ubogagu were dangerous in that particular game. Both forwards tallied a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over the eventual NWSL finalists. Hill got the scoring started with a perfectly placed header off an Ubogagu cross to make it 1-0.
In the 61st minute, Hill returned the favor by setting up Ubogagu for a goal of her own, giving her the ball in the box with plenty of space to pick out her spot.
Hill scored her goal on her only shot attempt of the game. She also notched an assist and drew one free kick in her 85 minutes of work.
2019 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gave Rachel Hill a composite rating of 4.5 for the 2019 season. The rating is one point lower than her 2018 grade, being the second consecutive year that she went down a full point. Much of this is due to the lack of attacking success by the team with the absence of Morgan and Marta. Regardless, more was expected from her this season as she became a regular starter for the first time after two successful W-League seasons.
At 24 years old, the future could still be a bright one for Hill if she continues to improve. An American who won’t feature for the national team in 2020, Hill could be an important figure on a team that could once again miss some key players, this time to the Olympics. Morgan will miss much of the 2020 season due to her pregnancy and the Olympics, and Brazil has qualified for the Olympics, which will likely keep Marta out of the lineup once again. This will place more importance on Hill’s role next season. Hill continued to see an increase in playing time under Tom Sermanni and even more so under Marc Skinner. That trust will undoubtedly be replicated next season when some of the team’s stars are away but it’s up to Hill to take advantage of her opportunities — something she hasn’t adequately shown she can do as of yet.