One of the dominoes has fallen in the Orlando Pride’s roster assembly for 2021, but it has fallen the wrong way. Pride winger Claire Emslie has made her transfer to Everton permanent, signing an 18-month deal to remain with the Toffees, with whom she’s played since the pandemic shut down the NWSL season and players started moving to the WSL to get games. At the time, Emslie was the first major signing for the tandem of Head Coach Marc Skinner and then-Pride GM Erik Ustruck.
Orlando had offered Emslie a new contract following 2020 but the UK-based player has opted to stay closer to home during this time of uncertainty.
“I’m so happy and excited to sign permanently at Everton,” Emslie told evertonfc.com. “I’ve really enjoyed my football here at the Club so far. I believe in the Club’s plans and ambitions and I want to be part of the team achieving those goals.”
Though injured in recent weeks, Emslie made an impact since joining Everton. She was a finalist for the October WSL Player of the Month award. The Scottish international has two goals in seven games since joining the Toffees.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play pro soccer in the USA. My time at Florida Atlantic University fueled that dream and Orlando Pride was the club I always envisioned playing for,” Emslie said of her signing. “I left Florida three years ago as a college graduate determined to return one day as a professional soccer player and I can’t quite believe it has happened. I’m excited for the new challenge ahead and ready to work for it!”
Emslie’s one season in Orlando wasn’t quite what fans expected. She made 11 appearances in 2019 (nine starts), playing a total of 773 minutes. Her games played number was affected by the World Cup, as she left for a chunk of the season to represent Scotland. While there, she scored the Scotland’ women’s first ever World Cup goal.
She did not score a goal for the Pride, despite coming close a number of times. She attempted 20 shots, getting just four on target. Emslie only had one assist, although her teammates were often unable to finish when she delivered good service from the wing. She averaged 38 touches and 18 passes per game, passing at a 67.5% rate.
Emslie also had 25 cross attempts, finishing behind only Carson Pickett and Rachel Hill in that department in 2019, although both of those players played far more minutes. She committed 11 fouls on the season but drew 13 on the opposition, receiving four yellow cards in her 11 games but was not sent off.
Before joining the Pride, she scored 12 goals in all competitions across two seasons to help Man City win a domestic cup double in the 2018-2019 season. She previously had spells with Bristol City as well as Edinburgh-based Hibernian FC. During her college days at Florida Atlantic University from 2012 to 2016, she registered 29 goals and 10 assists in 76 games for the Owls.
She has seven goals in 30 appearances with Scotland since 2013 and had previously represented her country at the U-15, U-17, and U-19 levels.
What it Means for Orlando
While it wouldn’t be accurate to say Emslie worked out in Orlando, it would have been nice to have seen what she could do after going through a full training camp with the club. She’s a quick player who provides a threat from the flanks and is generally a bit better at finishing than she showed in her brief time with the Pride.
The Pride went out and got Emslie for a reason, so now they will have to find a replacement for her skills on the wing, whether from within the team, at next month’s draft, or through a new signing. Things have been silent on the Orlando Pride front to this point, so we’ll have to wait a while yet to see what the club does in terms of building the 2021 roster. There are a lot of contract offers extended. It’s not too unusual not to have a lot of news on re-signings at this time of year, even when there isn’t a pandemic going on.