Throughout Orlando City’s and the Orlando Pride’s histories, there have been many ups and downs. The franchise started out on top in 2011, and felt invincible in those days in the United Soccer League. After moving to MLS, there have been more bad moments than pleasant. The Pride had a depressing 2019, but the previous years always had the potential to get fans on their feet.
There has been one position every year, and on both teams, that has been better than the rest. From Miguel Gallardo to Ashlyn Harris, it’s safe to say goalkeeper has never been a problem position. While not every starter has been a top goalkeeper in the league, there has never been a “bad” one for Orlando City or the Pride.
Below is a ranking of the starting goalkeepers who were the most important to each team in league play. A “starter” here is defined as a goalkeeper that started in at least 40% of league games in a season. While Orlando fans will never forget Adam Grinwis’ heroics and “The Running of the Wall,” cup games were not taken into consideration.
The Lions have had four starters over the years, using Gallardo during all of the USL days and Tally Hall in the team’s inaugural MLS year. It was all Joe Bendik the following three years, and Brian Rowe played all but two MLS games last season.
Harris has started the most games every year for the Pride, but because of international call-ups and injuries, Aubrey Bledsoe (2017) and Haley Kopmeyer (2019) each started in more than 40% of games in their seasons as well.
7. Haley Kopmeyer
Coming in at number seven out of the seven starters is Kopmeyer. Although at the bottom of the list, Kopmeyer is still a solid goalkeeper. Former Pride head coach Tom Sermanni repeatedly stated that she would be a starter on many other NWSL teams. Unfortunately for Kopmeyer, her lone year as the Pride’s starting goalkeeper last year was the team’s worst season. She started in three games in 2018 and proved Sermanni right. However, she did not live up to those expectations in 2019. Many of the goals she allowed were not her fault, but some definitely were. The goalkeeper is often at the mercy of the rest of the team, and the Pride’s poor season affected Kopmeyer’s ranking.
Honors: Six-time NWSL Save of the Week winner.
6. Brian Rowe
Following Kopmeyer is Brian Rowe. The veteran showed the Orlando fan base that he is a proven, effective, and steady goalkeeper — if not a spectacular one. He started in all but two MLS matches in 2019 and finished with seven clean sheets, a 1.53 goals-against average, and a record of 9-14-9. The Lions’ center back pairing of Lamine Sané and Robin Jansson was the best in the club’s MLS era and Rowe still managed to have the fewest wins out of all Orlando City starters.
Honors: Two-time MLS Team of the Week finalist.
5. Tally Hall
It did not take long for Hall to become a fan favorite. He started 2015 injured, but quickly stepped up to the plate in the club’s first season in MLS. He carried the team at times, and was one of the best Lions in his sole season with Orlando. His excellent play with Orlando is even more impressive considering it came after tearing his ACL with the Houston Dynamo. After retiring Hall stayed in Orlando and became a member of the Orlando Police force.
Honors: Three-time MLS Team of the Week finalist.
4. Aubrey Bledsoe
Bledsoe’s career has been better since being traded from the Orlando Pride after the 2017 season. Since leaving, Bledsoe has been a force for both the Washington Spirit and Sydney FC in Australia’s W-League.
With Orlando, she was the backup to Harris and rarely saw the field. Her opportunity came in 2017 when Harris sustained a quad injury. She played in 11 games and helped the Pride to five wins and a save percentage of 70%. The team hardly missed Harris’ absence with Bledsoe in goal and those five wins were the difference in the Pride making the playoffs for the first and only time in history.
Honors: 2019 W-League Grand Final Champion, 2018/19 W-League Goalkeeper of the Year, 2019 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.
3. Joe Bendik
Bendik leads this list in starts (91) and saves (318), but also in goals against (170) and losses (41). However, a large portion of those goals was due to a dismal back line in front of him as Orlando’s starter from 2016 to 2018. His 34 consecutive league starts from July 4, 2016, to June 4, 2017, is second in franchise history behind only Ali Krieger (35). While his record isn’t the best, the deal bringing him to central Florida in return for a conditional fourth-round draft pick has to be seen in hindsight as a massive win for the Lions. His best year in Orlando came in 2016. While he not only proved he was good enough to start for Orlando, he was one of the best goalkeepers in the league during that time.
Honors: Eight-time MLS Team of the Week finalist, April 2017 MLS Player of the Month, 14-time Save of the Week winner.
2. Ashlyn Harris
The longtime United States Women’s National Team goalkeeper is the most recognized name on this list. She won two World Cups with the USWNT and has done incredible work at the club level as well. Harris is perhaps most known for making highlight-reel saves, and after she retires (hopefully not anytime soon) the NWSL Save of the Week award should be named after her. In the 62 starts she’s made with Orlando, the Satellite Beach, FL native has won the award 30 times. While she has had some excellent backups over the years, Harris has put the team on her back more often than not. She has a goals-against average of 1.58, 11 clean sheets, and 230 saves.
Honors: 2016 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, 2016 NWSL Best XI, 30 NWSL Save of the Week awards.
1. Miguel Gallardo
Gallardo edges out Harris as the most important goalkeeper in franchise history. He held a 0.81 goals-against average, earned 33 clean sheets, made 231 saves, and led the Lions to 53 wins. That’s more wins than combined starts from Hall, Bledsoe, and Kopmeyer. His 81 starts are the fifth most in Orlando City history. Most importantly, Gallardo was the goalkeeper for every championship the Lions won — even if he was shown a red card in one of them (honorable mention to Sean Kelley for stepping up). The club legend is in the commentator’s booth now and is arguably the best analyst Orlando has ever had as well.
Honors: 2011 USL Goalkeeper of the Year, 2011 USL First Team, 2012 USL Second Team, eight-time USL Team of the Week finalist.
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