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The Inspiring Returns of Two Orlando Pride Icons

Sydney Leroux’s and Toni Pressley’s comebacks showed strength, resilience, and triumph.

SOCCER: OCT 12 NWSL - Reign FC at Orlando Pride Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I love nothing more than seeing strong, inspiring women defy the odds. My husband and I take extra caution when we speak to the elementary-aged girls with whom we work to ensure they know they are capable, worthy, and never have to settle. I’ve said before how fortunate the children of Orlando are to look up to the incredible example of women in their backyard.

As we wrap up SB Nation’s “Sports Moments that Made You cry,” week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the courage and strength it took for Toni Pressley and Sydney Leroux to walk out on the pitch and kick off their epic comebacks to the sport they love.

Leroux caused some controversy on social media when a photo of her returning to preseason at nearly six months pregnant brought out the worst in people who thought they knew better than her doctors. Nonetheless, she inspired the rest of us with her strength to keep fit, stay healthy, and return to the work she loves.

It didn’t stop there for the Bad as a Mother podcast star. Six weeks after the healthy arrival of baby girl Roux Dwyer, Leroux returned to training. However, it was in the 86th minute of the Orlando Pride’s 1-1 draw with Sky Blue FC last season when the mother of two walked out on the pitch. A crowd of more than 8,000 fans in Red Bull Arena stood to welcome Leroux back, while I sat at home watching with goosebumps. No woman should have to give up their dreams to have a family.

Then, the team took a moment to celebrate her after the match and I sobbed when she brought Roux out.

Leroux wasn’t the only badass warrior who made a triumphant return for the Orlando Pride. It was the Pride’s 2019 season finale that ended in a 2-2 draw after Marta saved the point in the dying minutes that had us all in tears. It wasn’t Marta’s goal in particular though; it was the magic of what happened in the 72nd minute.

In early August the club announced that Pressley was diagnosed with breast cancer and would begin treatments. Despite everything, the defender overcame the odds and took the pitch with her team to the sound of a standing ovation. She showed the world that anything is possible and that it’s so much more than just a game.

Yes, I am a woman and you might say that’s why I chose these moments, but it is so much more than that. The courage and strength these women had to muster to be back out living their dreams is all the motivation anyone could need to inspire the next generation, work a little harder, and dream a little bigger.