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2021 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Meggie Dougherty Howard

The midfielder came over from Washington prior to the season.

Orlando Pride v OL Reign Photo by Jane Gershovich/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride acquired midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard in a trade with the Washington Spirit. It was a weirdly timed Christmas Eve swap on Dec. 24, 2020 that sent USWNT defender Emily Sonnett to Washington without ever having played a minute with Orlando. The Pride also received $140,000 in Allocation Money, the Spirit’s first-round pick in either 2022 or 2023, and the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, which turned out to be UCLA midfielder Viviana Villacorta.

It was a big haul for Sonnett but the real value of the trade may not be known for some time. The versatile Dougherty Howard was perhaps the most underrated part of the trade.

Let’s take a look back at her first season with the Pride.

Statistical Breakdown

The University of Florida product and native of Largo returned to her home state and made an impact right away, starting against Racing Louisville for her first Pride appearance on April 10 in the first 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup match and went the full 90 minutes, assisting on both Pride goals in a 2-2 road draw.

She missed the next game due to injury but finished the Challenge Cup with three appearances (one start), logging 100 minutes, but just 10 over the last two games while coming back from injury. Defensively, she chipped in a clearance and two interceptions, winning all five tackle attempts, eight of 14 (57.1%) of her duels, but not winning her only aerial duel attempt. Offensively, she did not score but set up goals for Taylor Kornieck and Abi Kim at Louisville. She didn’t attempt a shot but created four scoring chances, and three successful crosses, completing 67.3% of her passes, including an impressive 90.9% in her own half. She won two fouls and conceded two and was not booked.

In the regular season, MDH played in 21 of the Pride’s 24 matches, starting 15 and subbing out 12 times, while logging a total of 1,251 minutes played. She did not score a goal but provided one assist, attempting just four shots and getting one on frame. She had two successful crosses and created 11 scoring chances over the 2021 season, passing at an efficient 78.9% rate overall (86.3% in her own half and 69.1% in the opposition’s half). Defensively, she had 13 clearances, a block, and 19 interceptions, winning her tackles at a 63% rate (17/27), her duels at just a 40.3% clip (48/119), and didn’t excel in the air, with just a 27.8% success rate (5/18). From a discipline standpoint, Dougherty Howard won nine fouls but conceded 16. Some of those were professional fouls to break up a dangerous situation while others were simply being late, and she earned five yellow cards on the season.

Best Game

Dougherty Howard’s best game of the season was her Challenge Cup Pride debut on April 10. Her work in the attacking half alone was worthy of that honor as she notched two of her three assists on the calendar year with a pair of gorgeous passes.

The first one enabled Orlando to erase a 1-0 deficit just before halftime as she served up this left-footed beauty for Kornieck to head home:

Late in the game she provided what should have been the game-winning pass with her right foot after taking a feed from Marta and sending a perfect through ball for Kim to run onto.

Aside from the two assists, she created one other scoring chance. With three chances created, she provided half the Pride’s total of six at Louisville, with Ali Riley, Marta, and Sydney Leroux picking up one each. Her 69 touches were second most on the team and fourth among all players in the game and she passed at a 70.8% success rate on 48 passes — tying Konya Plummer for the most passes on the team that day. Dougherty Howard finished with three tackles, won one foul, and conceded two.

It was a great start to her Pride career for MDH.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Dougherty Howard a composite rating of 6 out of 10 for the 2021 season (all competitions). She was perhaps forced to play more of a defensive role after Jade Moore’s injury so the Pride couldn’t take full advantage of her passing in the attacking third. She was less consistent in helping shield the back line and playing out of the back at times. An example of that is a heavy touch leading to her howler of a back pass in the third minute to set up a Debinha goal in a 2-0 home loss to the North Carolina Courage on July 4.

2022 Outlook

I wasn’t able to find much on MDH’s contract status. The Spirit re-signed her prior to the 2019 season but the length of the contract wasn’t given and she had her option exercised for 2020. We believe that 2021 was a second and final option year on the 26-year-old’s contract, which would mean she’d need to be re-signed in order to come back for 2022. The Pride will clarify her status in the coming days when announcing end-of-season roster decisions. With an Expansion Draft approaching, her rights could be left exposed. She was exposed to the Expansion Draft when she was still with Washington and Louiville entered the league.

Dougherty Howard can be a valuable role player and has shown she can be effective in the No. 8 role. She can play the No. 6 but it’s perhaps not her best position. The Pride would do well to retain her services for 2022 and shore up the midfield so there’s not as much asked of her defensively. She’s not an aerial ball winner at 5-foot-5, but has shown how valuable she can be further up the pitch where she can combine with attacking players and provide service.


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