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2021 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Marta

The Brazilian superstar had an up and down 2021 season.

NJ/NY Gotham City FC v Orlando Pride Photo by Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride signed Brazilian superstar Marta back on April 7, 2017 and helped the team make its first (and, so far, only) playoff appearance at the end of that season. Since her arrival in the City Beautiful, she’s been one of the best players in the league and has been a bright spot even when the Pride struggled.

The club re-signed Marta on Feb. 17 ahead of the 2021 season. The Brazilian inked a one-year deal with an option year for 2022. How did Marta perform in her fifth season with the Pride? Let’s take a look back at her 2021 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Marta appeared in all four of the Pride’s matches in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, starting all four and subbing off twice. She played a total of 351 minutes — all but nine minutes of the competition. She did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting just three shots, with neither on target. Marta created seven chances in the four games, with one successful cross and a passing success rate of 83.3%, including an impressive 91.9% accuracy in her own half. Marta sent only 27.3% of her passes forward, however, with most of her attempts going left (32.7%). She completed 13 of 19 long passes (68.4%). Defensively, she recorded four clearances and seven interceptions, winning half (6/12) of her tackle attempts and 32 of 65 (49.2%) duels, but won none of her seven aerial duels. Marta won three fouls but conceded four and received one yellow card in the competition.

In the regular season, Marta appeared in 19 of Orlando’s 24 matches, logging 1,587 minutes on the pitch, with 17 starts and subbing off five times. She missed four matches while away for the Olympics from July 9-31.

She finished the year with four goals and three assists, which ranked her third and tied for first in those categories, respectively. One of her four goals was a penalty on Oct. 9 against Gotham FC. To compare her season with the Pride’s last full season in 2019, Marta scored two fewer goals this year in more than 300 more minutes than she did two seasons ago (last year was basically wiped out by the pandemic as the Pride only played in four Fall Series games).

But one of those 2021 goals was this sensational strike:

Not as involved in the attack directly as often this year as in seasons past, Marta attempted 33 shots, putting 14 on target, with nine getting blocked. She created 31 scoring chances on the season and made seven successful crosses, passing again at a rate of 83.3% but adding in an impressive 80.2% success rate on long passes (85/106). She was solid in her own half, with a passing rate of 89.6%, while distributing at a 68.2% rate in the attacking half. Most of her passes again went left (37%) with just 24.9% of them going forward.

Marta contributed six clearances, a block, and 19 interceptions in 2021, winning 62% of her tackles (31/50), 51.8% of her duels (132/255), and just 22.7% (5/22) of her aerial duels. She won 18 fouls but conceded 24 to the opposition, earning two yellow cards on the year.

Best Game

Even though it was a 3-2 home loss, I’m going with her performance on Oct. 9 at Exploria Stadium against Gotham FC. It was one of Marta’s most active games of the year. The Pride fell behind 3-0 before attempting a late rally that fell just short.

Marta scored a penalty in the 89th minute to pull the Pride back within a goal, giving Orlando a chance late. She calmly sent Kailen Sheridan the wrong way and then fired an unstoppable shot into the inside netting to get her team back into the match.

The Pride’s Toni Pressley ended up firing a shot that deflected off the post in the game’s final moments, as Orlando came within inches of completing a massive comeback. Despite dropping all three points at home, Marta registered her season high in shot attempts (6) and shots on goal (4), attempted her fifth-most passes on the season (46), and was accurate on 84.78% of her attempts. Her four chances created equaled teammate Sydney Leroux and Gotham’s Carli Lloyd for the most in the match and her 79 touches were second only to Courtney Petersen’s 88. Marta also won four tackles to lead the Pride in that category. She committed one foul and drew one. It was a terrific performance albeit not enough to lead the Pride to a win.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Marta a composite rating of 6 for the 2021 season. The staff felt that the vintage Marta we’re used to seeing on the pitch was not always the one out there. She had some struggles, particularly early in the season, that had us speculating on The Mane Land PawedCast if she might be trying to play through a knock. The Brazilian managed to get better through the middle part of the season and showed flashes of the old Marta from time to time, but it was never consistent from game to game or usually even within a single match. Whether age is catching up to her or something else was the cause, Marta provided some classic Marta moments but not as many as we’re used to seeing.

2022 Outlook

The Pride have an option year on Marta’s contract so she could be back with the team in 2022. However, the Brazilian will turn 36 in February. It’s fair to wonder at this point how much longer she can continue to be a key contributor in a league where speed seems to matter more and more each season. Marta still has plenty of skill on the ball, but her pace can’t get her out of some of the tight spaces like it used to and opponents don’t seem to have the same fear of her beating them that they once did. Still, a legendary player like Marta has earned the right to go out on her own terms, so if she wants to play for Orlando next season, I would suspect the Pride will pick up her option year.

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