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2021 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Sydney Leroux

Sydney Leroux ended the 2021 NWSL season as the Pride’s top goal scorer.

Racing Louisville FC v Orlando Pride Photo by Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride acquired Sydney Leroux on Feb. 2, 2018 from the Utah Royals for a first-round 2019 NWSL Draft pick. After a solid 2018 season, Leroux missed almost all of 2019 while pregnant and her 2020 full return was wiped out by the global pandemic.

The 2021 season was the first time Pride fans saw Leroux at full strength since 2018 and she didn’t disappoint. The forward was a key part of the attack, leading the team in goals.

Let’s take a closer look at Leroux’s 2021 NWSL campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Leroux was always going to be a starter from day one after returning back to full strength in 2020. She began her season by starting all four games of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, recording 351 minutes. Her 12 shots led the team in the preseason tournament and she scored one of the team’s three goals.

Leroux did make a slight defensive impact, recording eight clearances and three interceptions. She won four of her six tackles (66.7%), 28 of 35 duels (80%), and 15 of her 18 aerial duels (83.3%).

The 31-year-old wide player successfully completed 54 of her 78 passes (69.2%) and two of her four long passes (50%). She made five key passes, helping to build an attack, and seven of her 12 shots were on target. Additionally, she won three fouls and committed just one.

In the NWSL regular season, Leroux started 23 of the team’s 24 games. The only game in which she didn’t play was on June 6 away to the Washington Spirit. She totaled 2,018 minutes and was only substituted four times.

When tracking back defensively, Leroux made 41 clearances and 21 interceptions. She was successful in 12 of her 25 tackles (48%), 121 of her 217 duels (55.8%), and 55 of her 89 aerial duels (61.8%).

Leroux completed 404 of her 537 total passes (75.2%) and 11 of her 28 long passes (39.3%). Additionally, she made 23 key passes.

As a forward, Leroux’s primary contribution this season was scoring and she didn’t disappoint. When Marta and Alex Morgan departed for the Olympics, the team depended on Leroux to pick up the lost production. However, she made an impact before that.

The team’s first six goals came from Morgan and Leroux, with the latter converting twice. In the end, Leroux scored a team-leading eight goals from 47 shots, also a team high. She put 26 of her shots on target, another team-leading stat. She added a pair of assists, one behind Marta and Taylor Kornieck, who led the team with three each.

Additionally, Leroux drew 16 fouls, committed 10, and was booked once.

Best Game

Leroux’s best game undoubtedly came on June 23 in Kansas City. Facing the league’s newest team in a stretch that included three games in a week, the Pride left Morgan at home and Marta on the bench. That resulted in the hosts scoring first through a Marian Larroquette goal late in the first half.

The goal woke up the Pride, and especially Leroux, who scored just two minutes later. Leroux’s first goal was a bit fortunate. After she did well to beat the defender, her shot appeared to be right at Kansas City’s goalkeeper Abby Smith. However, the goalkeeper somehow let the ball pass, allowing Leroux to equalize just before the half.

While the first goal included some luck, the second was absolute brilliance. A long ball by Gunny Jonsdottir sent Leroux forward down the left. The forward took Taylor Leach one-on-one to the top of the box, creating enough space to get the shot off.

As if taking on the Kansas City defense on her own wasn’t enough, Leroux sent a long shot toward the far post. The shot might’ve taken a slight deflection off Rachel Corsie, but not enough to make a big difference. The laser shot went beyond the reach of Smith and into the far netting.

Leroux had a game-leading six shots, in addition to her brace. While the team left Morgan in Orlando (she met the team in Houston for the next game), Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner also brought Marta and Ali Riley off the bench. It could’ve been a throwaway game, but Leroux took over and assured that the Pride would take away all three points.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Leroux a composite score of 7 for the 2021 NWSL season. In her first full season since 2018, the forward was the Pride’s best attacking option. She led the team in shots and goals, and was a contender for the league’s top scorer for most of the season. Leroux’s grit and willingness to do the little things necessary contributed to the team even when she wasn’t scoring. Without her contributions, the team would’ve been eliminated from the postseason much sooner. It is noteworthy that the five-match losing streak to end the season — and the team’s playoff chances — coincided with both Leroux and Morgan not scoring a goal.

2022 Outlook

Leroux signed a three-year contract extension with the Pride on Feb. 3, 2021, ensuring that she’ll remain with the club through at least the 2023 NWSL season. The three-year deal is the longest available to NWSL players and Leroux showed her appreciation with her performances this year.

It’s unknown what the Pride will look like next year with some key players aging and a new head coach arriving. However, you can expect that Leroux will be a key part of the team’s attack next season, and a big part of the team’s plans moving forward.


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