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2021 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Ashlyn Harris

The Pride’s starting goalkeeping and captain had an outstanding 2021 season.

Washington Spirit v Orlando Pride Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Ashlyn Harris was the captain of the Orlando Pride for the fifth consecutive year. The Cocoa Beach-born goalkeeper is an original member of the club, coming to Orlando from Washington with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NWSL Expansion Draft. The 2021 season was her sixth with the Pride.

Harris kept the Pride in many games through excellent saves, both in open play and on penalties. Let’s take a closer look at the 2021 NWSL season of one of the league’s best goalkeepers.

Statistical Breakdown

Harris played every minute of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, starting all four games and logging 360 minutes, as Orlando finished 1-1-2 in the competition with Harris in goal. She saved 16 of her 19 shots faced (84.2%) in the tournament, with two of the three goals coming in the opening game against Racing Louisville FC. The final two games resulted in clean sheets in a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit and a scoreless draw against the North Carolina Courage.

Additionally, Harris made two penalty saves in the tournament. The first came in the second game against NJ/NY Gotham FC’s Nahomi Kawasumi. The second was in the following game against the Washington Spirit’s Ashley Hatch.

In terms of her distribution in the tournament, Harris successfully completed 71 of her 99 passes (71.7%) and 25 of her 49 long passes (51%). Most of her goal kicks were long, with 63.6% of her passes going forward.

Harris started 19 games in the 2021 NWSL regular season, being substituted once, on Sept. 5 against the Houston Dash when she was injured during a scramble in the box. Fortunately, she only missed one game because of the collision. She recorded a total of 1,687 minutes during the regular season.

The goalkeeper conceded 25 goals in those 19 starts, saving 71 of 96 shots faced (74%). She recorded three clean sheets on the season, 12 catches, five punches, and eight clearances. Her only drop was in that Houston game, which resulted in her injury.

Most notably, Harris saved three penalties in the regular season and five on the year. Remarkably, she didn’t concede a single goal on a penalty kick. This was partly because of good goalkeeping, but partly because of very poor penalty taking by the opposition.

Her three regular-season saves were on July 4 against North Carolina’s Lynn Williams, July 18 against the Portland Thorns’ Rocky Rodriguez, and July 24 against the OL Reign’s Jess Fishlock. Interestingly, four of her five penalty saves occurred at Exploria Stadium, with the only penalty away from home coming at Portland’s Providence Park.

Harris completed 362 of her 478 passes (75.7%) during the regular season. She completed 122 of her 230 long balls (53%) and most of her clearances were up field (54.8%). While she didn’t win or concede any fouls in the Challenge Cup, she was fouled twice and was called for a foul once during the regular season. However, similar to the Challenge Cup, she was booked once for time wasting.

The Pride went 4-8-7 in Harris’ 19 starts and she won the NWSL Save of the Week Award 10 times during the regular season.

Best Game

Harris had some stellar performances this season. However, her best overall game came on Apr. 21 in a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit at home in the Challenge Cup. The goalkeeper saved all nine shots she faced in the 90 minutes, a season high. Her decision-making was also solid, punching away three clearances.

Harris made some spectacular saves in the game, with her best being a diving save in the 10th minute. A long-range effort by Tegan McGrady forced Harris to stretch out for a diving save, keeping the game scoreless. It proved to be crucial as Sydney Leroux scored the game’s lone goal less than a minute later.

The Pride captain had another other big save in the 61st minute and the block of a close-range shot in second-half injury time. The Spirit did beat Harris once when Kelley O’Hara converted a long-range effort off a quick restart. However, the referee determined that the free kick was taken too quickly and made the Spirit retake the kick.

The biggest moment of the game for the goalkeeper came in the 65th minute. Phoebe McClernon took down Hatch in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Similar to other attempts during the season, it wasn’t a well taken penalty by Hatch. However, Harris chose the right direction and was able to block it away with her legs. The block also went away from goal instead of right back at the shooter, allowing her defenders to clear.

The performance earned Harris both Player of the Week and Save of the Week honors. While it was her lone Player of the Week nod of the season, it was the second Save of the Week of the Challenge Cup — giving her the honor a total of 12 times on the year.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Harris a composite grade of 7.5 for the 2021 NWSL season. She was great for most of the season and kept the Pride in games that they should’ve lost by multiple goals. Credit also has to be given for going an astounding five for five in penalties.

Harris had several saves in some big games that would have resulted in the Pride being well down the table. However, she came up big time after time and kept the Pride in the playoff race, even when they weren’t playing well. This helped the Pride stay in playoff contention until the final games.

2022 Outlook

Harris has been a federation player for the past few years, but that could change soon. Once a regular in the U.S. National Team, Harris has fallen behind multiple goalkeepers, including Alyssa Naeher, Jane Campbell, and Adrianna Franch. She hasn’t been called up since Jan. 22 of this year for a friendly against Colombia. Losing federation status would force the Pride to sign the 36-year-old to a deal.

Growing up in Brevard County, Harris made it well-known her desire to play for the Pride. She was the team’s first signing and has been captain since 2017. Harris likely would prefer to stay with the team, and the Pride will do everything they can to keep her. She’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the league the past several years and was again this season.

Regardless of any other moves, Harris is expected to be the team’s number one and likely the captain in 2022. There will be changes in the team when the Pride hire their new head coach, but the starting goalkeeper position should remain unchanged, barring an unexpected retirement decision.


Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)