The Orlando Pride have another roster hole to fill after sending the rights to fullback Ali Riley to Angel City FC in exchange for the expansion side’s natural third-round selection in 2023 and $15,000 in Allocation Money. Riley was out of contract after the 2021 season but the Pride had offered her a new contract for 2022. Now the Los Angeles native is going home after today’s deal.
“On behalf of the club, I want to personally thank Ali for her time, effort, and energy throughout her stay in Orlando,” Orlando Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said in a club press release. “She is a professional in every sense and has been a pleasure to work with. We wish her the absolute best in the future.”
The 34-year-old joins the exodus of players from the 2021 squad to depart from Orlando, which has a lot of roster building to do ahead of the 2022 NWSL season.
Riley made her debut for the Pride on April 10, 2021 in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup against Racing Louisville. She started at left back in all four games, playing 360 minutes. She recorded 16 clearances and eight interceptions and was successful in eight of her 10 tackles (80%), 15 of her 28 duels (53.6%), and one of her four aerial duels (25%). Riley completed 90 of her 125 passes (72%) and 15 of her 30 long passes (50%) in the tournament. She made two key passes but did not score a goal or assist on one.
After missing the first regular season game against the Washington Spirit, Riley became the Pride’s starting right back opposite of Courtney Petersen on the left, playing 16 of her 20 games (18 starts) at that position for a total of 1,566 minutes, missing three games to take part in the Olympics. She did not score or assist on a goal in the regular season.
Riley ended the regular season with 39 clearances, five blocks, and 19 interceptions. She won 22 of her 31 tackles (71%), 55 of 107 duels (51.4%), and 10 of 24 aerial duels (41.7%).
The New Zealand international completed 491 of her 652 pass attempts (75.3%), but only 28 of her 81 long passes (34.6%). She had 11 successful crosses and 10 key passes. She also drew 10 fouls, was called for six, and was booked twice (both yellow).
Orlando originally signed Riley from Bayern Munich prior to the 2020 season to a one-year deal with a club option. With the pandemic shutdown, Riley did not play for Orlando in 2020 and went on loan with FC Rosengard in the Swedish top flight.
What It Means for Orlando
The Pride lose a popular player and have another hole to fill ahead of the 2022 season. This off-season has seen several departures but only one signing. The right back position has some coverage with the acquisition of Spanish international Celia Jiménez on draft day and Carrie Lawrence still on the squad. Additionally, Gunny Jonsdottir can play in that spot if needed.
Orlando didn’t have much leverage in dealing the 34-year-old, so a third-round pick and $15,000 in Allocation Money may not feel like much of a return, but it could have been worse. The Pride have now dealt two of the players to whom they had offered new contracts for 2022 — Taylor Kornieck being the other. Orlando has three more players in that category: goalkeeper Kaylie Collins and midfielders Meggie Dougherty Howard and Parker Roberts. Another midfielder, Jade Moore, was offered a deal for 2022 but followed Marc Skinner to Manchester United today.
At some point the Pride will start adding more players, but the traffic so far has been almost entirely one-way. The signing of Mikayla Cluff on Wednesday was an important addition but there is a lot of work to do in order to build a roster for Amanda Cromwell’s first season as head coach. Rebuilds are a difficult business but the Pride have a chance to construct a roster that will give the club chance to become — and remain — competitive.
[Editorial Note: Sean Rollins also contributed to this story, with some of the statistical information taken from his Season in Review piece on Riley.]