It’s been a busy off-season for the Orlando Pride. After failing to make the postseason in four of the team’s first five seasons (the 2020 NWSL season was canceled due to the global pandemic), the Pride have begun a complete rebuild.
The moves made this off-season might be concerning to some Pride fans. So far, they’ve seen the departures of Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Alex Morgan, Ali Riley, Phoebe McClernon, Marisa Viggiano, Taylor Kornieck, and Jodie Taylor. That includes six players who started regularly last year.
While the Pride have seen several regulars leave, including two players who had been with the team since 2016 in Harris and Morgan, General Manager Ian Fleming has brought in a large haul of assets. This includes $495,000 in Allocation Money and eight draft picks. But how will this impact the Pride in the future?
Actually, these acquisitions have already had an impact on the Pride’s roster. The trade of Harris and Krieger to NJ/NY Gotham FC included the 11th overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft, which the Pride used to select Julie Doyle. The draft-day trade that sent Phoebe McClernon to OL Reign allowed the Pride to take Caitlin Cosme with the 10th pick and brought fullback Celia Jimenéz Delgado and forward Leah Pruitt to the team.
Some of the trades have essentially swapped picks next year. The Pride have acquired a second-round pick and three third-round picks in the 2023 NWSL Draft, while sending their natural second- and third-round selections away. That leaves the Pride with additional 2023 third- and fourth-round picks, as well as a 2024 second-round selection.
The Pride have two ways that they can use these picks. While they could simply use those picks to select players on draft day, they could also wrap them into a deal to move up in the draft. Fleming has already shown his willingness to move up to take players he and new head coach Amanda Cromwell want. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him do that again in the near future.
The more important asset is Allocation Money. U.S. Soccer announced in 2020 that the federation would no longer pay NWSL salaries. As a result, the league’s teams now have to pay the salaries of players who exceed the league’s $52,500 maximum. Allocation Money can be used to pay down these salaries, similar to MLS.
The Pride currently aren’t in a position to add top players. It’s unknown which young players will be long-term solutions. However, the team will likely look to fill out its roster with international stars in a year or two. At that point, Allocation Money will be very useful.
The Pride’s moves this off-season haven’t come without mistakes and surprises. The team’s fifth overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft, Mia Fishel, signed with Tigres Femenil in Mexico. This could result in the former UCLA Bruin never playing for the Pride, essentially resulting in the team wasting its top selection.
The off-season has also seen the departures of young players who many thought would be a part of the future — most notably Kornieck (23), McClernon (24), and Viggiano (24). Kornieck’s rights were dealt to San Diego Wave FC with the rights to Emily van Egmond for $125,000 in Allocation Money and a 2024 second-round draft pick. In addition to moving up in the draft and acquiring Delgado and Pruitt, the McClernon trade also brought in a second-round pick in 2023. Viggiano was traded for center back Megan Montefusco, $30,000 in Allocation Money, and a 2023 third-round pick in a good exchange for the Pride.
It can be difficult for Pride fans to see so many moves being made this off-season, especially the departures of multiple players who have been part of the team’s core since its earliest days. But the assets acquired with those moves will be crucial in the team’s rebuild.