Forward Leah Pruitt joined the Orlando Pride during the 2022 NWSL Draft when she and Celia were acquired from OL Reign — along with multiple draft picks — in exchange for defender Phoebe McClernon. The key for Orlando in that trade was moving up to the No. 10 overall selection, where the Pride picked defender Caitlin Cosme. Unfortunately, Cosme sustained an injury before the season and didn’t play a minute for Orlando. However, Pruitt and Celia played valuable minutes in their first year in the City Beautiful.
Let’s take a look back at her first season with the Pride.
Pruitt played in three of Orlando’s six matches in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup, starting two, and making her Pride debut on March 26 in a 1-0 road loss at the North Carolina Courage. She played 141 minutes in her three Challenge Cup appearances. She didn’t score a goal but she did register an assist. Pruitt attempted five shots in the competition but did not put any of those on target. That was a sign of things to come for her NWSL season. She passed at a 72% rate and made two key passes, attempting two unsuccessful crosses. She won one foul and committed three. Defensively, she recorded a pair of interceptions. Pruitt was not booked in Challenge Cup play.
In the regular season, Pruitt played in 13 of Orlando’s 22 matches, starting nine and playing 749 minutes. She scored one goal and added an assist, attempting 10 total shots with just two on frame. She passed at a 70.3% success rate and provided 14 key passes on the year, but she was successful on just two of 17 cross attempts. Defensively, Pruitt contributed three interceptions and one clearance and won 71.4% of her tackles, but she only won 42% of her duels and just 34.6% of her aerial duels. Discipline-wise, she earned one yellow card.
Despite the Pride losing 4-2, I’m going to say Pruitt’s best match was May 22 at home against the Chicago Red Stars. Pruitt got the start that day and went the full 90. She attempted two of her 10 shots on the year in the match and registered one of her two shots on goal. She also scored her first Pride goal in the 87th minute. Taking a pass from Abi Kim near the right corner of the six-yard box, Pruitt did well to turn and fire a hard shot inside the far post to open her Pride account.
Pruitt completed 87.5% of her 16 pass attempts and recorded two ball recoveries. She won two aerial duels, committed one foul, and was offside once. It wasn’t a great result for Orlando, which also saw Sydney Leroux’s penalty attempt saved in the match, but Pruitt played well.
2022 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff gives Pruitt a composite rating of 5 out of 10 for her 2022 campaign. The overall thought among the staff was that Pruitt played well defensively prior to her knee injury. She did not seem to have the same burst in closing down the ball after her return. Whether the knee was still bothering her or she simply wasn’t able to return to full fitness, we may never know, but she didn’t quite look like the same player after coming back from those seven games out. We liked her hustle and defensive work rate, but her lack of precision in front of goal contributed to her middling final grade.
Pruitt is signed through the 2023 season, so unless there’s a trade, we expect she’ll be back with the Pride next season, fighting for minutes. Offensively, the Pride will need to see a bit more from her. If Pruitt can improve her finishing and pick out her teammates a little better in the final third, she can become a valuable part of the rotation. She’s shown that she can be tenacious in the high press and was effective in that role prior to her midseason injury. Currently, she’s a player who can come off the bench to help see out games if the Pride has a lead, but she has yet to show she can help provide the team with that lead.