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2022 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Meggie Dougherty Howard

How did the midfielder perform in her second season with the Pride?

NWSL: Orlando Pride at OL Reign Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride acquired Meggie Dougherty Howard from the Washington Spirit on Dec. 24, 2020, along with two draft picks and Allocation Money for Emily Sonnett. They re-signed the midfielder on Feb. 17 to a one-year contract, keeping her in Orlando this year.

Dougherty Howard immediately became a regular for the Pride last year, playing in 21 league games. This season, she was arguably the team’s best player, winning the team’s only player award during the season when she was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for August.

Let’s take a closer look at Dougherty Howard’s second season in Orlando.

Statistical Breakdown

Dougherty Howard was a key player for both Pride coaches this season. She appeared in five of the team’s six Challenge Cup games, starting four, and playing 353 minutes. She completed 131 of her 177 passes (74%), which included eight key passes. She took three shots in those five games and two were on target. On the defensive end, Dougherty Howard had two clearances and eight interceptions. She was successful in seven of her 10 tackles (70%), 27 of her 48 duels (56.3%), and five of her 10 aerial duels (50%). She won seven fouls, conceded five, and was not booked.

In the regular season, Dougherty Howard took part in 15 of the team’s 22 games, starting 13, and playing 1,043 minutes. She was the team’s goal-scoring leader with three, firing 18 shots that weren’t blocked and putting 13 of them on target. She completed 396 of her 519 passes (76.3%), including 14 key passes and two assists — tied for most on the team. Defensively, Dougherty Howard had three clearances, two blocks, and 12 interceptions. She was successful in eight of her 13 tackles (61.5%), 60 of her 140 duels (42.9%), and four of her 11 aerial duels (36.4%). She won 26 fouls, conceded 18, and received three yellow cards.

Best Game

Despite losing the game 2-1, Dougherty Howard’s best game came on Aug. 26 at home against OL Reign. She scored one of her three goals in that game, which gave the Pride the lead, and put two of her three shots on target. It was a game that heavily contributed to her being named to the NWSL Team of the Month.

The midfielder’s biggest contribution in that game came in the 37th minute. OL Reign was attempting to play the ball out of the back when Sam Hiatt played a soft pass into the middle of the field. Dougherty Howard pounced on the loose ball and took a shot from just outside the box. It beat Phallon Tullis-Joyce, one of the best goalkeepers in the league, to give the Pride a 1-0 lead.

The Pride took that lead into the break but couldn’t hang on, however, it was Dougherty Howard’s best overall game of the season.

2022 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gives Dougherty Howard a composite grade of 6 out of 10 for the 2022 season. This was the same final rating we gave her in 2021. She led the team in goals and was co-leader in assists but is a more of a defensive midfielder. The fact that she led the team in goals is an indictment on the team this season. However, without her offensive play, the team would’ve had a much worse record on the year.

2023 Outlook

Dougherty Howard was on a one-year contract this season and qualifies for NWSL free agency. It’s hard to see the Pride not attempting to bring her back. The 27-year-old was the leader on a team that had a lot of turnover during the off-season and was missing captain Gunny Jonsdottir for much of the season. Although her lack of pace can put the team in bad spots in transition at times, she’s still in her prime and can be a big asset for the team going forward. If the Pride are able to retain Dougherty Howard, she’ll be a key factor in the team’s midfield during the 2023 season. This is especially the case since the midfield currently consists of young players like Viviana Villacorta and Mikayla Cluff who can learn from her experience and leadership.

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