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2022 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Courtney Petersen

The Pride’s left back entered the season as the starter but lost some playing time in 2022.

NWSL: Orlando Pride at Chicago Red Stars Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride drafted Courtney Petersen with the seventh overall pick of the 2020 NWSL College Draft. The left back out of Virginia seemed destined to be a mainstay on the Pride’s back line after appearing in all four 2020 NWSL Fall Series games and then playing 22 games (with 21 starts) with Orlando in the 2021 regular season.

But after going the full 90 in the Pride’s first nine consecutive competitive matches to start the 2022 season, Petersen began to fall out of favor a bit. As the season wore on, she lost her starting left back position and was used more often as a sub and went three straight games in August without getting on the field at all.

Let’s take a look at Petersen’s 2022 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

As mentioned above, Petersen started and went the full 90 minutes in all six of the Pride’s NWSL Challenge Cup matches, playing a total of 540 minutes. She attempted two shots that weren’t blocked, getting one of them on target, but did not score a goal. Likewise, she did not register an assist, despite logging five key passes and two accurate crosses on 18 crossing attempts in open play. She passed at a 65% rate overall but was just 17.2% on 29 long pass attempts. That’s not great for a defender, who is charged with helping to start the attack from the back. Her attacking half passing rate was 50.8%. On the defensive end, she had a decent tournament, posting 12 clearances, four interceptions, and a block, winning 69.6% of her 23 tackle attempts, and winning 30 of 48 (62.5%) of her duels. She won just two of her five aerial duels, however. She won three fouls and conceded three, and was booked one time.

In the regular season, Petersen appeared in 19 matches, starting nine and playing 1,011 minutes. That was three fewer games, 12 fewer starts, and 866 fewer minutes than in 2021. Again, she did not contribute a goal and attempted only four shots all season that weren’t blocked, getting just one of those on frame. She registered two assists, tying Meggie Dougherty Howard and Erika Tymrak for the team lead for the 2022 season. She distributed her 345 total passes at a 69% success rate, but hit on just 30.6% of her long passes and was successful 53.7% of the time on passes in the attacking half. Petersen served up six key passes and five successful crosses on 37 attempts in open play. She finished with 29 clearances, nine interceptions, and one block; won half of her 14 tackle attempts in the regular season; won just 41.5% of her 65 duels; and won only two of eight (25%) aerial duels. She won six fouls while committing 10 and was booked once.

Best Game

Petersen’s best match in 2022 was probably the team’s 2-2 home draw against the San Diego Wave on Sept. 25. She started at left back and played the full 90 minutes in the Pride’s home finale against one of the best teams in the league this season. Her 51 touches tied for second-most on the Pride that day, just one behind Celia’s 52.

Orlando held a 1-0 lead in the second half when Petersen took the ball near the left corner of the box and sent in a good cross for Gunny Jonsdottir to head past goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, extending the Orlando lead to 2-0.

She also managed to register one of her four shot attempts — and her only shot on target — on the 2022 season in this game in the 78th minute. In addition, she had one key pass, blocked a shot, posted four clearances, and drew two fouls on the opposition in the match. Although she still had some defensive issues in the match — leaving too much space for the cross in on the first Wave goal, for example — and the visitors did manage to come back to get a point, it was an overall strong performance for Petersen.

2022 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Petersen a composite grade of 5 out of 10 for the 2022 season. The fullback’s score was a half point lower than her 5.5 grade from the staff in 2021. Petersen has yet to learn how to set up opponents with a feint or a quick movement that allows her to get crosses into the box to her teammates. All too often she gets those crosses blocked, with minimal effort to create the necessary space to beat that first defender with her ball into the box. Accuracy on crosses can be an issue for virtually all fullbacks at times, and Petersen is no different in that respect, as shown by her drop-off in 2022 from last year’s 25% crossing accuracy to this year’s 13.5%. Additionally, she still sometimes struggles at 1-v-1 edge defending. Getting better in those areas would go a long way toward making Petersen an automatic starter again.

2023 Outlook

The Pride picked up Petersen’s 2022 contract option year at the end of the 2021 season. That means the club will need to come to terms on a new contract to keep Petersen in a Pride uniform in 2023. Although her play slipped a little in her second season — hopefully just the proverbial sophomore slump — there is potential in Petersen that, if unlocked, could make her a top-notch NWSL fullback. Whoever Orlando’s next coach ends up being, Petersen will get a fresh start if she’s on the roster and it wouldn’t take a great deal of development in her deficient areas to raise her to the next level.

As much as the Pride have been pinned in their own end the last two seasons, it’s vital to have good defending on the flanks. Likewise, if the team is only getting a few scoring chances per game, the fullbacks cannot afford to waste their forays up the pitch by getting their crosses blocked and starting the opposition’s counter attack. Petersen would benefit from the Pride strengthening other areas of the team, certainly, but a little work on defending in space and freeing up room to get in crosses would go a long way toward making Petersen a vital player.

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