The Orlando Pride have announced that forward Ally Watt has signed a new contract that extends her stay in the City Beautiful through the 2024 NWSL season. Watt joined the Pride exactly three months ago when Orlando sent $125,000 in Allocation Money to OL Reign for the speedy forward.
“Ally is an exciting young player and we’re happy to have her continue with us after acquiring her earlier this year,” Head Coach Seb Hines said in a club press release. “She’s a player that is well-traveled and we’re happy that Orlando is a place she’ll be for the foreseeable future. We think she is someone who fits very well in what we’re trying to build here at the Pride and we look forward to having her back with us in 2023.”
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Orlando and I’m excited to continue as part of this organization,” Watt said in the club’s release. “I’m happy to be with a great group of girls and I’m very excited for the future of this team and the organization. I can’t wait to get started in 2023.”
Watt played in six matches with the Pride after being traded from OL Reign, starting one and playing 219 minutes. She scored one goal — on her Pride debut — but did not add any assists, taking nine shots and getting four of those on target. She passed at a 68% success rate, winning six tackles and two interceptions. She committed four fouls and drew one and was offside once. She was not booked. Because the league site has combined her season stats, some of her Pride-specific stats are unavailable. Combined across the Reign and Pride, Watt played 616 minutes in the league in 20 appearances, but started only four times. She scored just the one goal with Orlando, passed at just a 61% success rate, and provided seven key passes without registering an assist.
After playing just 219 minutes with the Pride, Watt did not receive a Season in Review grade from The Mane Land, but from what little we saw, her play was encouraging. The Pride have needed more pace in the attack and Watt certainly brings that.
Watt was a first-round selection (No. 6 overall) of the North Carolina Courage out of Texas A&M back in 2020, but has had a professional career plagued with injuries. She made her professional debut during the 2019-2020 W-League season in Australia for Melbourne City.
The 25-year-old attacker made her NWSL debut on June 27, 2020 during the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup but her season was cut short after just 13 minutes when she tore her ACL and meniscus. The Courage traded the Colorado Springs native to the Reign following the 2020 season in exchange for Taylor Smith and the rights to former Pride forward Jodie Taylor.
However, Sounder at Heart reports that before she could return to full training, her 2021 season was also cut short due to a failed meniscus repair. As a result, the forward had to have another surgery — the fourth on her knee.
Watt returned to full training for the Reign last fall and made her debut for the Washington-based club — her second NWSL appearance — on Oct. 10, 2021. The forward appeared in 21 of the Reign’s 22 games in all competitions during the 2022 NWSL season prior to being traded to Orlando.
Prior to turning professional, Watt was Texas A&M’s first two-time United Soccer Coaches All-America first team selection. Additionally, she was named to the All-SEC first team three times, named the 2019 SEC Forward of the Year, and was a 2018 and 2019 MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist.
Internationally, Watt appeared for the United States U-20 National Team. She took part in the 2016 FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea, scoring two goals.
What It Means for Orlando
It’s difficult to say what Watt’s signing on through 2024 means for the Pride because, for starters, it depends on whether or not she can stay healthy. Watt didn’t even do that in her brief stint with the Pride at the end of this season, although it was a wrist that kept her out of the season finale, not her knee.
A healthy Watt getting regular minutes could become a valuable part of Orlando’s attack. She was a top-six draft pick for a reason. Watt has a world of potential and a whole lot of pace. The Pride will hope she can stay in the lineup and produce the way the Courage thought she would back in 2020. If she can do that, her acquisition could be one of the most important in club history. However, it’s fair to say that at this point in her career, Watt still has a lot to prove.
Playing alongside Darian Jenkins will give Orlando a formidable amount of pace on the attacking line, but both players have to improve their passing in the final third and their finishing for that pace to matter. The Pride are betting on that to happen.