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Orlando Pride Trade Sydney Leroux to Angel City

The Pride received a first-round draft pick in 2024 and some Allocation Money in return.

NWSL: Washington Spirit at Orlando Pride Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride have traded forward Sydney Leroux to Angel City FC in exchange for ACFC’s natural first-round pick in 2024, $75,000 in Allocation Money, plus the potential for an additional $10,000 in 2022 Allocation Money and another $10,000 in 2023 if the forward meets certain performance-based criteria.

Leroux’s departure continues the roster gutting that began this past off-season. The House of Pride has been just about leveled to its foundation for this rebuild, but for that to happen, the club has got to start bringing in talent with the Allocation Money raked in from multiple deals and signing players who will be part of the team’s new core.

“Sydney gave all she could for the club every time she pulled on the jersey. We want to thank her for everything she has done for both our team and our community,” Orlando Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said in a club press release. “We’ll miss having Sydney and her family here in Orlando, but we believe this trade is best for all parties. We wish Syd the best of luck in this next chapter.”

“I’d like to thank the club, the fans and the community for embracing me and my family over the past five seasons,” Leroux said in the club’s release. “We had many exciting memories and moments throughout my time here, and I always will remember my time in Orlando fondly.”

Leroux, 32, was acquired from the Utah Royals on Feb. 2, 2018 in exchange for a first-round pick in 2019. The club re-signed Leroux on Feb. 3, 2021 to a new three-year deal with a club option that could have kept her in Orlando through the 2024 season. At the time, it was the maximum length deal available to NWSL teams and its players in a league that didn’t often sign players for more than one to two seasons.

During her time in Orlando, Leroux made 63 appearances (54 starts) across all competitions, playing 4,936 minutes, while scoring 18 goals and adding five assists.

In her first season in Orlando, Leroux was the Pride’s top goal scorer, finding the net six times and adding two assists in 20 appearances (15 starts), missing just a few games due to an illness and a concussion. However, those six goals came in just four different matches. She led the team in shots on target and tied Morgan for the most shots, but more was expected and she earned a rating of 6.5 out of 10 from The Mane Land that season in our end-of-year Pride player grades.

For most of the 2019 season Leroux was on maternity leave while ushering her second child into the world. As a result, she appeared in just three matches that year (no starts) and played only 28 total minutes as she worked her way back. She did not score or assist on a goal or even register a shot attempt in her limited action. As a result of playing so few minutes, she did not qualify for a TML player grade for the 2019 season.

As the Pride played only in the NWSL Fall Series in 2020, Leroux didn’t see a lot of action the following year either, playing in three games (all starts) for a total of 270 minutes. She scored one goal with no assists.

The following year was Leroux’s best in Orlando. She scored one goal in four appearances in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup in all four of the club’s matches (all starts), playing 351 minutes. During the regular season, Leroux returned to the top of the Pride’s goal-scoring list, netting eight goals to go along with two assists in 23 of the team’s 24 games (all starts), logging 2,018 minutes. The Mane Land gave Leroux a good rating of 7 out of 10 for her 2021 campaign.

After a fairly quiet 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup (no goals or assists in three games — all starts — playing 270 minutes), Leroux was the Pride’s co-leader in goals so far in 2022, with just two, tying with Mikayla Cluff, adding one assist in her seven appearances (six starts), as she played 568 minutes.

It was thought that adding the forward to a roster featuring attacking talent like Marta and Alex Morgan would elevate the Pride the season after the club’s only NWSL playoff appearance — a one-and-done postseason that saw Orlando ousted by the Portland Thorns. Leroux was also a player that could provide some cover while some of the team’s attackers were away on international duty.

Rather than improving and becoming an even bigger contender for a league title in 2018, the Pride’s fortunes turned the other way. Orlando went just 8-10-6 that year, which included a six-game winless skid to close the season, burying any hopes of a second consecutive playoff appearance. The Pride were terrible in 2019, going just 4-16-4 and finishing that year on a seven-match skid (0-5-2). The 2020 Fall Series saw the team go 0-2-2 in four matches, running the winless streak to 0-7-4 and covering more than a full calendar year.

Orlando finally won again in the third match of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup, with Leroux providing the only goal in a 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit, snapping the club’s 0-8-5 record across all competitions. The Pride got off to a great start in the 2021 regular season, with a club-record, seven-match unbeaten streak to begin the year (4-0-3). The roof caved in a bit once rumblings surface of then-coach Marc Skinner entertaining the idea of returning to England to manage Manchester United. The team righted the ship a bit in midseason under interim coach Becky Burleigh, but again the Pride fizzled down the stretch, finishing with five consecutive losses to fall out of playoff contention and turn a 7-5-7 record into a dismal 7-10-7 campaign.

A poor 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup (0-4-2) indicated things weren’t likely going to get better, particularly after an off-season of unloading veteran players without bringing in proper reinforcements to replace them. But the team got off to a solid 2-1-1 mark to begin the regular season and things were potentially looking up until the suspension of Head Coach Amanda Cromwell and Assistant Coach Sam Greene.

What It Means for Orlando

As one of the veterans that the Pride didn’t move in the off-season, Leroux was one of the faces of the team in 2022 and, outside of Marta, who was injured during the Challenge Cup prior to the regular season, she was the highest profile player on the squad. On the field, Leroux’s work rate was an important part the Pride’s play. Losing her at this point in the season likely won’t make anything too much worse in the win/loss column. The team may score slightly fewer goals, but results are unlikely to change much until the roster can be improved.

For her part, Leroux has not finished at a high enough rate in 2022. She has gotten herself into good scoring positions with the ball several times this season in which she should have done better. During those moments, she’s either hit her shot directly at the goalkeeper’s chest or missed the net entirely. All strikers go through periods where they aren’t lethal enough, but the Pride needed more from a player of her stature.

The team seemed to fracture around the time of the Cromwell and Greene suspensions and results have gotten worse. In the wake of those suspensions, the club subsequently bought out the contract of defender Amy Turner, who had a solid 2021 season on the Pride’s back line but inexplicably couldn’t find her way onto the field in 2022. Speculation has run rampant that whatever Cromwell and Greene are being investigated for, it may have been related to Turner not being on the field. We won’t speculate on that in this space; however, it wasn’t a good look for the team when Leroux was liking fans’ social media posts asking why Turner wasn’t in the lineup in Chicago — a game for which the Pride had no center backs on the bench.

The thin Orlando roster now gets stretched even further without a player of Leroux’s caliber. That in itself isn’t a reason to keep a player if they are creating or enhancing divisiveness in the locker room — and I want to stress that we have no evidence (even circumstantial) that this was the case. The team will have even more available money to make roster improvements, but it’s worth noting that having Allocation Money or the means to add players hasn’t been the issue since the Wilf family took over ownership. The front office simply hasn’t gotten the job done, regardless of the reason.

The roster — at forward and elsewhere — is not likely to improve until the Cromwell situation is resolved. It’s much easier to bring in players if they know who who they’ll be playing for when they arrive. The Pride have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the means to do it, which was true before trading Leroux, but the coaching situation makes things more difficult in the short term.

In the end, Orlando loses a player who led the team in scoring for both of the seasons in which she was available for most of the scheduled games. She was also popular with the fans, which won’t help the club with marketing efforts or ticket sales, although those effects might be minimal in the end.

Ultimately, this move will be judged by what the team adds with the resources it received — most notably the draft pick, for which the team will have to wait until 2024, unless it uses that asset to address needs sooner. Less obvious will be how the Allocation Money ends up being spent as it has simply been added to a growing pool that has yet to be used.