Well, this can’t be good.
The Orlando Pride have placed Head Coach Amanda Cromwell and Assistant Coach Sam Greene on administrative leave, effective immediately. These suspensions are pending the outcome of an investigation by the Pride and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Assistant Coach Seb Hines will manage the team on an interim basis during the investigation, while Assistant Coach Michelle Akers and Goalkeeping Coach Aline Villares Reis will continue in their current roles.
The decisions come following recommendations from the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the NWSL Players Association (NWSLPA) Joint Investigative Team. This is an interim step while the investigation is ongoing, and no final determinations or conclusions have been reached.
While the Pride did not offer an explanation of the investigation, the NWSLPA put out a statement today that would indicate the investigation involves potential violations of the league’s policy to prevent and eliminate workplace discrimination, harassment, and bullying.
A joint statement from the NWSL and NWSLPA: pic.twitter.com/waF9TtxljY— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) June 7, 2022
To make matters worse for the Pride, a team in dire need of reinforcements in the transfer window, Meg Linehan of The Athletic reported ($) that her sources indicate that the club has frozen roster movement for the time being, so no players on the current roster can be waived or traded. Linehan also reported the investigation stems from a retaliation incident.
The Cromwell and Greene investigation dovetails with the league’s and NWSLPA’s previous investigation, which has been ongoing since October of 2021. That was originally launched in response to widespread allegations across the league of workplace misconduct. It included allegations against former North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley and currently suspended Houston Dash GM/Head Coach James Clarkson.
Cromwell hasn’t been on the job long. The Pride named the former UCLA coach as the team’s manager on Dec. 7, 2021. The assistant coaching staff was announced on Jan. 19, with Greene, Cromwell’s former UCLA assistant, joining her in Orlando. Both Cromwell and Greene left solid positions where they’d enjoyed a great deal of success to join the Pride.
Under Cromwell, a Pride team that jettisoned several high-profile players in the off-season — but did not make any major signings to replace them — got off to a predictably bad start. With Cromwell using the NWSL Challenge Cup to figure out the best lineup from the club’s roster, the Pride went 0-4-2, failing to score in their first three matches. Orlando was out-scored 11-4 in those six matches and dealt with some key knocks, including a season-ending knee injury to star midfielder Marta.
However, the Pride got off to a surprising start in the regular season. Following a 3-0 home loss to Gotham FC in the season opener, the Pride went 2-0-1 in their next three matches, posting road victories at Angel City and North Carolina. Orlando put together a string of four straight games in which the team scored two goals. While the team has cooled after the 2-0-1 run, the Pride had shown remarkable resiliency under Cromwell, rallying in stoppage time to draw the Washington Spirit and Kansas City Current, and making a game of it at home against Chicago after falling behind 3-0.
The current investigation into Cromwell and Greene come after the club suffered a 5-0 loss at Houston on Friday in Orlando’s most recent match, but there is no evidence that it is linked to that loss. If Cromwell has coached her last match with the Pride after the investigation is complete, she would leave with a record of 2-4-1 in regular-season play and 2-8-3 in all competitions.
The Pride’s statement this morning reiterated Orlando’s commitment to providing a suitable environment for the club’s employees, which obviously includes the players.
Providing a respectful environment and adhering to all league policies are of the utmost priority for the Pride. The club is committed to fully cooperating with the Joint Investigative Team through the conclusion of this process. As this is an ongoing investigation, the Club will have no further comment at this time.
What It Means for Orlando
There’s nothing good about any part of this. Obviously, if the investigation turned up any retaliatory behavior, bullying, harassment, or discrimination against any player by Cromwell and/or Greene, the appropriate action would be their immediate dismissal. As the current coaching staff has gotten the current roster to somewhat overachieve to this point (at times), the process of finding a new coach would start all over again.
In the meantime, if player movement is frozen, the Pride will continue to move forward with a roster that does not match up well with the other NWSL teams on a player-for-player basis. Just looking at Friday’s game, there isn’t an obvious Pride player who would have started in place of their counterpart in Houston’s starting XI that night. There is potential with some of the younger players, and Orlando has some useful pieces if surrounded by the right players, but the current roster just isn’t where it needs to be in order to compete in a difficult league. The roster deficiencies have been exacerbated by key names appearing on the availability report since the season started. If current players can’t be used as assets for trades or be moved to make way for new additions, Pride General Manager Ian Fleming can’t improve the team.
While this isn’t good for anyone involved, it does present an opportunity for Hines. The former Orlando City center back is in his third year as an assistant with the Pride. He’s in a difficult position, but if he can get the club to perform, it would make for an impressive audition for the permanent job.
The Mane Land will continue to follow this story as it develops.