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Marta Will Impact the Orlando Pride With More Than Her Play This Season

Despite her age and coming off a knee injury, Marta will have a significant impact on the Pride this season.

NJ/NY Gotham City FC v Orlando Pride Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

On Dec. 21, the Orlando Pride signed Brazilian midfielder Marta to a new two-year deal. The agreement keeps the six-time FIFA World Player of the Year in Orlando through the 2024 season. Like previous seasons, Marta will be an important player for the Pride, but her impact might be a little different this year.

Marta initially signed with the Pride on April 7, 2017 after leaving Swedish side FC Rosengard. Her impact on the team was immediate, leading the team in her first season with 13 goals and six assists, helping the Pride qualify for the NWSL playoffs for their first and only time. In her six years with the Pride, Marta has tallied 84 appearances (78 starts) and 7,011 minutes with 27 goals and 14 assists in all competitions. She has the most goals and assists in Pride history.

The Pride started a full rebuild process prior to the 2022 season, seeing the departure of several veteran players, including Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Riley. Meanwhile, Marta stayed with the team. She was expected to be a key player on a very young Pride team but suffered a season-ending injury during the NWSL Challenge Cup on March 26 in North Carolina.

In her prime, Marta could change any game she played in. The result was being named the best women’s player in the world on six occasions, including while with the Pride in 2017. But the Brazilian will be 37 years old when the 2023 season starts and she is coming off a torn ACL. That’s a difficult injury to recover from and even more so later in a career.

At her age and coming off an injury, Marta likely won’t make the same impact she did on the field prior to her injury. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be an integral part of the team over the next two seasons.

The Pride spent years trying to build a winning team with international stars. But that clearly didn’t work as the team has only made the playoffs once. Instead, the club is attempting to build from the ground up with smart draft picks and plugging in star players when they’re ready to contend.

This year’s team has some exciting young players to keep an eye on for the future. But they’re very inexperienced, with many of these players having only one or two professional seasons under their belts. That’s where the leadership of Marta comes in.

While the Brazilian missed nearly the entire season with an injury, she was around the team all year and made her presence felt. An example of this was on May 14 at Exploria Stadium against the Kansas City Current. The Pride trailed 2-1 late into second-half stoppage time when they were awarded a penalty. Nobody on the Pride volunteered to take the penalty, resulting in center back Toni Pressley shouldering the responsibility.

According to former head coach Amanda Cromwell, Marta addressed the players after the game about their unwillingness to step up to the plate. The speech seemed to impact the team as veteran attackers Sydney Leroux and Meggie Dougherty Howard stepped up to take the remaining two penalties of the season.

In all likelihood, Marta will be taking the penalties during the 2023 season, but this incident shows the leadership of the star. The Pride will still be a young team this coming season and will need a veteran willing to step up and be a leader. Marta has shown that she’s willing to take on that role and will continue doing so over the next two seasons.

Even entering her late 30s, Marta has the ability to be one of the best players on the field. But it was obvious she had lost a step prior to her injury and her ACL tear won’t help. She might not dominate games the way she did in the past, but that doesn’t mean she won’t have an impact. To the contrary — Marta’s experience with this young group will make her one of the team’s most important players during the next two seasons.