Last Week Orlando City played their final match of the MLS season, and they finished strong. Over the next six weeks or so ahead of the MLS Expansion draft, we will spend some time looking back at some great moments of the season and recognizing some key players.
But before we get into my opinions and those of some other friends in social media that are involved in following Orlando City and its constituent teams, it's worth looking at some of the honors and awards that are already starting to come the way of our players. Today we're going to look at some of the women from the Orlando Pride who have received honors and recognition since the Pride season ended.
Earlier this month Ashlyn Harris was named NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year for 2016. It's the first time a member of an expansion team has received a league award. And it also comes in a year when Harris was away from the team for five matches of the season due to commitments with the USWNT involving international friendlies and the Rio Olympics.
Harris totaled 62 saves in 15 games and had a 1.33 goals against average (GAA) and a 0.756 save average. She faced 82 shots on goal, which was 3rd most in the league and that says more about the lack of depth and shifting lineup in the defensive line (due to the youth and inexperience of players as well as the fact that six of the regular starters on the team were called up for international duty for multiple matches during the season). And in the break just before the end of the NWSL season Harris also had a chance to start in goal for the USWNT in the match against Thailand.
I think Harris is well deserving of the award and it's great to see awards like this come to the club. Last year Orlando City's MLS side had Rookie of the Year with Cyle Larin, and the award to Harris just expands the notion that Orlando City is built to have a lasting impact on the game of soccer in America.
Earlier this week it was announced that Kristen Edmonds had been called up to the USWNT for the next camp and coming friendlies against Romania. Certainly Edmonds seems to be the intelligent fans' choice for team MVP for the Pride in 2016. She was also named at the Thursday evening Fan Forum by coach Tom Sermanni at the top of the list of players who exceeded the coaching staff's expectations during the season, though she certainly was not alone.
Edmonds was someone that was literally thrown into a trade with Orlando City by Western New York when the Pride were working to get Becky Edwards during last off-season. This turned out to be great for both Edmonds and the Pride, as she seemed to thrive in the chaos that was the 2016 expansion season. She played in 19 of 20 matches, missing only one game due to a mild strain of a muscle in the middle of the year. Edmonds played many different positions during the year, practically appearing everywhere except in goal for the team, and showing the ability to score (she led the team in goals), defend, pass, attack, and create opportunities for her teammates (she was tied for the team lead in assists) with great skill and energy.
In addition to being a great athlete on the pitch, it's not hard to see that Edmonds is a great presence away from the games as well. As a member of The Crown supporters group, I had the privilege to spend some time with the players at events we had during the year, and Edmonds was always one of those players who seemed to lift the spirits of her teammates. It always seemed that she viewed challenges as opportunities and kept her eye on the potential in situations. And it never seemed to me like she was in denial or being unrealistic--but that she naturally has a knack for seeing how the lemons life hands you can be turned into lemonade.
Certainly 2016 for the Pride presented a set of challenges that were unexpected. Not only were there the usual challenges faced by any expansion team, but there were midseason retirements and personnel changes, as well as the heartbreaking and traumatic incident of the Pulse shooting in June that rocked the entire city and especially hit emotionally hard at a number of the Pride players and a large segment of their supporters (and if I'm honest it hit me a lot harder than it normally might have because so many new friends I have made in The Crown are part of the LGBT community).
Australian Women's League
In the past few days there have been five Orlando Pride players confirmed to have signed with teams in the Australian W League. Jasmyne Spencer will play her third consecutive season in Australia, joining Canberra United for the 2016-17 season. Spencer played for Sydney FC in her first two years in Australia, where she was named as the club's Player of the Year in 2014-15, during which she scored 8 goals.
Additionally Laura Alleway and Steph Catley will go to Melbourne City FC, where they played last season and helped lead the team to a league title. Monica will play for Adelaide United, and Maddy Evans will play for Brisbane Roar FC.
Congratulations to these and other players for the Pride, for the MLS side and for the USL team that will be recognized and rewarded for their contributions in the days and weeks ahead. Tonight I will be attending the Orlando City Gala and I expect that there will be some more news on awards and recognition to come out of that event. If you're at the event just look for my purple tophat and come say hello!