The Orlando City front office has been very busy in the off-season on the MLS side, but they have not exactly been idle when it comes to the Pride roster. There have been a number of transactions in the offseason, including a new addition to the team through the recent NWSL draft, that have brought some new faces to the roster.
Beloved Player Departures
Sadly, the transactions that have brought some new faces to the Orlando Pride have resulted in some players being traded away. The Pride were a playoff team in 2017 and they added even more impressive names to the roster, which means that some players who had diminished minutes in 2017 were in danger of having even fewer minutes in 2018. For those players, a trade may well breathe new life into their careers and let them shine in a starring role for another club.
- Aubrey Bledsoe - GK. Bledsoe filled in when Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris was injured midseason in 2017, starting in 11 matches and recording 2 clean sheet victories while conceding only 15 goals (1.37 goals per match average). Her confidence and poise in the net kept the Pride in playoff contention through the heart of the season and ensured Harris had plenty of time to fully recover before resuming her role as starting keeper. Bledsoe proved she deserves to be a starter in the league, and while I am sad as a fan that we won't see her smile light up Orlando City Stadium this season, I am glad that she will have a chance to compete to be the starter for the Washington Spirit.
- Stephanie Catley - DEF. Catley will forever be in the history books as the first player in Pride history to score for the team, doing so in the club's debut match at Portland Thorns in April of 2016. Last season Catley played in 23 matches and recorded two assists on the year. Catley's determination and energy made her a crowd favorite in Orlando.
- Jasmyne Spencer - FWD. Spencer saw her minutes diminished significantly in 2017 with the Orlando Pride after the signing of Camila and Marta. Even so, Spencer became a valuable lighting rod for the Pride on the pitch as she would often come in midway through the second half to add a burst of speed and fully exhaust already weary opposing defenders that had to chase the speedy Spencer around the pitch. Spencer contributed three goals and four assists last season, and I hope that the trade to Seattle will permit her to once again have a starting role in the roster. Jas we will truly miss you, and readers may see me lament "if we only had Jasmyne back," if the Pride can't salvage a late goal in a match to get a result.
Exciting Player Acquisitions
Though my heart breaks at the loss of beloved players from last year's team, my heart is lifted up and mended whole again with the arrival of wonderful new faces. The fair Rosalines may have departed leaving my eyes wet with tears, but in sweep the lovely Juliets to fill my spirit with joy once again.
- Nadia Gomes - FWD. Gomes was selected 23rd overall in the 2018 NWSL draft. The Sandy, Utah product played her college soccer for BYU and had a productive senior season, scoring five goals and registering four assists in 19 matches. Overall, Gomes scored 23 goals and had 23 assists in her 83 collegiate appearances for the Cougars.
- Shelina Zadorsky - DEF. Zadorsky was acquired from the Washington Spirit in the trade for Auburey Bledsoe. In 2017 she made 21 appearances (20 starts) for the Spirit and had an assist. Zadorsky also contributed 23 corner kicks to the Spirit, and adds to the options Tom Sermanni has for serving up set pieces.
- Christine Nairn - MID. Nairn was acquired in the trade that sent Steph Catley to the Seattle Reign. Nairn appeared in 23 matches (21 starts) for the Reign, scoring one goal and having four assists. Like Zadorsky she also added 23 corner kicks last season, which will give opposing teams even more headaches trying to remember the tendencies of whichever Pride player carries the ball to the flag to serve up a set piece opportunity.
- Carson Pickett - DEF. Pickett was also part of the trade sending Steph Catley to Seattle. Pickett started in all of her 21 appearances for the Reign last season, playing over 1850 minutes. Pickett is no stranger to the Sunshine State. She played college soccer at FSU and was part of the 2014 National Championship Team. Pickett and her defensive teammates did not allow a single goal during FSU's tournament run to that year's NCAA championship. Pickett also shares a visual similarity to future UCF football hall of fame linebacker Shaquem Griffin, as Pickett's left arm ends just below the elbow. She was born without the rest of her arm, and like Griffin, Pickett has thrived and excelled in athletics in spite of what many have repeatedly told her she can't do. Griffin's ferocious, relentless style of play helped UCF complete an undefeated season in 2017 and earned him an invitation to the 2018 NFL Combine. I'm excited to see Pickett on the pitch for the Pride and see if she brings the same relentless style of play to her game.
- Haley Kopmeyer - GK. Kopmeyer was part of the trade that sent Jasmyne Spencer to the Seattle Reign. Losing Bledsoe certainly meant that the Pride would need to add another keeper to the roster, and in Kopmeyer they gain an experienced keeper. Kopmeyer has started all 30 matches that she has appeared in over the last two seasons. In 2017 she started 20 matches, recording 79 saves and conceding 33 goals (1.65 goals per match average) while registering two clean sheets.
- Sydney Leroux - FWD. In 2017 Leroux started all 23 of her appearances with FC Kansas City, playing over 2000 minutes and scoring six goals while adding two assists. Perhaps the worst kept secret in the history of women's soccer was that USWNT star Sydney Leroux would be headed to Orlando. Leroux and her husband, Orlando City striker Dom Dwyer, have one son, Cassius, born in September of 2016. Leroux joins a roster that is filled with talented strikers, but the offseason trade by Orlando City's MLS side of Servando Carrasco to the LA Galaxy telegraphs that either the Galaxy or expansion side LA FC will announce an NWSL team for 2019 and will hope to sign Alex Morgan so that she can be reunited with her husband on the West Coast.
- Poliana Barbosa Medeiros - DEF. Poliana joins several fellow Brazilian National Teammates on the Orlando Pride roster. The club acquired her rights from the Houston Dash, where Poliana appeared in 22 matches (17 starts) and scored four goals while adding two assists.
While the full NWSL schedule has not been released, the Orlando Pride season kicks off the weekend of March 24-25. If there are additional roster moves before the season begins, I'll track them here. In the weeks before the season begins, I'll also try to do a deep dive into the stats up and down the entire Pride roster.