2023 S-2 Briefing: Orlando Pride

Perhaps no organization (outside the defunct Boston Breakers and the former-ownership-of-Sky-Blue) stands for lingering issues in the NWSL as much as the club that plays in Florida.

“Florida Man” is a pop culture byword for gooberish stupidity, but for organizational incompetence there is nothing that has embodied those qualities so much as the Disney-World-level-suspension-of-disbelief outfit that sprays cluelessness like the fountain of its logo.

Let’s visit the black magic kingdom of the…

Orlando Pride

Year formed: 2015
Here’s another one of those MLS-NWSL partnership things like us and Houston.

This one was announced at the end of the 2015 season, when Orlando City SC, the men’s organization, got the rights to set up an NWSL club. It was the first WoSo team in the U.S. southeast (hell, at the time it was the first club south of D.C. and east of Kansas City…) and the expansion press release was huge; former USWNT coach Tom Sermanni was the manager, and six days after the announcement the stunning Alex Morgan deal with Portland was splashed all over the sports papers.

Remember, at the time Morgan was Big Noise, the face of the US team, and the deal was supposed to be Orlando busting out with a crash.

Well…they crashed, all right; finished 9th of 10 – only Boston having the worst season in NWSL history to that point (11 points from 20 games) kept the Pride from licking the Wooden Spoon.

In response the club went and signed Brazilian legend Marta for 2017.

Well…they got close.

That season – the only one which has seen Orlando in the postseason – the Pride came here for the semifinal having fought their way up from their usual spot on the floor to third.

Parsons’ second-place Thorns mopped that floor with Sermanni’s squad, and that was that for the Shame in the playoffs, reminding us that “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Since then Orlando have finished 7th of 9 (2018, the season that got Sermanni fired), 9th of 9 (2019, under new coach Mark Skinner), were sickened out of the COVID Cup in 2020, and then 8th of 10 in 2021.

Owners: The Wilf Family
Three relatives are the majority owners of Orlando; Mark Wilf (who is also chairman), his brother Zygi (and, yes, I’m spelling that right…), and a cousin, Lenny. These jokers appear to have made their pile in real estate and are also long-term sportsball owners; they own the Minnesota Vikings and had a piece of the Nashville MLS franchise before taking over in Orlando.

I don’t know anything about them other than that. They took over as majority owners in July 2021 so they were in charge during the Cromwell fiasco, which doesn’t exactly do them any favors, but it’s difficult to tell how much they knew about what Cromwell was doing; the club didn’t get fined by the league…so perhaps not much if anything.

I suppose the good news is that the Wilfs don’t seem to be any more scummy than the median sports owner. It’s sad that ownership in the NWSL is such a low bar, but there it is.

Head Coach: Seb Hines
Another Brit.

Hines is from Yorkshire, and played in England between 2005 and 2014; he seems to have been 1) a centerback and defensive midfielder who was 2) often injured – indeed, his injuries are pretty much the story of his playing career.

When he was fit he seems to have been a useful player who got spot starts and played in the reserves for Middlesboro when the club was in the Championship/D2. But his career was flailing in the mid-Teens when he was loaned to the Orlando SC men in early 2015.

It sounds like Hines hoped for a revival in Orlando and MLS but, again, he kept getting injured and was out of the game by 2017. He’s also played for the England juniors, but only at low levels.

Hines moved into management in the Orlando organization in 2020 as a Cromwell assistant, and moved up to take over the Shame when Cromwell got canned in June 2022.

The usual:

2022 – 5-10-7 (22 points; 10th of 12) 22GF 45GA -23GD
Season summary: Welcome to the Black Magic Kingdom.

The Shame started in a bit of a mess. Cromwell had just been tapped from UCLA in December 2021, bringing a bunch of her pals with her. The club had a turbulent offseason, too, trading away or losing Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris, Alex Morgan, and the rights to Claire Emslie. So things were in a scramble as the season began.

The season started hopefully for Orlando – yes, they got clubbed 0-3 on opening day by Gotham, but then went 2-0-1 to be in second on Matchday 4. The red line looked like it might be behind them,


Then they dropped two of their next three – one point out of nine – to fall back into the basement and then on June 7 Cromwell was suspended.

Hines took over.

Hines’ and the Shame’s season from there kind of weirdly took off. From Matchday 8 – right after Hines took over – to Matchday 16 Orlando went 3-2-4, and managed to climb out of the cellar to eighth; not good, but maybe heading the right way.

Then the club went 0-5-1 and finished the usual Orlando 10th. Well, shit.
Meetings with Portland: 6/19/22 (6-0 away loss), 9/9/22 (0-2 home loss)

Outstanding players: The Shame lost their two big guns in 2022; Morgan to trade (and, probably, final disgust at the shitshow in the swamps of Orlando) and Marta to injury.

Sydney Leroux, from whom I suspect Cromwell had hopes of getting some attack, was traded away after seven games – just days after Cromwell got canned – to ACFC for Bermanbux and a 2024 pick.

Unsurprisingly, that gutted the scoring; Meggie Dougherty-Howard ended the season top with only three goals and two assists. Celia Jimenez – who is a wingback, mind – had two and none and so did a crap-ton of others; a total of six players had two goals each.

That’s so Shame-y.

Meanwhile in back the Shame were shipping goals like the Titanic taking on cold water on a dark night.

Part of the problem was that their DMs and backline gave up a lot of dangerous chances, but…

Team/GoalkeeperxG againstGAGamesxGa/gameD/Diff

…the real problem was that Erin McLeod was a flaming wreck in goal, allowing almost a goal per two games more than even that piss-poor xG against suggested.

She tended to surrender goals in job lots, too; giving up three to Gotham on opening day, four to Chicago in May, five to Houston in June and then six to us, and then three each to Carolina and Seattle in September and October. Her GAA was over two, and her save percentage was abysmal.

So we’ve seen this before, right? No goals, crap defense, only now with a trainwreck in goal…no wonder this dumpster fire burned so hot.

The Shame was predictable both losing leads and in particular being unable to come from behind.

We’re gonna see uglier. But, wow. The Shame were pretty damn ugly last year.

How did they score?

They didn’t. Outside Gotham, Orlando was the worst team in the league.

Part was not having a dominant scorer. Another was being utterly useless on setpieces; one indirect free kick, no direct frees or corners.

Weirdly, somehow Orlando forced two own goals out of their opponents. Like everything Orlando, it was probably because of something bizarre and stupid.

How Did They Look?

Here they are losing to Gotham on opening day:

Lisa Pruitt at the #9 in the 4-2-3-1 with Kerri Abello at LW, Gunny Jonsdottir at ACM and Darien Jenkins at RW. Mikayla Cluff and Angharad James as DMs with Petersen-Pressley-Montefusco-Celia across the back.

Now May, at Carolina, where Orlando got the 1-2 away win:

Same formation, whole new squad. Leroux leads the line with Julie Doyle-Cluff-Abi Kim (who was pulled for Jenkins at halftime) behind her. Jordyn Listro and Viviana Villacorta are now the DMs. Carrie Lawrence replaces Toni Pressley and flips with Montefusco, Kylie Strom replaces Peterson, Celia remains at RB.

In June here’s how they looked when we whipped them here 6-nil:

Remember, this was only their second match under Hines.

The formation looks weird (3-1-4-2?) but I think this is really a 3-5-2, with Doyle and Kim as dual forwards, Dougherty-Howard and Jonsdottir as AMs with James as CDM, Kerri Abello as LWB, Petersen-Pressley-Montefusco as CBs amd Jenkins at RWB.

Whatever it was, it sure sucked pipe.

Here they are again, this time in September, when we went to Disney World:

This one was one of the only two games that backup goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse started all season (and, for the record, her goals-xGa-per-game is only 0.26; bad, but about half as bad as McLeod’s). Didn’t work all that well; shipped two, not six, but still a scoreless loss.

Erika Tymrak gets the start at RW and Abello moves right up to LW with Doyle as CF. The midfield is similar but scrambled, with Dougherty-Howard now wide left, Listro wide right and Cluff CM. Strom is back at RB, Montefusco and Pressley still at CB, Celia still at LB.

So lots of little changes across the season and two coaches, none of which worked.

Changes for 2023

Marta is back.

I’m not sure if that qualifies as “heroic” or “insane”; probably the latter if your definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. I love Marta, but she’s beat her head against this purple wall for years, and I just hate to see her waste another season doing that.

The Shame shipped a lot of bodies out after 2022; Darian Jenkins retired, Jonsdottir and McLeod were waived, Dougherty-Howard was lost to San Diego as a free agent, and Petersen traded to Houston. Toni Pressley has been tendered an offer but hasn’t signed, at least as of the Orlando roster page tonight.

The only transfers in are goalkeeper Carly Nelson, a free agent signing who has been playing in Denmark on loan from Kansas City, and Brazilian international forward Adriana Leal da Silva, or “Adriana”. Mind you, those aren’t bad additions.

Orlando had the #3 overall pick in the ’23 NCAA Draft and took:
Emily Madril (centerback) – 1st round #3; – Henderson loved this pick, and thinks it will add some real steel to the Orlando backline. I tend to agree.
Messiah Bright (center forward) – 2nd round #20
Tori Hansen (centerback) – 3rd round #25 – this was another pick Henderson really liked, and he thought that the Hansen-Madril CB pairing would be huge.
Summer Yates (attacking midfielder) – 4th round #39

(This is a good place to stop and observe that Yates is, supposedly, a similar thing to the now-infamous Sydney Nasello of Thorns draft history; a talented player whose social media is full of right-wing nuts…
…including, I noted, Ben Shapiro, who if you’re going to like right-wing nutbars on social media, is just sad; it’s like having a collection of Nazi trading cards and leading off with Rudolf Hess…
…and there’s some speculation that the reason she dropped all the way to the fourth round was because of the Nasello/Daniels rage last season.)

and finally Kristen Scott (forward/LW) – 4th round #41

So far as I can tell none of the rookies are signed yet, either. Henderson liked the picks (and some in particular, as noted, making this a shockingly good draft for Orlando, a team not generally known for smart front office moves.


There’s a lot of ifs there.

IF Adriana can be the next Marta…

IF Marta can produce another “Marta” season…

IF the draftees can improve the backline…

IF Nelson can be…well, Christ, I could be better than McLeod, but, good enough to help remake the traditionally-pathetic Orlando defense…

Like I said; lots of ifs.

How they’ll look next year?

I usually lead off with Henderson’s guess, but his misses a lot of the changes since the draft, so here’s what I think:

This is still a 4-2-3-1 but pretty much with an entirely new club, with Adriana leading the line in front of Marta, with Doyle and Ally Watt on the wings. Yes, Listro and Cluff return as DMs, with Celia and Strom at fullback, but it’s also Madril next to Montefusco and Nelson between the sticks.

Will this work?

Well, Adriana is a damn good striker. Watt and Doyle are okay, Marta? She’s a legend and a treasure, but as we know from watching Sinc last season, even legends reach the end. Has she?

Montefusco is kinda meh but Celia and Strom are fine, and the addition of Madril and Nelson has got to help.

How much?

That’s reeeeally hard to say.

Summing Up

It’s so hard to be optimistic about this outfit. They’ve just been so bad for so long, it’s hard to fight my default assumption; “Orlando sucks”.

There’s some quality there now, though. The draftees look promising. Adriana is good and as a group the Brazilians may be catalytic. The new keeper might be a rock.

I’m actually surprised to hear myself saying this, but…I think these people will be better this year.


I’m not sure that the playoffs are out of reach if things go right. If Adriana has eight goals by midseason? If Marta is “Marta” and Nelson is kicking ass and taking names in the six-yard box?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this squad might finish fifth. I think at the very least they’ll be challenging the red line.

Will they be dangerous? Could well be! I have a funny feeling that this is going to be a much tougher team to face in 2023.

Can the Thorns beat them? Yes. We’re still better across the board. But I think the days of six-nil routs are gone, and we need to treat them with a bit more respect; in fact, I think they might just surprise us.

Next up: In The House of the Spirits

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

3 thoughts on “2023 S-2 Briefing: Orlando Pride

  1. Thanks for all of the team previews, John. Your perspectives on the teams’ front offices, NWSL histories, and current statuses are really illuminating. I sure hope you’re right that Orlando will get its act together, since they have a *potentially* large fan base that’s been trickling away after repeated losing seasons. The NWSL sure would benefit from another big draw. I’m not convinced that the team is run well enough to actually succeed, but maybe they can turn it around.

    A question: What did Amanda Cromwell do? I heard about “retaliation” but its never been clear to me exactly what happened.

    Another question: Is Orlando the team we’ve been most successful against over the years? I remember a lot of whippings like 4-1 and 6-0….

    1. So to take the first last; in terms of overall record Houston is our biggest punching bag, 14-4-3 over eight seasons. But Orlando is close – 12-2-2 over seven seasons.

      Our worst enemies? Absolutely Seattle; 8-13-6 over nine seasons. WNY/NCC second, 9-10-5 over nine. FCKC was a pig, too, 4-6-4 over five seasons.

      The weirdest is Chicago; 12-2-10 over nine. We either beat them or draw them, hardly ever lose to them. Utah/KCC is similar, 5-1-5 over four seasons.

      As for the Cromwell thing…my understanding is that it had two parts, First, she was just the usual big meanie – hectoring, fat-shaming, the usual rough-tough-big-bad-coach nonsense, the sort of thing that a college coach could get away with among kids scared to lose their full ride but got her troops pissed off with her. Cromwell claims that she wasn’t “abusive”, just “tough” and her sissy team couldn’t take it, but that’s not what the investigators thought, AFAIK.

      But the other part really is more sketchy; it sounds like 1) the players went to the Orlando FO and bitched her out, that got back to her and 2) she and her assistants started tracking down the rebel scum to put them to the sword. Supposedly it was the retaliation rather than the initial complaint that got her canned. She also denies this, and of all the “scandals” this one seems to be the biggest-reach.

      I dunno with this outfit. It’s been such a tire fire for so long. I will be watching them, tho. They might surprise…

  2. I’m finally digging into your team articles and wanted to start here since they’re our first game of the season. I do think they could be a sneaky challenge for the first match of the season. They’ve been playing a ton of preseason matches already, and I think they’ve won most, if not all of them with multiple goals. They do have upgrades from last season, and a lot of changes that could make it hard to scout them for this match. I think Emily Madril will be huge for them, as well as Messiah Bright. Also not mentioned, but someone who I thought was decent on the backline was Haley McCutcheon (nee Hopkins.) I think she came from Houston at some point mid season and so had to work her way into the lineup. I think she played fullback, though I can’t remember the side. But I do remember thinking she was pretty good. I also think Ally Watt is someone to keep an eye on . She’s probably one of the fastest players in the league, and could really be a menace if she can improve her finishing. Of course, Marta’s vision could be important on the field, even if she isn’t as quick as she used to be. I still think she’s more valuable to Orlando than Sinc is for us, on-field.

    With Reyes still rehabbing an injury, I imagine our starting XI is going to be relatively unchanged from last season. I really am hoping to see less of Sinc getting the start, but I still don’t feel confident with that until we see that first starting XI. That’s the position I’ll be eyeing…maybe we’ll have Coffey/Rocky/Sugita instead. I very much hope so. Also, I’m curious who starts on that RW. Crystal? Beckie? Either way…we don’t have to wait long! Just please, Norris, no 352.


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