2024 S-2 Briefing: Orlando Pride


We’re running down the 2023 table to look at our opponents in 2024, and here we’ve finally dropped below the red line, to the first of the last, the best of the un-post-seasoned.

We’ll start from last season’s briefing, and from there let’s revisit the…

Orlando Pride

Year formed: 2015
Orlando was, the song says, another year older and deeper in (lack-of-playoff)-debt.

Last season they got SO close…but still finished out of the money. Which is the most Orlando thing I can think of.

Orlando doesn’t hold the record for futility, mind. That’d be Houston, but only because the Dash are a year older, so their “one playoff appearance in club history” goes back nine years instead of only seven, AND the Orange Crushed won the 2020 COVID Cup, so there’s at least a pretense of silverware for the long-suffering Houston fans to treasure.

This mob? Nothing.

There’s something kind of epic in that degree of futility.

Owners: The Wilf Family
Same guys. Different day. Nothing to add; generic moneybags.

Head Coach: Seb Hines
2023 was the first full season for Hines, who took over the Shame when Cromwell got canned in June 2022.

2022 was 5-10-7 (22 points; 10th of 12) 22GF 45GA -23GD – so not even close – but
2023 went 10-11-1 (31 points, 7th of 12) 27GF 28GA -1GD
Season summary: Two years ago Orlando was its usual crap. Last year? Mid-table, and desperately unlucky, missing the playoffs on goal difference.

After 2022 I wrote “The Shame started (the 2022 season) in a bit of a mess.”

Last season made the opening of 2022 look like a big party; Orlando dropped all of their first four matches, beginning with the traditional Opening Day Running Of The Shame here in Portland followed by losses to Angel City and Gotham in Orlando, and Kansas City away. 1GF, 10GA.


Then Hines & Co. kinda took off, though.

Over the final 18 matches Orlando went 10-7-1; had they just potted one measly goal in Jersey in May and turned their only draw into a win? They’d have finished 4th and bagged their second all-time playoff appearance.

They didn’t, and even going 6-3-0 over the last nine couldn’t save them.

Well, shit.
Meetings with Portland: 3/26/23 (4-0 away loss), 6/11/22 (3-1 home win)

Outstanding players: It’s telling that Orlando didn’t land a single body onto either of the 2023 Best XI squads.

The Shame, like Angel City, tended to score by committee rather than riding one monster striker. Rookie Messiah Bright led the Orlando line with six goals. Two Brazilians were next; Adriana (six goals, four assists) and a Marta returning from injury (four and four). Mikayla Cluff added two and one and Julie Doyle two and three. Nobody else had more than a single goal

That, unsurprisingly, left Orlando behind in the attacking arms race.

Worth noting that though I said Marta had “returned”, she hadn’t really returned as “Marta”; while she played well overall her shooting boots were gone – all four of her goals came from the penalty spot.

In back the Shame had tightened up after a historically awful (41GA) 2022. Almost all of that improvement was between the sticks, though; the Orlando DMs and backline gave up a lot of dangerous chances, but…

Goalkeeper – SeasonxG againstGAGamesxGa/gameD/Diff
McLeod 202231.941201.59-0.45
Moorhouse 202326.222181.45+0.34
Nelson 20232.2430.73-0.4

…replacing Erin McLeod with Anna Moorhouse meant that those chances didn’t go past the goal line.

Orlando was caught in the “mediocre team” trap; not consistently dangerous up front (the Shame were shut out eight times last season, runners-up to the Queens of Nought, Gotham, by one zero) while still not playing tough enough in back to win a lot of close games.

They came close…but close was as close as they got.

How did they score?

Very weirdly. Here’s their tally; run of play in green, penalties in yellow, setpieces in blue, own-goals in red

Orlando’s run-of-play percentage was only about 63% of their total. That’s not really even close to the playoff clubs above them except Angel City, who got 21 of 32 (65%) from the run of play. The others? Gotham, 20 of 25 (80%), Carolina 25 of 29 (86%), San Diego 22 of 31 (71%) and Seattle 23 of 31 (74%).

I’m not sure whether that was part of the Orlando problem, or just a weird coincidence, but there it is.

How Did They Look?

Here they are losing to us on opening day:

We’ll see this 4-2-3-1 again, but here Bright is the CF, Adriana-Marta-Doyle as the AMs, Abello and Cluff at DM, and Strom-Cosme-Madril-McCutcheon in front of Moorhouse.

You can’t say Hines didn’t try to solve that dire opening run puzzle. The next match (Angel City at home) he ran out the only 4-4-2 he set up all season:

Wholesale changes up front with Watt and Adriana as forwards and Tymrak at left attacking midfield. Cluff and Abello stay as central midfielders with the same backline.

Still no joy, so against Gotham on Matchday 3 he went back to the 4-2-3-1, and after that loss tried the 4-3-3 in Kansas City:

Marta at the #9 with Watt and Adriana on the wings. Completely revamped midfield with McCutcheon moving up alongside Listro and Villacorta. Madril moves into McCutcheon’s spot, Montefusco replaces her, and Nelson for Moorhouse in goal.

STILL didn’t work, so Hines went back to the 4-2-3-1 and for some reason things finally began to get better. Here it is again, this time in the first Orlando win at San Diego in May:

Bright at CF with Adriana-Tymrak-Marta as AMs, Villacorta stays on as DM alongside Mikayla Cluff, McCutcheon move back to RB, Madril replaces Cosme, and Moorhouse is back.

Since this is working we see it again in June in our Orlando loss:

Still lots of changes up top; Watt for Bright at CF, Adriana moves inside, Doyle outside. The backline and DMs stay constant.

Since it worked then, too, Hines ran it out all the way to Houston on Decision Day:

Bright is back up top, Tymrak for Doyle, and changes up the spine; Abello and Listro at DM, and Rafaella replaces Montefusco sliding Madril over to the right.

You can see the tinkering, Hines playing the matchups and responding to roster and opponent changes.

It almost worked, too. Just not enough and not often enough.

Changes for 2024

Marta is back again. Again

Last season I wrote: “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.”

She’ll be 38 in about a week. Now this is Marta, so “38” isn’t quite the End the way it’d be for you or me in professional soccer.

But she’s not been “Marta” for several years now. There’s got to be a point where she becomes Christine Sinclair, a shadow of herself. Will it be this season?

The goalscoring problem wasn’t helped by losing Messiah Bright to Angel City. Simone Charley was the backswap, but Si-money is coming off a serious achillies injury that might well hamper her pace. A Simone Charley without pace isn’t really Simone Charley.

The other transfers in are international goalkeeper Sofia Manner from the Finnish Kansallinen Liiga, midfielders Angelina from Seattle and Morgan Gautrat from Kansas City and a shitload of Brazilians.

Brazilian midfielders Angelina Alonso Costantino (“Angelina”), Luana Bertolucci Paixão (“Luana”), and Evelina Pirjo Jovanka Duljan (“Duljan”) were all signed in; the first from Seattle as a free agent, the second from Corinthians (both in December), and the third from Juventus in early January.

Orlando had four picks in the ’24 NCAA Draft, but two were low fourth rounders. They took:
Ally Lemos (DM) – 1st round #9. Henderson liked her as a solid #6 reserve.
Cory Dyke (DM) – 2nd round #22. Seems like unneeded duplication of the Lemos pick.
Alex Kerr (F) – 4rd round #50. This was another pick Henderson liked as value for the money.
Talia Gabarra (DM) – 4th round #56. Henderson dunked on this pick – “D” – as unlikely to have pro-level skills.

Orlando has been rocking to the samba for a couple of years now, and the ’24 squad includes (besides Marta) Rafaelle de Souza, Adriana, Angelina, Luana, and Duljan. All solid players, all likely starters. I’m intrigued to see if this has some sort of synergy.

How they’ll look next year?

I’ve been leading off a lot of these with Henderson’s guesses, but his Orlando lineup misses a lot of the changes since the draft – he posted before the Bright trade, for one – and he always lines out 4-3-3’s (which Hines seldom uses), so here instead is my guess:

There’s a lot of “if”s there. The goalkeeping situation seems bizarre; Manner is a very good player, but they have Moorhouse, the #2 keeper in the league. Not sure why you’d ship in an international backup for her, but it IS Orlando.

The other big question is the center forward. I just don’t see Charley working out there. But who’s the alternative? Watt? Laroquette?

Where do all those Brazilian midfielders go?

This outfit needs goals. With Moorhouse and the backline they should be okay, but Marta isn’t going to give them help up front, not anymore. If Hines can figure out something to make all that Brazilian talent work like, well, Brazil?


Summing Up

This outfit came so close last season, and they’ve added a lot of international quality; as a group the Brazilians may be catalytic. Moorhouse is a rock.

Last season I wrote: “I’m actually surprised to hear myself saying this, but…I think these people will be better this year.” They were, flirting with playoff quality.

I think they’ll be even better in 2024.


I’m gonna say “playoffs”.

Last season I called them fifth and they finished seventh. I think this year they will go fourth or fifth or sixth. And, remember, this year the top eight are in. I’m pretty confident this gang will be there.

Will they be dangerous? I think so, even more than last season.

Can the Thorns beat them? We split the season last year, and 1) our win was in the Bowels of Spring, while 2) they’ve gotten better. So have we, I think, but I also think we’re going to have to be on top of our game with them this year.

Next up: In The House of the Spirits

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

4 thoughts on “2024 S-2 Briefing: Orlando Pride

  1. They look dangerous and a fun team to watch. I would love to see Charley do well again, but not against the Thorns.

    1. Actually they weren’t a lot of fun last season; for a team with so many Brazilians they don’t play with a lot of flair. But dangerous? Oh hell yes.

      I don’t have strong feelings about Si-money. She’s good people, but she’s the enemy now. I want to drive her before us and hear her lamentations.


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