Playing With Pride: Why It’s Being Lost In Orlando

As all eyes turn to the Women’s Euros, there is still a competitive season taking place across the pond. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has never been shy of controversy, and recently speculation has been brewing as to what is happening behind closed doors at The Orlando Pride.

It was announced in the middle of June that English defender Amy Turner was bought out of her contract by the club. The details of the announcement was kept brief, with general manager Ian Fleming thanking Turner “for her contributions to the Club”. That weekend The Pride went on to lose 6-0 to Portland Thorns, with Becky Sauerbrunn even scoring a rare career goal. Despite the American draft system reducing the chance of a club acquiring the majority of the best young talent and international superstars, The Pride being contenders for the title of NWSL champions has been of scarcity. Since 2016, they’ve finished average seventh place and came 8th in 2021’s Challenge Cup.

Prior to this year’s season, the club lost household names in Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger. Morgan, who signed for expansion team San Diego Wave FC has already scored 11 goals in 9 starts – she averaged 5.75 goals per season she spent at The Pride. The Wave’s manager, Casey Stoney, told press “when Alex is happy and healthy, she performs well and I just want to keep her there.”

Photo: @ORLPride

Turner’s departure came not long after head coach Amanda Cromwell and assistant Sam Greene were placed on temporary leave, with Seb Hines and Michelle Akers stepping in as interim. The decision was suggested by the NWSL PA, pending an investigation to explore “workplace misconduct” allegations, said the NWSL and NWSL PA. 

Is it then a coincidence that The Pride have had significant departures, and that the likes of Morgan are now in shining form for a different club?

The investigations first started in October 2021, after significant figures in leadership roles within the NWSL were ousted for their abusive misconduct. As it remains ongoing, Orlando Pride have not made further comments on the matter and the true extent of the situation within the club is yet to be fully disclosed. The Wilf family are presently the majority owners of the club (including its male counterpart, Orlando City), and when the investigations began they pledged to “set the precedent for player treatment and protection in Orlando”.

Stoney herself is known to be a no-nonsense and outspoken manager, so it wouldn’t be extreme for fans and speculators to assume a potentially toxic atmosphere had been building. Let’s hope it isn’t anything as bad as what infamously occurred at North Carolina Courage and Utah Royals.

Since then, it has recently been revealed that another expansion team, Angel City FC, have acquired the rights to Pride forward and club hero, Sydney Leroux. A shock transfer for everyone. The 32-year-old has been with the club since 2018, scoring 18 goals in 63 appearances. In this time she also gave birth to her youngest child, in 2019. The Pride are set to receive $75,000 in allocation money as well as Angel City’s first-round natural draft pick in 2024. 

However, fans are far from satisfied. Take a spontaneous trip to Twitter and you’ll see downhearted comments such as:

The @ORLPride used to be a great part of our city. Now we’re left with broken promises, abusive coaches, and selling off the pieces to the highest bidder. It’s disgraceful and you have ruined the franchise forever. #orlandopride #NWSL.

Joe Soccer (@joesoccer321). 29 Jun 22, 6:42 pm.

As the team prepares to take on Racing Louisville on July 4th, perhaps those on international break are enjoying a welcome change of scenery.