MOR­GAN IN AS OR­LANDO AIM HIGH IN DE­BUT YEAR

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Keiran Thievan

“THE time is right, the time is now,” de­clared Or­lando City FC owner Phil Rawl­ins on the un­veil­ing of the city’s first pro­fes­sional women’s club, the Or­lando Pride.

Rawl­ins, a former di­rec­tor at Stoke City for 14 years, has made the Pride the tenth club to en­ter the Amer­i­can Na­tional Women’s Soc­cer League (NWSL).

It is also the sec­ond ex­pan­sion club fol­low­ing the Hous­ton Dash in 2014.

Just a week later, the club made a huge state­ment of in­tent with the ac­qui­si­tion of ar­guably the big­gest star in women’s foot­ball, Alex Mor­gan.

The US in­ter­na­tional for­ward, whose hus­band Ser­vando Car­rasco plays for Or­lando City, joined the Pride in a com­pli­cated trade with the Port­land Thorns.

It also in­volved Canada in­ter­na­tional Kay­lyn Kyle ex­chang­ing the west coast for the east coast.

Mor­gan, who has suf­fered with an­kle and knee in­juries over the last year, re­cov­ered in time to help the US clinch their first World Cup in 16 years in Canada.

Her sign­ing has al­ready prompted fans in Or­lando com­mit to the club’s in­au­gu­ral cam­paign, with more than 2,000 sea­son tick­ets sold in just over two weeks.

On the cap­ture of Mor­gan, Kyle and Amer­i­can for­ward Sarah Ha­gen, from FC Kansas City, Rawl­ins said: “Sign­ing three play­ers of the cal­i­bre of Alex, Kay­lyn and Sarah clearly demon­strates the club's in­ten­tion to be suc­cess­ful from the very start.

“I’d like to wel­come all three play­ers to the City Beau­ti­ful, and I look for­ward to see­ing them and the rest of the Pride on the pitch next sea­son.”

The com­plex­i­ties of a new

team join­ing the league meant an ex­pan­sion draft had to take place. It re­sulted in the Pride pick­ing ‘un­pro­tected’ play­ers of their choice from the other nine NWSL clubs.

Among the ten se­lected were US in­ter­na­tional keeper and Or­lando na­tive Ash­lyn Har­ris and England for­ward, Lianne San­der­son, who was se­lected from the Port­land Thorns.

On the sign­ing of San­der­son, Scot­tish coach Tom Ser­manni, who will lead the Pride into its first sea­son next year, joked that he needed a to­ken English per­son “to make the tea”, be­fore of­fer­ing the real rea­son for sign­ing her.

He told Women’s Foot­ball

Weekly: “Lianne is a qual­ity player, and there’s also the fact that she’s not con­sid­ered an in­ter­na­tional player (San­der­son has a Green Card).

“What we’re get­ting is a top class player and some­one who un­der­stands and reads the game well.

“We couldn’t pass up that op­por­tu­nity to bring in a qual­ity player.”

San­der­son, who will play for her third club in the NWSL, hav­ing rep­re­sented the Bos­ton Break­ers when the league first formed, said on her Twit­ter ac­count: “I am be­yond ex­cited to play for the Or­lando Pride and for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that ap­pre­ci­ates what I have to of­fer – I can’t wait.”

The Or­lando club will con­tinue to build its ros­ter in the com­ing months.

Its next big op­por­tu­nity comes in Jan­uary when all ten teams will de­scend on Bal­ti­more for the 2016 NWSL Col­lege Draft.

PIC­TURE: Or­lando Pride

STAR: Alex Mor­gan is in­tro­duced

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