MORGAN IN AS ORLANDO AIM HIGH IN DEBUT YEAR
“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.
STAR: Alex Morgan is introduced