This week, Pride announced that it had negotiated contracts with for returning players-- Forward Jasmyne Spencer, Midfielder Maddy Evans, Defender Toni Pressley, and Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. All four of these players were a part of the Pride’s inaugural NWSL campaign, and they will be huge assets to the team moving forward.
While the Pride has brought in a lot of new talent over the offseason-- including international stars like Alanna Kennedy and Ali Krieger-- it is important to maintain a certain core of players. Head Coach Tom Sermanni discussed this at the beginning of the offseason, saying that there needed to be a balance between bringing in new players and maintaining the existing team chemistry.
These players also have a lot to give to their team, especially Spencer. She played all 20 games for the Pride last season, starting in 17 of them and scoring four goals. She helped maintain the team’s high pace, keeping the ball forward by using her speed to weave through defenders. Spencer also has great chemistry with the team’s leading goal-scorer (and her best friend) Kristen Edmonds, who scored six goals last season for the Pride.
Evans also proves to be a strong signing for the Pride. She’s an NWSL veteran, who played for the Boston Breakers for three years before coming to Orlando. She helps command the midfield and can provide good guidance for some of the younger players on the squad. She appeared in most of the Pride’s matches last season (16 out of 20) and earned an assist on the season. Pressley also helps as an NWSL veteran, having played for the Houston Dash, the Washington Spirit, and the Western New York Flash before landing in Orlando.
Bledsoe might get the chance to prove herself this year, having lost most of her playing time last season due to an injury. Sermanni said at the end of last season that he felt confident in Bledsoe’s ability to serve as a competent backup to starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. We’ll see if she gets the chance to make her mark this year.