ORLANDO, Fla. (October 24, 2017) - With the 2017-18 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) offseason officially underway, four Orlando Pride players are heading across the globe to compete in Australia’s Westfield W-League for the upcoming campaign. Australia National Team players Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy will return to their homeland to compete with Melbourne City, while defender Toni Pressley and forward Rachel Hill will play their first seasons in the league with Canberra United and Perth Glory, respectively.
“It’s always a positive when our players are able to continue getting valuable game time during the NWSL offseason,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said. “It will be great for Steph and Alanna to spend another few months building chemistry at Melbourne and I know Toni will go in and be a leader for Canberra. Rachel will get invaluable experience overseas, both in football and in a new culture, but will also have the opportunity to learn from perhaps the best striker in the world right now, Sam Kerr.”
Catley, 23, joins Melbourne City for the third straight season after leading the expansion side to back-to-back W-League championships the previous two years and captaining the squad during the 2016-17 season. In her second season with Orlando Pride, Catley appeared in all but one match for the Pride, totaling two assists on the year. The defender led Orlando in total touches (1,667) and crosses (75), while finishing second on the team in chances created (27). Catley was named to the 2017 NWSL Second XI last week.
Kennedy will join the same City side after spending the previous two W-League seasons with Sydney FC. Kennedy will team up with fellow Australia National Team member Catley for another season after the pair helped lead the Pride to their first-ever NWSL postseason appearance. Naturally a center back, Kennedy was moved into a midfield position by Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni and had a standout season for the Pride. The 22-year-old played in all but 59 minutes during the regular season, scoring four goals and adding one assist on the year. Kennedy scored Orlando’s lone goal in its semifinal match at Portland.
Both Catley and Kennedy are stalwarts in the W-League, as Catley started her career with Perth Glory at age 15 and Kennedy first appeared with Sydney at age 16.
Pressley and Hill will both be loaned to Australia for the first time in their careers.
Pressley, 27, featured in 18 matches for Orlando, scoring one goal on the year - a stunning strike on July 15 against FC Kansas City. That goal would go on to win Week 13 Goal of the Week. Pressley finished the year with 1,218 minutes, making 13 starts. The 2017-18 W-League season will mark the second time the defender plays overseas, having previously played for Russian side Ryazan VDV in 2012.
After being acquired in January from Portland Thorns FC, Hill totaled three goals in her rookie season, her first being an 86th-minute game winner on June 28 at Sky Blue FC. A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Hill also added one assist on the year. The forward will join a Perth side that reached the Grand Final last season, ultimately falling to Melbourne City, and features Kerr, the 2017 NWSL Golden Boot winner and MVP candidate.
The W-League begins this weekend, with Catley, Kennedy and Melbourne City traveling to face Hill and Perth in a match that kicks off at 7 a.m. ET on Friday. Pressley and Canberra matchup against Melbourne Victory on Saturday, with kickoff at 1:30 a.m. ET.