Following its third National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season, Orlando Pride has announced its 2018 end of season awards. Eight of the nine awards were selected by fans, who voted over the previous week through the Pride’s Instagram story and narrowed down four finalists in each category to a winner. The Golden Boot is awarded to the player who leads the team in goals scored for the season.
Most Valuable Player: Marta
In her second season in Orlando, Marta was again one of the team’s biggest contributors and the fan’s pick for Most Valuable Player. In the same season, she won her sixth FIFA women’s world player of the year award, Marta played in 17 matches for the Pride, totaling four goals and four assists. The Brazilian captain led the team with 36 chances created and 34 dribbles completed, while posting the team’s second-highest passing accuracy (80.7%) and 44 shots.
Defender of the Year: Ali Krieger
Krieger, a six-year NWSL veteran, earned Defender of the Year honors in her second season in Orlando. Despite missing some matches due to injury, the right back led the Pride in touches (1,230) and led all defenders with 46 interceptions. In addition, Krieger ranked second on the team in clearances (60), blocks (16) and successful passes (651) while also providing two assists on the offensive end.
Golden Boot & Newcomer of the Year: Sydney Leroux
After being acquired by the Pride in February 2018, Leroux made her impact on the Pride in 2018 - leading the team with six goals on the season while also providing important defensive help. The forward appeared in 20 matches, totaling a team-high 51 shots and two assists. Defensively, Leroux led all forwards with 21 tackles and won 105 duels, the third-highest of any player on the team.
Goal of the Year: Marta vs. Washington Spirit - July 7 (86’)
In a vote that was tipped by just one percent, Marta’s July 7, 86th-minute game-winner against the Washington Spirit earned the 2018 Goal of the Year. Tied 1-1 late in the match, Marta displayed her world-class skill, beating numerous Spirit defenders before dancing in the box and firing home an upper 90, left-footed shot to steal all three points for the Pride.
Assist of the Year: Ali Krieger vs. Chicago Red Stars - May 26 (61’)
Krieger finished the 2018 season with two assists, with the defender’s first helper of the year taking home Assist of the Year honors. In the 61st minute, Krieger drove in a perfectly placed ball to Sydney Leroux, who got in front of her defender and sent in a game-winning, diving header goal to beat the Chicago Red Stars.
Save of the Year: Ashlyn Harris vs. Chicago Red Stars - Aug. 25 (31’)
After winning seven NWSL Save of the Week awards, Harris’ portfolio had numerous contenders but it was her Aug. 25 breakaway stop on back-to-back NWSL Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr that was voted the best of the year. In the 31st minute, Kerr got in behind the Pride backline but Harris came out of her goal to stymie the Australian’s attempt, using her right mitt to block away the forward’s attempt.
Celebration of the Year: Sydney Leroux vs. Sky Blue FC - June 16 (31’)
In the 31st minute, Christine Nairn used one touch to find Leroux unmarked in the box. The forward put her body on the line to score her second of three headed goals on the season. After knocking home her second goal of the evening, Leroux celebrated in the place she landed, throwing her arms into the air and taking flight.
Video Feature of the Year: Camila Road to Recovery
In another close battle, Camila Road to Recovery barely beat out Lifetime’s feature on defender Carson Pickett with a 51 to 49 percent final vote. After suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2017, Camila Road to Recovery documented the player’s return to the field in a candid, emotional interview. The feature brought fans into the mind of the Brazilian from the moment she sustained the injury to the second she stepped back onto the field nine months later.