On Friday evening, it was officially official that Toni Pressley — the longest tenured Orlando Pride player and the last player from the team’s inaugural 2016 roster — would not be returning to the club for the 2022 season.
A member of the league’s first ever free-agent class, Pressley entered the 2022-23 offseason out of contract, and we all will now wait to see and cheer on her next adventure.
Those that follow the Pride know, there are not many things more synonymous than seeing No. 3 decked in purple on match day. Those that follow the NWSL know, Pressley has been a stalwart on the defensive side, from her pre-Orlando days at Washington, Western New York and Houston -- all the way to her seven seasons in her home state of Florida.
Let’s take a look back at Pressley’s tenure in the City Beautiful, with our top-five Toni moments:
Honorable Mention: All. The. Blocks.
Standing at 5-foot-11, Pressley’s presence was always felt on the backline and there aren’t many players in the game that put their body on the line day-in and day-out to block a shot or break up an opportunity like she does. With that grittiness, Pressley amassed 298 clearances over her time in Orlando, the second-most in club history.
No. 5: Pressley from the spot
Early into the 2022 season, down a goal against the KC Current, the Pride won a penalty kick in extra time with the opportunity to equalize from 12-yards-out. But some confusion on the field made it unclear who would take the shot: enter Toni Pressley. Wearing the armband, it was the defender who grabbed the ball and stepped up to the spot, leaving AD Franch no chance at saving the stoppage-time equalizer.
It was a moment that perfectly encapsulated the type of stoic, quiet leadership Toni brought to the locker room.
No. 4: Cheffin' it up
From the moment she arrived in Orlando, Toni was much more than a player on the field, she was a content queen. As her love of cooking grew, so did the opportunities to share her talents (and personality) with Pride fans. From the early days of Dirty Dancing lifts with Ashlyn Harris, to the “Girls Gone Veg” era with Ali Riley, we always felt like we were guests of Toni’s when she welcomed us into the kitchen.
No. 3: Recognizing the O.G.
The 2022 season was a reason to celebrate for the NWSL, reaching the decade mark of the third iteration of a women’s professional league, and one that was backed by “The Original 21” - the 21 players that laid the foundation for the league and played each of those seasons. With seven of those years coming in Central Florida, Pressley was one of the select few who earned the honor, with the group recognized at the 2022 NWSL Championship in front of nearly a million viewers.
No. 2: A KC masterpiece
On July 15, 2017, It was a blast heard ‘round the world and, six years later, still perhaps one of the most iconic goals scored in Orlando Pride history.
In the opening year of Exploria Stadium, Pressley put the league on notice against Kansas City, displaying her trademark cannon of a left leg. The defender collected a failed clearance about 40-yards-out, bodying off a defender and avoiding a tackle, before unleashing a screaming shot from outside the box to the far post. It was a heck of a way to score her first NWSL goal, and her first of four as a member of the Pride.
No. 1: A moment we'll never forget
Behind the Scenes | Toni Pressley Returns
Pride fans have had no shortage of inspirational players don the purple since 2016, and Oct. 12, 2019 will forever be a day remembered in the City Beautiful.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer just three months prior, Toni Pressley returned to the field in the 72nd minute, welcomed back by a standing ovation crowd both at Exploria Stadium and around the league.
As Ashlyn Harris removed the armband and put it on her defender, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But, beyond the game, this moment meant so much because it showed why the NWSL and its players are unlike any other league. Pressley, herself, used her experience to become a fierce advocate and resource, doing all that she can to share her story and support others.
What’s more, the whole of the NWSL came together to host a memorabilia auction - an effort started by the players of the league -- to raise more than $45,000 for Libby’s Legacy, a local nonprofit chosen by Toni.