Toni Pressley picked herself up off the ground, engulfed by her teammates, with cheers echoing throughout Orlando City Stadium. The defender had just scored her second professional goal, breaking the mold of what many had defined her role within the squad to be.
For years, she has constantly redefined her role and has continued to do so this year as a member of the Orlando Pride.
Pressley started the season as one of Head Coach Tom Sermanni’s choices on the team’s back line, but then on May 2 against the Chicago Red Stars she was used as a substitute in the midfield.
Then, after that midfield appearance, through June 11 the defender made only two appearances for Orlando.
“My role has obviously changed, I’ve been in and out,” Pressley said. “I’ve just been trying to stay focused mentally.”
That role once again changed in mid-July when Sermanni inserted her back into the starting XI.
“I think she gives solidity in midfield, she gives us a physical presence in there and obviously a danger in the box and managed to score for us,” Sermanni said of Pressley following her return to the starting lineup on July 21.
For the past four games, Pressley has played as both a defender and midfielder. Since then, she has led the team in aerials won and dribble success, has recorded a 100 percent tackle rate and she even scored the equalizing goal against Seattle Reign FC.
“I think there are always areas to improve on,” Pressley said. “But I think overall it’s been getting better and my confidence is increasing.”
Despite the unique rollercoaster of changes Pressley has endured, the truth is this season has been indicative of most of her professional career.
Since joining the league in 2013, she has played for four teams, as both a starter and substitute and as a midfielder and defender.
During this time she has experienced great triumph, like making it to the playoffs twice, and has also made it through difficult circumstances, like being traded to the Houston Dash just four games into the 2015 season.
But none has been more rewarding than joining the Orlando Pride in her home state of Florida.
“It’s always nice to be close to home, to build roots and give to the community here,” Pressley said. “I think just being in one place for the third year and having that stability, knowing where I’m at and having my family close to me means a lot.”
Now, three years into her time in the Sunshine State, she is embarking on yet another journey, looking to help her team qualify for their second consecutive playoff.
To do so they will have to face the NWSL Shield-winning North Carolina Courage and with the playoff race so tight, every point and every game is looking like a must-win for the fourth-place Pride.