The NWSL may be an American soccer league, but many of its best players come from outside of the United States. This series takes a look at those players and analyzes their style of play, the role they take on in their national team, and the role they play in their club. This week, we’ll take a look at Australian international Alanna Kennedy of the Orlando Pride.
Who Is She?
Alanna Kennedy is a 22-year-old defender/defensive midfielder. Towering at nearly 6-feet-tall, Kennedy started as a midfielder, then moved to the role of central defender, and now alternates between the two positions depending on which team she is playing for and under what circumstances. She has been in the Australian system for nearly a decade but made her formal debut with the senior team in 2012 against New Zealand. She has played at the senior level since she was fifteen-years-old when she joined Sydney FC. In her career, she has won the Australian W-League Premiership and the NWSL Championship. In 2015-2016, she was named Sydney FC’s Player of the Year.
Kennedy has played with the Matildas since 2012 when she made her debut against regional rival New Zealand. Kennedy spent her early career playing under Tom Sermanni, who is now her head coach with the Orlando Pride. Earlier this season, Sermanni spoke about how Kennedy joined the Matildas as a midfielder, but at 17-years-old, he thought she was too “gangly” and couldn’t keep up with the pace of the midfield. He moved her to the role of central defender, where she still plays with her national team today. Kennedy has been with the team throughout their rise, starting with the Women’s World Cup in 2015. Since then, she has also played in the 2016 Rio Olympics (where the Matildas reached the Quarterfinals) and won the inaugural Tournament of Nations against the United States, Brazil, and Japan.
Kennedy joined the Orlando Pride this offseason, after winning the NWSL Championship with the Western New York Flash (now the North Carolina Courage). Early in the season, Kennedy became a consistent starter, playing in the role of central defender. As the season went on, Toni Pressley earned herself a consistent starting role and Sermanni decided to move Ali Krieger from outside defender to central defender, pushing Kennedy to her current role in the defensive midfield. Since that move, Kennedy has scored three goals and earned one assist. She has appeared in all 17 matches for the Pride this season, earning 16 starts. Her goal with this team is the same as it was in New York: to win a championship.