The National Women’s Soccer League off-season is in full swing, and it’s been lit. While teams around the league have hired a new manager, rebranded, or re-signed players for the next season, things on the Orlando Pride side have been fairly quiet. The team has several players using the off-season as an opportunity to play overseas. Monica is playing in Spain while Aubrey Bledsoe, Steph Catley, Rachel Hill, Alanna Kennedy, and Toni Pressley are down in Australia.
However, it’s not just six members of the roster crossing the globe–or as I like to say “Where in the World is Tom Sermanni?”–because the gaffer for the Pride has been racking up some frequent flyer miles scouting for players to bring to the City Beautiful. Here is the list of matches Sermanni took in while he was in the United Kingdom according to his Twitter account:
October 29: Man City vs Birmingham City
November 4: Chelsea vs Bristol City
November 8: Chelsea vs FC Rosengard
November 11: Liverpool Ladies vs Birmingham City
November 12: Chelsea vs Reading Women FC
A quick observation shows the Orlando Pride manager went to three Chelsea matches and two matches for Birmingham City which more likely means some of the players on those rosters were his intended scouting targets. Nonetheless, there’s always a chance a player on an opposite side played well enough to catch Coach Sermanni’s eye and make his shortlist.
Let me save you time, fair readers, by saying Crystal Dunn is not on this list. Also, let’s quickly recap the Pride’s international roster spots which currently for 2018 will be five spots. As of this writing, those positions will be filled by Marta, Monica, Camila, Catley, and Kennedy. The decision the club will have to decide is if Camila will be placed on the season-ending injury list as she recovers from her knee injury she suffered the last match of the season against the North Carolina Courage. By placing her on that list, the league would allow roster relief where Orlando could bring in an international replacement player since Camila is an international player. Additionally, with Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy out of contract, it’s not a guarantee both players will decide to return to Orlando. Sermanni places great value on international spots, and it’s also not beyond the realm of possibility if Orlando ends up trading for another international spot.
On predictions sure to be wrong, I once again don on my soothsayer’s hat and present a list of potential players Coach Sermanni could have been scouting.
Meaghan Sargeant: Birmingham City – Defender
The 23-year-old defender has been playing for Birmingham City since 2014. Known for her versatility, she can play across the backline as well as in the defensive midfield. The Sheffield native has represented England most recently at the U-23 level. During her match against Manchester City, she was wide on the right side of the pitch, but after going down one player, Sargeant moved to a center back position. On the second match Sermanni witnessed against Liverpool, her role was predominantly as a center back. She played the full 90 both times and has been a regular on the starting XI. Her last contract with the club was signed February 2016.
Drew Spence: Chelsea Ladies – Midfielder
Veteran midfielder Drew Spence displayed her skills while Sermanni was observing for two matches. Known for her passing ability in the midfield, she could become the facilitator in the Orlando offense, yet working on her improved defensive capability would allow Spence to distribute the ball from the backline. Her physicality could be exactly what the Pride could use to counter other teams efforts to slow the Orlando attack. Turning 25 this year, Spence signed a one-year contract this past September allowing her to stay with Chelsea, a team she’s been with since 2008. On the international stage, Spence has limited appearances with England’s senior team.
Bethany England: Liverpool Ladies – Midfielder
Beth England arrived this season to Liverpool via a season-long loan from Chelsea. Prior to being shipped to Liverpool, the 23-year-old from Barnsley, England had signed a contract extension which runs to 2019. England is an attacking midfielder who could potentially fit into the role vacated by Camila as she heals from her knee injury. She has represented her national team at the U-19 and U-23 sides.
Ella Masar McLeod: FC Rosengård – Defender
Ella Masar McLeod is no stranger to the NWSL. She last played for the Houston Dash in 2015, and as a proven veteran who knows the league could certainly be appealing to Coach Sermanni. An added twist for Masar is her desire to play for the Canadian national team alongside her spouse Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod. Unlike most players, the opportunity to return to the league for both players ideally in the same city is going to factor into any decision Masar will make. As for interest from the Pride, Ella Masar McLeod would add an experienced fullback who can also join the potent Orlando attack. Additionally, she played with Marta and could integrate into the squad.
Hayley Ladd: Birmingham City – Midfielder
Another option from the Birmingham City side for the Pride is 24-year-old defensive midfielder from Wales. Ladd joined Birmingham City from Bristol City this past September where she signed a two-year deal. Even though she’s a defensive-minded player, Ladd also is not afraid to join the attack at times, having scored once this WSL 1 season. Recently for her national team, she scored the match-winning goal against Kazakhstan from a free kick during the latest round of Women’s World Cup 2019 qualifying in November. If Tom Sermanni could work out a way to get Ladd in Orlando, she could be the physical presence the Pride are looking to add for the next season.
Rachel Furness: Reading FC – Midfielder
Current North Ireland Player of the Year, Rachel Furness, could step into the Orlando Pride midfield to reinforce the spine of the squad. Furness, 29, has the talent to replace Camila while she is in recovery. Furness is a key part of the offense creating opportunities for herself as well as for her attacking teammates. Her contract with Reading runs through June 2018, but perhaps if Sermanni can work his magic she could find herself wearing purple in NWSL.
Prior to the end of the regular season, Tom Sermanni stated he would be focusing on finding international talent to bring over to strengthen the Orlando Pride for the upcoming season. He may not succeed in recruiting from the trip to the U.K., but the club and the coach were very much serious in being ambitious even with the limited amount of international roster spots.