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The Orlando Pride are the best team in the NWSL, and not just because of Barbra Banda

Over the past year, no team has put in as many strong performances as Seb Hines’ outfit. We’re just as shocked as you are.

6 min read
Orlando Pride

The polite word to describe most of the history of the Orlando Pride would be “hapless”. 

Here was a team with the backing of a Major League Soccer organization, entering the NWSL in 2016 when the league was gaining a measure of stability and quality. They boasted Alex Morgan in their lineup. A year later, they signed Marta. Their head coach was the affable Scotsman Tom Sermanni, who helped develop Australia’s golden generation of women’s soccer players, and who had gotten an obviously raw deal when he was fired from the U.S. women’s national team. 

Such a confluence of talent never fulfilled its potential. A single playoff appearance is all the Pride have to show for seven full seasons of effort.

Morgan and Marta shared a lineup for four years and could never get over the line. Sydney Leroux, Ali Krieger, Ashlyn Harris and Taylor Flint have all passed through the Pride’s revolving door. Marc Skinner took Manchester United to a second-place WSL finish and two FA Cup finals as head coach, but could never do anything similar at Orlando before he returned home. 

As I said: the Pride are as hapless as they come.

Or, rather, they were.

For the last twelve months, no NWSL team has been better than the Orlando Pride. No team has racked up more points, or a better goal differential, or a better xG differential in the last twelve months than the Pride. Zambia striker Barbra Banda is the most exciting and electric striker in the league, and once Brazil winger Adriana returns to the starting XI, defenses beware. 

As it stands, the Pride sit top of the 2024 NWSL table, and they deserve to be there. 

The question is, how the hell did this happen?

The defensive chokehold

For all of the pyrotechnics players like Banda and Adriana offer, it’s the Pride’s defensive performances that have sent them to the top of the table. 

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