The former Canadian international arrives on a one year deal having most recently plied her trade for Växjö DFF of the Swedish Damallsvenskan.
This week the Orlando Pride moved to add some competition for Ashlyn Harris, following the release of Haley Kopmeyer during the off-season. The former Houston Dash goalkeeper (pictured) has a wealth of experience at both domestic and international level, and at 36 is arguably still has a good few years left competing at this level. McLeod's signing is a solid move, as she will provide more than capable competition for Harris. During three years in the NWSL with the Chicago Red Stars and the Houston Dash, the experienced stopper has chalked up 8 clean sheets and 207 saves across 47 league appearances. And do you want to know the best thing about this signing? Of course you do. Erin has retired from international duty so the Pride won't lose her AND Harris to the Tokyo Olympics. Phew. Signing a goalkeeper has been a huge area of need for this club, as only Ashlyn Harris and Lainey Burdett are currently registered on the Pride roster. Whilst rookie Burdett undoubtedly has a bright future, the prospect of getting through the Olympics with one rookie keeper and no back up wasn't filling me with confidence. McLeod is a steady pair of hands, and will bring valuable experience to the Pride dressing room.
Last year, when Harris was away with the USWNT at the 2019 FIFA World Cup Haley Kopmeyer deputised for 10 games. During that time Kopmeyer played 900 minutes, keeping 0 clean sheets only making 6 catches whilst holding a fairly low 67.1% save rate. She had the air of a goalkeeper low on confidence, and made a high profile error in the loss to Portland (see link below). Kopmeyer conceded 23 goals over 10 games, whilst deputising for Harris. That's 23 of the Pride's league high 53. By comparison Harris conceded 27 over 13 appearances for the Pride. The numbers in terms of goals conceded aren't too dissimilar, granted. It's worth noting that Harris stats contain a couple of anomalies. Namely the 5 and 6 goal reversals handed out by the North Carolina Courage. Harris's back 4 left her hopelessly exposed on numerous occasions during both games. And we all know how deadly the Courage can be if you catch them on a good day. There were also several games where Harris performed heroics to keep the score down, and to keep the Pride in games. the 1-0 defeat to the Red Stars in September springs to mind. Some may feel like I am being harsh on Haley Kopmeyer, and maybe to a certain extent I am. What I will say though is this. We enter a new season in April, yet another NWSL season that coincides with a major international tournament. It is so important that the Pride learn from the mistakes of last season, and ensure the Pride are as solid during their weeks without their big international stars as they are when they do have the likes of Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger at their disposal. If they aren't it could prove costly. McLeod is a smart acquisition because she is the sort of keeper who has an air of confidence and a swagger about her. She is a strong leader, she is vocal and is not afraid to come out and command her penalty area. This will help to manifest an air of confidence in the Pride back line. Side note: The eagle eyed math wizzes amongst you will have noticed that 3 of the 53 goals conceded by the Pride last year are unaccounted for (27 for Harris and 23 for Kopmeyer). The other 3 goals game in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Washington Spirit, where Lainey Burnett gave a credible performance on her professional debut.
As I mentioned previously Erin McLeod brings a wealth of experience to the Pride roster at both domestic and international level. She also has winning experience, which is something you cannot put a price on. McLeod made her debut for FC Rosengärd in the Swedish Super Cup final, pulling off some key saves in a 2-1 win. Which was on her debut, no less. She has also picked up honours on the international stage, figuring prominently as Canada won the Cyprus cup in 2008, 2010 and 2011. She also won the International Tournament of Sao Paulo in 2010, before picking up a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Overall she has registered an impressive 45 clean sheets in 118 games for the CWNT. #Experience.
Both Orlando Pride GM Erik Ustruck and head coach Marc Skinner have spoken repeatedly of the need to develop a winning culture in Orlando. “Erin's international experience and proven ability to perform consistently at a high level provides us some much needed depth at the goalkeeper position,” Ustruck said. “She is a vocal and natural leader who we know will continue to build upon the culture we have set out to achieve here in Orlando. We are very excited to welcome her to the Pride.” The Pride roster is already stacked with big personalities and leaders such as the likes of Ali Krieger, Harris herself and Alex Morgan. The trick has been getting them to gel together as a cohesive unit. Players in the Pride locker room, will view her signing as a shrewd piece of business. McLeod also has pre-existing relationships with players like Ali Riley and Marta (with whom she played in Sweden).
McLeod's signing also reinforces the club's willingness to address the issues with the culture of the team. On too many occasions last season the Pride lacked focus. Carson Pickett wandering out of position and over to hug Sydney LeRoux at Red Bull Arena partway through as she made her first appearance since the birth of her second child shortly before the Pride surrendered a lead to Sky Blue FC being a prime example. It showed a lack of discipline. Now i'm not completely heartless it was doubtless a beautiful and significant moment. But the hugs could have waited until after full-time. Right? Signing players like McLeod, Emily Sonnett and Ali Riley will help to provide strong leadership in the locker room. Leadership is a key component in warding off complacency. Strong leadership in a dressing room promotes focus. And make no mistake, McLeod isn't coming in to be the number 2. I have no doubt she will want to push Ashlyn for that number 1 spot. This sort of intra-squad competitiveness is only a good thing, Both Harris and McLeod are the sort of players who thrive on competition. 2020 is a big year for Harris in particular, she will be looking to further establish herself in Vlatko Andonovski's plans for the Olympics. Whilst Alyssa Naeher currently holds down the no. 1 jersey, Harris will feel that some big performances for the Pride will further cement her in his consciousness ahead of the Olympic Games in 2020. If Ashlyn Harris is fired up and on top form, then that certainly only bodes well for the Pride. And if Harris goes on to have an outstanding season for club and country, you might just find that the presence of a certain Canadian goalkeeper may have played a small part in it all.