[Updated at 12 p.m. – story update corrects language clarifying loan vs. short-term contract]
Orlando Pride Head Coach lost another presumed starter today — at least for a few months — as Canadian international center back Shelina Zadorsky has opted to sign a deal to stay with Tottenham Hotspur of the WSL in England until the end of the 2020-2021 season.
Zadorsky is a Canadian national team player who was allocated to the Pride by her federation, but unlike allocated players from the USWNT, Canadian internationals can be loaned by an NWSL team. Zadorsky’s new deal extends her stay until the end of the current WSL campaign.
“It was an easy decision to make,” Shelina explained. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season, we have so much potential as a team and I am excited to be part of the journey.
“As a group, moving up the table and giving our fans something to be proud of are our main goals. Personally, I also want to ensure we build a solid defence and keep more clean sheets. “It’s a new chapter for the Club, our confidence is high and our aim is to push on from here.”
Tottenham is currently eighth in the 12-team WSL with nine points from two wins, four losses, and three draws, and has a goal differential of minus-six. The club is sitting 17 points behind leader Manchester United but has won its last two matches after being previously winless.
The Pride acquired Zadorsky from the Washington Spirit in January of 2018 in exchange for goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe. She played two seasons with the Pride (2018, 2019) before her loan to Tottenham last summer.
Zadorsky has appeared in 39 matches (all starts) with Orlando, playing the full 90 minutes in all 16 of her starts in 2019. She played in all but one match in 2018, sitting once while Tom Sermanni experimented with a three-player back line Aug. 5 against Sky Blue. She played 3,510 minutes over the two seasons and led the Pride in minutes played in 2018, with 2,070.
She scored one goal — in a 1-1 draw against Sky Blue on Sept. 29, 2019 — and contributed two assists. Both of her assists came in 2018, when she tied Ali Krieger for the most by a Pride defender. With Orlando, Zadorsky attempted 13 shots, getting three on target. Her passing rate in 2018 was 75.6% in 2018, but dipped to 74% in 2019, although she was second on the team in total pass attempts that year (583). She created eight scoring chances across her two seasons in Orlando, including a surprising seven in 2018.
Defensively, Zadorsky contributed 161 clearances, including 100 in 2018, which was sixth-most in the NWSL. She also registered 22 blocks and 49 interceptions and a tackle rate of 81.3% in 2018 that dropped to just 60% in 2019. In her two seasons, the defender committed 19 fouls and drew 11 from the opposition, picking up four yellow cards. Zadorsky hasn’t been great in the air, winning just 47.4% of her aerial duels in 2018 and only 37% of them in 2019.
Zadorsky joins former Pride defender/midfielder Alanna Kennedy, who also signed to stay on with Tottenham through the end of the current season. Kennedy was selected by Racing Louisville in the recent NWSL Expansion Draft. and will now be with Spurs until the end of the season.
What it Means for Orlando
The 27-year-old defender was expected to be allocated back to Orlando for the 2021 season and the Pride will retain her NWSL rights should she opt to return after Tottenham’s season. If she does, Zadorsky might not miss too much time. The NWSL Challenge Cup is set to take place in mid-April and the league’s season should begin in mid-May. Tottenham’s last scheduled match in the 2020-2021 season is May 9 against Birmingham City.
It’s not ideal for Zadorsky to miss preseason training camp with the Pride or the Challenge Cup, but it’s possible the Canadian international could slot right into the lineup in game shape upon her return (if she does come back) for the start of the 2021 regular season. It’s equally possible that if things go well in London for the rest of the season that Zadorsky might be offered a new Spurs deal and she could opt to take it.
Losing Zadorsky would mean Orlando would be down one fewer international during the Olympic break, but it also means the Pride would have to replace her on the roster. It’s unclear if 2020 draft selection Konya Plummer can step into that role, if Toni Pressley would fill the position in the starting XI, or if the Pride will have to look elsewhere for a replacement. Plummer has potential but one would expect Skinner to look for an upgrade at that position. The allocation money acquired in the recent Emily Sonnett trade to Washington could help on that front.
While fans will have to wait and see what Zadorsky does following the WSL season, Skinner and the Pride will have to plan ahead of the season and will no doubt already have a sense of whether or not to expect her back. If her preference is to stay in England, a move will likely be necessary.