Goalkeeper Erin McLeod and midfielder Gunny Jónsdóttir are leaving the Orlando Pride jointly to continue their lives back in Iceland, the club announced on Tuesday. The pair recently got married this off-season, and the veterans made the decision to begin their next life chapter now.
“This decision was one of the hardest of my career but as I have gotten older, my dreams and priorities have shifted,” McLeod said in a statement released by the club. “Now it is time to begin the next chapter of my life with my wife. I am inspired and excited by the work this club has done in the offseason, led by the Wilf Family, which has made this decision even harder. I believe, now more than ever, there are great things ahead for this club. A new identity, a new Pride. To the fans and the Black Swans, thank you for showing up, no matter what. Without all of you, this club wouldn’t exist.”
McLeod, 39, is a Canadian international who joined the Pride in 2020, posting five clean sheets 28 appearances for the team. While Gunny came to the squad a year later in 2021 via trade and contributed five goals and two assists in 48 appearances.
“Orlando has been my home for the past two years and it is not easy saying goodbye,” Jónsdóttir said. “Thank you to the players, it was a privilege to have the opportunity to step on the field with you. Thank you to the staff, you were always so welcoming and willing to help in any way possible. And last but not least, thank you to the fans for their endless support, especially to the Black Swans who always showed up and supported us through the thick and thin. I wish the Pride the best of luck this season and I will be cheering you on from afar.”
Pride Coach Seb Hines also shared his thoughts via the team release:
“Both Gunny and Erin have been incredibly important members of, not only the Pride, but of the NWSL as a whole. Their impact, skill and professionalism will be missed both within our locker room and in our community, but this next step of their lives is an exciting one that we are also celebrating. On behalf of the entire organization, we thank both Erin and Gunny for everything they have given to the club and wish them all the best in this next chapter together.”
What this means for the 2023 Orlando Pride
Initially, the departure of the starting goalkeeper and a veteran midfielder who were both leaders on and off the pitch will be missed. However, this provides a great opportunity to have a competitive preseason camp for Hines to pick the starting goalkeeper between Anna Moorhouse, Kaylie Collins, and whomever else the Pride bring into camp before naming the heir-apparent for McLeod. The open position should let the team know if either can be the netminder going forward.
Gunny’s departure will be somewhat mitigated from a veteran leader perspective with Marta’s presence as she returns from last season’s ACL injury. Orlando will be a young team, but the vacancy Jónsdóttir leaves behind will allow these younger players valuable game minutes to develop instead of having to be on the bench while Gunny was on the pitch. As Hines has previously stated that the Pride are a long-term project, hashing out the midfield options from who the team has on the roster will only quicken this process.
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