Haley Carter named Orlando Pride GM and VP of soccer operations

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Jan. 30, 2022

Haley Carter has been named the Orlando Pride’s new vice president of soccer operations and general manager.

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The name is likely familiar to many of you: Carter is a fixture in women’s soccer both domestically and internationally. She’s probably best known for being an assistant coach of the Afghanistan women’s soccer team and her role in helping the players escape horrible abuse, and, later, helped them get out of country.

In the newly created position, Carter will oversee all soccer operations, including the coaching staff and scouting, as well as player safety and performance.

“Every personal and professional decision I feel like I’ve made in the last 17 years has brought me here, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that this is my dream job,” she said.

Carter believes she’s the right person to lead the Pride following the turbulence in the NWSL for the last 18 months. Allegations of coach misconduct spurred two investigations and significant turnover across the league.

The NWSL terminated the contracts of Pride coach Amanda Cromwell and assistant Sam Greene in October following allegations of retaliatory conduct. The two were suspended by the team in June. Cromwell released a statement denying the allegations.

Personal opinion: I admire Haley and think she’s a great hire for the Pride. There may not be immediate results, but I think the move will boost team morale and put Orlando back on track.

Also, in case you missed it, the Wall Street Journal had a good story on NWSL expansion, revealing Boston, Utah and the San Francisco Bay Area are close to being awarded expansion teams (with Utah and the Bay Area set to join the league in 2024 and Boston at a later date).

We knew about Utah, the MLS team there has been upfront about its desire for an NWSL side. The Athletic previously wrote about the Bay Area’s bid — fronted by by Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner. Boston’s inclusion was more of a surprise.

The cities getting teams were not so much the key part of the story, it was the franchise fees. While Utah is getting a steal because of the agreement made after the demise of the Royals, the WSJ said the other expansion teams are going for some $50 million.

Leads me to wonder how this might impact the sale of the Red Stars and the Thorns.

My AP colleague Ron Blum wrote about the dismissal of Thorns trainer Pierre Soubrier and other discipline imposed by the NWSL.

Soubrier is married to Crystal Dunn. Here was her response:

One aside: I noticed some folks attacking players for their support of Pierre. Players DO NOT deserve the vitriol: They’re processing all the stuff that has gone down in the league and they deserve grace in this moment.

We’re all decrying abuse, harassment, and bullying of players in this league, and then some folks turn around and feel it’s appropriate to attack them on social media. Just stop.

I wrote about PTFC’s new CEO. Here’s the video of her press conference:

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Jeff Kassouf talked to Carter over at our friends The Equalizer. (Editor’s note: this is for The Equalizer subscribers only, but you can get 50% off! Click the button right above!)

Jeff also writes for ESPN about the glaring absence of Julie Ertz.

Deadspin asks whether the NWSL can ever truly eliminate abuse.

The Oregonian’s Ryan Clarke write about the sanctions against the Thorns.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald ponders what Earnie Stewart’s departure means for the USWNT.

US Soccer will honor Grant Wahl at every match in advance of the 2026 Men’s World Cup.

Fans in France are not happy about coverage of the women’s league.

Barcelona’s women hit major milestone.

Sports Business Journal on the NWSL’s implementation of VAR.

The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta talked to the NWSL’s creative director.

It may be tough for the Thorns to separate from the Timbers.

Kate Yanchulis for Just Women’s Sports wrote about Mark Parsons taking over the Spirit.

Meg Linehan from the Athletic with a wonderful piece on Sam Coffey.

One last one to plug: My coaches story from last week! Please click. This one was important to me.

Jason Whitlock is a baffoon.

Five at The IX: Haley Carter

Photo courtesy of the Orlando Pride

Question: First off, congrats. Are you excited? What what are you feeling right now?

Carter: What an understatement. I’m still pinching myself. Truly. It is an alignment of values and philosophies and priorities. From an ownership standpoint, a club leadership standpoint for me personally is like all of the stars have aligned. Yeah, could not be more thrilled.

Question: How did it come together?

Carter: They made some changes in the offseason and when this position was still sort of being developed, it came open, essentially. Erin McLeod reached out to me, she sent me a message on WhatsApp and she was like, Haley, we’re about to have this position open up and we need you. We have to have you, you need to apply. And I was like, OK, and she said send me a resume. So I sent my resume to her and she sent it on to the club president. I had conversations with her and she was giving me a little sales pitch on all of the things that were happening in Orlando in the offseason, the fantastic ownership, the club leadership. She was really giving me that hard sell. Independently, maybe two or three days later, Bloom sports, Orlando’s partner and their sports management consulting firm — they do a lot of talent identification for for hires like this — they had reached out to me as well. So we started the conversation first with them and then progressing through the club. The whole process started a little bit before Thanksgiving.

I can tell this was a very diligent, thorough, somewhat arduous process, if I’m being completely honest. I mean, there were multiple meetings with presentations with club ownership, with club leadership, with the technical staff with players. It was a very thorough hiring process. And I remember things were really sort of starting to finalize right around the draft. And I remember thinking that if I didn’t get the position, I felt really comfortable with the whole process that whoever they were going to select, they felt really good about it and that person is probably a really good candidate. And if I was fortunate to be selected, then I know that they really want me and that this is a fit for both sides. And so I felt really good as things were finalizing and decisions were being made, there was enough thoroughness in the process that both the candidates and ownership and club leadership really got to know each other well, so when the decision was made it it was of true, genuine alignment.

Question: What makes you qualified for this job?

Carter: Well, I think it’s a combination of things. I would say I’m a bit of a non-traditional hire, if you think about it, because I’ve led these sort of two paths in life from a professional standpoint. I’ve had eight years of experience as a logistics officer in the Marine Corps, and then I transitioned into corporate roles. I’ve moved up as an executive within that corporate space, but meanwhile, also living in the soccer path right and playing professionally. I had a full-time job while I was playing for the Dash, coaching at the youth level and collegiately and internationally working with Afghanistan and Antigua. It was the perfect opportunity to align both of those professions into one position. And what really attracted me to this position is that it’s at the intersection of business and soccer. And that’s what I love, that really gets my heart racing. I’ve cared about the business side of it for a very, very long time just in terms of how do we grow investment in the women’s game and what does that look like?

As somebody who played and coached I’ve also been very serious about advocating for players advocating for women coaches, women, the women’s game. So I bring a little bit of everything to this position. Having been in the players seat, I know the plight of the player, I’ve been there and I’ve done that. And on the coaching side, understanding what the technical staff is going through, what they need to be successful and the kinds of resources that they need, and working with the support staff. And understanding the business, being able to read a balance sheet and knowing how to budget and and then also being a licensed attorney and being comfortable understanding the CBA inside and out and negotiating standard player agreements and ensuring that we’re, from a compliance standpoint, navigating things. Every personal and professional decision I feel like I’ve made in the last 17 years has brought me here, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that this is my dream job.

Question: Your responsibilities are going to be super varied. What are you looking forward to most?

Carter: I’m looking forward most to being able to partner with this ownership group and with club leadership to make this a prime destination for players. You know, people have asked what are my goals and ambitions for the club? Well, our goals and our ambitions for the club are to win championships. That’s why we exist. But my priority coming into this position, and the club’s priorities as we move forward, really is about culture building and creating a place that players want to play and fans want to support. And not only within this club, but using this club and elevating this club to help drive improvements across the league.

So what I’m most looking forward to is getting into the league at a time when we sort of navigated this reckoning of the last 18 months, two years, and investments are being made and decisions are being made to really help drive the women’s game forward at a professional level in the U.S. The hires that you’re seeing at the NWSL at the league level, the hires that you’re seeing across the league, the increased focus on hiring talented, good individuals who are going to make a positive impact on the game and on the league, is exciting. Being able to come in and take part in that new evolution, both of the club and of the league, is really exciting. And as somebody who has been a very outspoken voice for player advocacy and for women coaches as well, to be able to to play a role in in moving this game and this league forward in this country is for me what’s most exciting about this opportunity. Of course also winning in the NWSL championship.

Question: You touched on the player safety issue and safeguarding. You have vast experience in terms of the Afghanistan women’s team in making sure that players are safe and taken care of. What can you draw on your experience from Afghanistan in terms of now being in this new position?

Carter: It’s interesting because now I’m not on the labor side of things, I’m on the management side of things. If you look at professional sports, historically, those two sides are like diametrically opposed to one another. In my experience they’re mutually inclusive topics. So from a player safety standpoint, that’s a given. We need players to feel safe, and not just to feel safe, but to want to come to work every day, to want to put in the time and the work to be competitive professional athletes. Something I always say is that any impact a player experiences is an impact to the performance environment. It’s our job to win NWSL championships. And so if we’re not creating a culture and an environment where players not only feel safe to come and do their jobs, but where they desire to be and enjoy coming and doing their jobs, then we’re not doing our job. And so I have to believe that player safety, player welfare, player morale, as much with staff safety and welfare and morale, they’re all key elements and ingredients to ensuring that as a club, we’re finding success on the pitch. We have to get those right, just like we have to get any other detail right. We have to get our building our roster out, and scouting and analytics, we have to get all of those things right in order to create a winning franchise. And so that’s why I say they’re they’re really sort of mutually inclusive. You can’t have one without the other.

Question: Lots of roster upheaval with the club. What’s your immediate attention on in terms of like player personnel?

Carter: I want to make it clear that the roster that has been assembled, the work that was done in the offseason, the preparation that was done for the draft, we had an incredible team working behind the scenes to help drive some of those decisions and those transactions. The roster that we’re bringing into preseason, I personally and we as a staff, feel really good about every single athlete that’s here, and here for a reason. They bring something of value and unique talent and abilities, and they have a role to play. Something that we’ve stressed with them is that they need to have the belief in themselves because we have the belief in them, that this roster that we put together going into preseason can can and will win an NWSL championship. They’ve got to commit to that belief we believe in them. We feel good about this roster.

Obviously we have additional roster movement that will take place. We’ve got targets that we’re going after. It’s important with the loss of Erin Aaron and Gunny, as they retire and move on to the next chapter of their lives in Iceland, that we’re in — we’re looking at midfield, making sure that we’ve got depth in the midfield. We have some players that are very versatile, they can play defensively, they can play in the midfield ,which is fantastic and looking at that goalkeeper core again and evaluating our options and ensuring that but ultimately right now that No. 1 spot is up for grabs. And so that entire goalkeeper four that’s in camp is going to be competing for that and using that as a source of inspiration and motivation to grow that.

Of course there’s targets on the horizon I think fans have seen there’s plenty of allocation money that Orlando’s got. So I would just tell fans, you know, be patient we are working on things that are really exciting, some exciting moves and you know, we have discussed where there are gaps as a staff and we’re going to be looking to fill those. But the really important message that we want the team that’s here now to hear is that they they’re here for a reason, they were brought in for a reason. So whether they are trialists is there, draft picks or guaranteed contract players, that they’re here for a reason and we value them we value the role that they play and what they bring to the table, and they wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe in what they can contribute.

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Written by Annie Peterson