By Michael Lewis
U.S. women’s soccer legend Michelle Akers is in a position to share her expertise with a new generation of soccer players.
Akers was hired as an assistant and player development coach by the Orlando Pride, head coach Amanda Cromwell announced on Wednesday. She also will assist with community outreach.
“Having Michelle get back into the game to coach, develop players and be a mentor is a huge win for soccer,” Cromwell said in a statement.
Akers, a two-time Women’s World Cup champion, said that she was “incredibly excited to be a part of the Orlando Pride and work with my friend and USWNT teammate, Amanda Cromwell, as well as everyone on the staff.”
“I can’t wait to do everything I can to develop our players to their highest potential, both on and off the field, while becoming competitive as a team at the highest level in the NWSL,” she added. “Personally, this is an exciting opportunity for me, one I’ve always wanted to explore, so when Amanda called and asked me to be on staff I immediately said ‘Yes! I am in.’ There’s a lot of good memories and old friends in Orlando; I’m looking forward to reconnecting and making new ones.”
Akers, 55, brings incredible credentials to the National Women’s Soccer League team. She was FIFA co-player of the century and someone who defined two positions at the international level. She began her career as a top-flight striker and finished it as one of the leading, if not best, defensive midfielder in the world.
She tallied 103 goals in 153 international matches, helping the USWNT capture the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup. In fact, her 11th-goal hour propelled the Americans to a 2-1 triumph over archrival Norway in the final of the former competition. Akers also earned a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, connecting for an equalizing penalty kick against Norway in the semifinals.
After retiring in 2000, Akers established the Michelle Akers Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Chuluota, Fla., just outside of Orlando.