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Messiah Bright Would Like to (Re-) Introduce Herself

Messiah Bright Orlando goalForward Messiah Bright has only been in LA for a week, but the former Orlando Pride forward first introduced herself to Angel City fans almost a year ago.

On April 2, 2023, during the Pride’s home opener, Bright—in her first professional match ever—ran onto a short forward pass by teammate Erika Tymrak, turned on the afterburner to sprint between Sarah Gorden and Megan Reid, and put the ball in the back of the net.

Whether it was fate or random chance that Bright ended up with Angel City almost a year later, you’ll have to decide for yourself, but for Gorden, it’s just a relief: “Sarah was so glad when we signed her because it means that she doesn't have to defend against her anymore!” laughs First Assistant Coach Eleri Earnshaw. “Out of all the forwards in the league—and obviously we play against players like Debinha and Marta—Messiah was the one that Sarah hated playing against the most, because she's so unpredictable.”

The goal against Angel City was just the opening salvo for Bright, who says she went into the year feeling like she had to make a statement. The Dallas, Texas native, who had scored a school-record 50 goals in 103 games at Texas Christian University, dropped unexpectedly to the second round in the 2023 draft before being selected by Orlando.

“You sort of have to prove yourself again,” she says. “It was a situation where I was like, ‘okay, I have to really showcase why I belong.’” That’s exactly what she did, going on to become her team’s leading scorer, notching six in the regular season and one in the Challenge Cup. Alongside ACFC forward Alyssa Thompson, she was named a finalist for Rookie of the Year.

Coming into preseason in LA, “She's made a positive impact already,” says Earnshaw. “As a player, she brings such a variety of threats: she can threaten in front of an opposition back line, she can threaten behind opposition back lines, she can bring other people into play. She's a massive, massive aerial threat, and defensively as well, on corners and set pieces. The potential of what she can bring holistically is massive.”20240129_Preseason_Training_WN_1220

As her stats suggest, Bright is an out-and-out nine whose focus is first and foremost to score goals. Earnshaw says the coaching staff were especially impressed by her finishing in the first week of preseason: “left foot, right foot, just the texture of the finish—she knows when to try and bend it around into the far post versus pull it to the front post,” she says. “Her recognition of what type of finish to use and being able to execute it is massive.”

But Bright is more than the stereotypical target forward.

“I love being a dynamic player,” she says. “I love making runs in behind or being the player that can hold the ball up to give my team enough time to get up with me. Sometimes I love showcasing my skills, because I am also a skillful player, more than just physicality. I like to show both of those sides.”

Earnshaw also praises Bright’s holdup play, saying, “[her ability to threaten] in front of opposition back lines is a testament to her timing. To come and receive the ball and hold it and protect against pressure from behind, and then the timing to release and bring [in] other players underneath her.”

Bright, who just turned 24, is the latest in a crop of talented young players on Angel City’s roster. Thompson, who the club drafted with the No.1 overall pick last season, is the first; this offseason, she was joined by her sister Gisele, 18, and South Korea international Casey Phair, 16. Together, the group represents an effort by the club to build for both the present and the future.

The former Horned Frog says she’s excited to be part of that building process. “Everything [Angel City] did last year, it definitely stood out,” says Bright. “They were a very young group, but they made a name for themselves. So I think it's just something that you can just build off of. I'm happy to be a part of it because it helps me showcase what I can bring to the team.”