Barbra Banda joins her Orlando Pride teammates for her first practice with the team

Forward Barbra Banda has officially joined the Orlando Pride after helping Zambia secure a spot in the Summer Olympics.

The Pride acquired Banda last month for a team-record transfer fee of $740,000 from Chinese Women’s Super League club Shanghai Shengli FC. She finally arrived in Orlando over the weekend and was greeted at the airport by fans.

After her first practice Tuesday, she praised the National Women's Soccer League and suggested she'll fit in well with the Pride.

“I think the league is quite good. I’ve been following it from way back," she said. "I think it’s a very interesting league, very strong. All the teams are very physical, fast. So I think it’s good for myself to improve."

Before coming to America, Banda was on international duty with Zambia. She scored twice — including a penalty in extra time — in the second leg of the team's victory over Morocco for one of Africa's two spots in the Olympics. Nigeria earned the other berth.

The Paris Games will mark Zambia's second Olympic appearance. The Copper Queens also played in Tokyo and Banda became a breakout star as the first player ever to score hat tricks in consecutive games.

Zambia is in a tough group in France with the United States, Germany and Australia.

Banda also scored in Zambia’s first-ever Women’s World Cup victory, a 3-1 group stage win over Costa Rica last summer in New Zealand.

While she's already well known on the international stage, Banda's move to the Pride will expose her to a whole new audience, Orlando general manager Haley Carter said.

“To be able to bring Barbra to the NWSL, so the entire world can see her consistently week in and week out and the amazing things that she can do, she has a special one-of-a-kind talent," Carter said.

Banda joins a team that includes the legendary Marta as well as fellow Brazilian forward Adriana and midfielder Angelina.

The Pride haven't dropped a game so far this season, with three straight draws before a 1-0 victory on the road over the Utah Royals. Marta, a six-time FIFA Player of the Year, came in as a second-half substitute and scored the lone goal.

Orlando is one of three NWSL teams left without a loss, joining Racing Louisville and the Kansas City Current. It is just the second time in Orlando history the team is undefeated through its first four matches.

Banda will add a new element to the attack, Pride coach Seb Hines said.

“We’ve talked a lot recently about the execution of the finishing, and I think we’re creating really good chances in the last four games. But maybe that last finishing piece has been the deciding factor in the games,” Hines said. “So to add another layer to our game with Barbra as a nine or, she could play wide or a little bit lower. We like that flexibility within the squad and the players, that they’re not just pigeonholed to one position. We have to constantly keep defenders guessing.”

Banda said she just wants goals.

“I love scoring,” she said. “So that’s what matters most. I have to get chances and utilize my chances that I’ll have in terms of scoring.”


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