With the Orlando Pride making the playoffs last year for the first time in team history and being just one game away from the final, the message is clear for the Pride: get to the NWSL Cup final. Even though there haven’t been a lot of additions for the Pride, the team has made a few moves to shore up the team. The re-signing of Dani Weatherholt was key to keeping the defensive midfield spot sound and trading for Shelina Zadorsky helped bolster a weak back line but also the newly acquired draft pick Nadia Gomes can be expected to make an immediate impact.
For those not familiar with Gomes, she’s originally from Utah, playing all of her youth soccer in various systems around the Sandy area. She captained her club team, won a state championship with her high school team, and, as a dual national, even represented Portugal as a member of that country’s U-19 squad.
Gomes continued to perform at a high level for BYU in her four years, averaging about 1,500 minutes per season for the Cougars. She also ended her college career with 23 goals and 23 assists, which for a forward would seem low but there is more to Gomes’ game than just the attacking side of the ball.
When drafted by the Pride, many fans were taken aback as to why the team had selected another striker when the Pride are so forward heavy. The tricky thing about Gomes happens to be her position flexibility, especially when it comes to the defensive end. She’s predominately a left-sided player (mostly because she is left-footed and feels more comfortable on that side), appearing in a left wing or even left midfield role. When playing in these positions for BYU, she had the willpower to track back on defense and disrupt play. This could be a vital asset for the Pride as they look to shape the defense for this season.
If this is the case and they decide to move her back in a left back role, the Pride could see a very productive and aggressive fullback who can not only defend but also push forward on the attack. Though the shape of the team is unclear at this point, if we look at the 4-3-3 that Tom Sermanni ran out most times last season, she could either occupy the LM position or even the LB position with her pace.
Besides her obvious speed, Gomes has very good ball control — arguably better than some other prospects coming out of the draft. This could also prove that a position shift is in the cards for Gomes as we approach the new season.
Though it’s somewhat rare for draft picks in the third round to make a large impact in their first season, don’t be surprised if Gomes pushes the other ladies around her for a spot in the starting 11. Even if she doesn’t start, she could be a vital piece off the bench and could be used to close down games or provide an extra spark to grab that game-winning goal. Time will tell, but with so many forwards ahead of her, I’m not sure how likely it will be to grab an attacking spot. This move would not be unheard for Sermanni either as last year Chioma Ubogagu was shifted into a few different positions to help out the team. With starting left back Steph Catley still unsigned and Camila expected out until July, Gomes could have an opportunity to earn a spot early.