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2021 NWSL Draft: Orlando Pride Select UCLA Midfielder Viviana Villacorta at No. 9

The Pride open their 2021 draft by selecting a U.S. youth international attacking midfielder in the first round.

Spain v USA: Group C - FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018

The Orlando Pride opened their 2021 NWSL Draft by selecting UCLA midfielder Viviana Villacorta in the first round with the ninth overall pick. Villacorta becomes just the fourth first-round pick by the Pride, following Sam Witteman in 2016 and Taylor Kornieck and Courtney Petersen in 2020, as Orlando had traded away its first-round pick in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Villacorta will add a dynamic player to the Pride’s attack.

“I’m so excited. I’m so honored to be a part of this awesome team with amazing players,” Villacorta said via Zoom after being selected. “It’s an honor playing with [Marta and Alex Morgan]. I know I’m going to learn so much from them and I’m just going to keep growing as a player, and as a person as well, and just playing at that caliber with them, and they’re just going to help me become better.”

Villacorta will play her spring season with UCLA before starting her Orlando Pride career.

“Once our season’s over, hopefully winning a national championship, then I’ll come to Orlando and bring everything I have for them,” she said.

The 5-foot-7 senior has international youth experience at the U-19 and U-18 levels, and was a starter for the U.S. at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. In 71 games with UCLA (60 starts), Villacorta played 5,225 minutes and scored seven goals and added 16 assists.

The Torrance, CA native (by birth per the UCLA website, although Lawndale is listed as her hometown) earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in each of the last two seasons. She comes from a solid college program that plays at a high level. The Bruins have produced players like Sydney Leroux, Abby Dahlkemper, and Sam Mewis. Villacorta reached the NCAA semifinals twice in her career (2017, 2019).

“I bring a lot of flow, I bring a lot of connection in the midfield, and I think I can definitely thrive with setting up Alex Morgan, Marta, just helping them like connect passes everywhere and just kind of cleaning up the midfield, and just bringing my style of play to them.”

What It Means for Orlando

Villacorta should help the Pride’s attack after her senior season. She appears to have good power with her left foot and has good control of the ball. Villacorta looks to be the type of player that seems well suited for Marc Skinner’s system and by hearing her talk, she has a pass-first attitude and looks for her strikers on the pitch.

Here’s a look at some highlights: