The Orlando Pride continued to rebuild their roster on Wednesday night, selecting four players in the 2021 NWSL Draft. The completely virtual draft took nearly five hours, but the Orlando staff came away pleased with the team’s draftees.
“Stressful,” Orlando Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said of the draft. “Still, a lot of fun. I think we came away with some really great young players that we can build around for the future.”
For the second time in team history, the Orlando Pride had at least one pick in each round of the NWSL Draft. The Pride had four picks, one in each round, which is the second most Orlando has ever had. The 2020 draft saw Orlando select seven players.
Orlando seemed focused on improving the middle of the field. With the ninth overall pick, Orlando selected midfielder Viviana Villacorta from UCLA. While Villacorta plans to play her senior year before joining the Pride, she should add some much-needed depth to the midfield when she arrives. She is a possession-oriented player who appears to fit in well with Marc Skinner’s system.
Skinner described Villacorta as a “metronome.” He said that she has the ability to maintain the tempo and can also dictate the game.
In addition to Villacorta, the Pride drafted a second attacking midfielder in Mikayla Colohan. Colohan is a BYU product who described herself as “a possession-style player that loves to attack.”
“With Mikayla,” Skinner said. “She just has so much energy, and she’ll get to the box. I’ve always been looking for an eight to kind of mix our styles between attack and defense and transition quickly. So, she has that ability.”
The Pride look determined to remold the team around Skinner’s vision. In addition to drafting two possession-oriented midfielders, Orlando re-signed Marisa Viggiano and traded for Meggie Dougherty Howard this off-season. All these players are good at keeping possession, an area where the Pride have struggled. During the draft, Skinner said Orlando is “finally starting to feel like [his] team.”
The Pride selected Kerry Abello in the third round. The forward from Penn State can play in multiple positions. This versatility will be an important factor for the Pride. Skinner said he will look for her to help change formations quickly and provide services to the forward line.
Orlando drafted Kaylie Collins with its final selection of the night. Collins is a young goalkeeper who appears to have a high ceiling. She will be given plenty of time to learn and grow as Ashlyn Harris is the clear first-choice goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.
The Pride lack depth all over the field. These draft picks are an important start, but there is still more work to do. Orlando has a mixture of stars, veteran players, and unproven youngsters. This will be an issue when the internationals leave for the Olympics and the younger players are forced to play a bigger role.
Orlando needs to bridge that gap and bring in some more experienced role players. Players such as Dougherty Howard, who are quality NWSL starters that are not on their respective national teams. The coaching staff recognizes this, and more moves are expected before the season begins.
“I want it to be a balanced squad,” said Fleming. “We have a team right now that has a great set of veterans — fantastic group — a good set of young players as well. We want to continue to have balance across the squad in terms of positions, age groups, and qualities that they bring to the team. It’s about being competitive. It’s about balancing the squad. It’s about being able to look to this season, try to win games, but also have a long view of how we’re going to build for the future.”
Ultimately, the goal is to build a team that could win both this year and in the future. Orlando has always been a team that has set high goals, and this year is no different. The 2019 season was the worst yet for the Pride. Last season, Orlando only played in four matches. So 2021 is a crucial year to get the team back to winning ways.
“We’ve been building, and we will continue to build, and I have every faith in our team that we will do exactly what we said we’d do in the first year,” said Skinner. “We’re aiming to be as successful as we possibly can be to put a real good product on the pitch. And you can imagine the frustration that was built last year, all the pent-up energy. And when you add our players back in, and we redefine the squad going into the start of the season, I think you’ll really start to see the Orlando team that we wanted to put out.”